SUNDAY FINAL - SMITH PULLS A BRISTOL CLEAN SWEEP
Veteran Rickie Smith earned a very emotional and gratifying NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx victory Sunday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.
Last season at Bristol Dragway Smith suffered a spectacular crash that caused him to take a hiatus from the sport due to a knee injury but the veteran driver came back to Bristol with on a mission, claiming the No.1 qualifying position and earning his second win of the season. Smith and his IDG Camaro’s 6.055 second pass at 241.24 mph beat Donald Walsh’s 7.393 second pass at 171.99 mph in the final round of eliminations.
Smith also beat veteran driver Jay Payne in the semifinals, Mike Knowles in the quarterfinals and Doug Winters in the opening round of eliminations.
With Smith’s win, it moves him into second place in the championship point standings.
ROUND ONE -- Scott Ray, Chevy Corvette, 6.329, 226.70 def. Rick Stivers, Chevy Camaro, foul; Troy Coughlin, Camaro, 6.079, 247.75 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 6.164, 223.32; Mike Knowles, Camaro, 6.721, 227.80 def. Leah Pruett, Ford Mustang, 8.270, 116.28; Donald Walsh, ford Mustang, 5.977, 250.13 def. Donald Martin, Camaro, 11.901, 73.97; Mike Janis, Mustang, 6.019, 240.81 def. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, foul; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.009, 239.02 def. Roger Burgess, Corvette, 6.078, 247.88; Jay Payne, Camaro, 6.094, 238.72 def. Danny Rowe, Camaro, 13.984, 66.70; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.966, 239.82 def. Doug Winters, Chevy Bel Air, 6.709, 163.24;
QUARTERFINALS -- Payne, 7.991, 121.04 def. Ray, foul; Janis, 5.935, 242.45 def. Coughlin, 5.893, 250.97; Walsh, 5.926, 250.83 def. Castellana, 7.362, 135.95; Smith, 8.183, 117.43 def. Knowles, foul;
SEMIFINALS -- Smith, 5.888, 242.41 def. Payne, 6.029, 239.48; Walsh, 5.978, 251.58 def. Janis, 5.999, 241.45;
FINAL -- Smith, 6.055, 241.24 def. Walsh, 7.393, 171.99.
Point standings (top 10) following the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway, the fifth of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx -
1. Danny Rowe, 376; 2. Rickie Smith, 363; 3. Mike Castellana, 357; 4. Leah Pruett, 282; 5. Donald Walsh, 278; 6. Troy Coughlin, 277; 7. (tie) Kenny Lang, 250; Donald Martin, 250; 9. Pete Farber, 238; 10. Steve Matusek, 213
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - SMITH FACES THE DEMONS OF BRISTOL ONE YEAR LATER
Rickie Smith had no indication his first round race last year at Bristol Dragway was going to be any different than the dozens of times he’d raced there before in his storied career.
Then he drifted out of the groove and before he knew it, his new IDG-sponsored Camaro was in the opposite lane, impacting the retaining wall and collecting Pete Farber in his accident. Smith slid to a stop and for him, he appeared to have escaped injury. Then he tried to move his leg and knew something wrong.
Smith sustained a fractured knee and required surgery.
Those thoughts were in his mind as he rolled to the starting line during Friday’s qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. Smith defeated Doug Winters to advance to Sunday's second round.
Smith released the clutch without pain on Friday and drove his way to the No. 1 qualifying position.
“I will admit, I was thinking about last year when I rolled to the line,” Smith admitted. “I’ve wrecked some cars in my life but that was the first time I really got hurt. I messed my leg up pretty good.”
Smith has raced all of the major venues from Pomona to Englishtown, and for every Gainesville Raceway, there was a Sumerduck Raceway. In racing these diverse drag strips, he’s learned the nuances of each.
Last year in Bristol he was provided a refresher course on a Bristol facility he’s loved and raced since 1974.
“Bristol … is kina bumpy,” said Smith. “It’s got three or four pretty good bumps last year. The hotter it gets the more it shows up. I was kind of dreading it this year.”
The resourceful Smith has learned to roll with the punches, or in this case adjust with a racing surface’s imperfections.
“We just went in and changed our shock package,” Smith explained. “In a way, we are doing some stuff to get by. But, then you look at what they are doing to prepare these tracks, they are doing such a good job since they have the new dragging machine. The better the track, the less the bumps are a factor.”
Friday’s second pass was the first time he had run in the left lane since the devastating crash.
“I’m at peace with it all, but I think I am at the point in my career where I don’t feel like getting broken up,” admitted Smith. “I am just trying to be a little smarter with my driving. I try not to get too far out of control.
“People used to see me running at Piedmont, Farmington and Mooresville Dragway and drive my way through some messes. I’ve been at Farmington kicking up grass with the tire on the edge of the grass and the 330, with the tire spinning.
“The way I’ve always driven the car is to feel like I am ahead of the car. When you see me shut off, it’s because I wasn’t ahead of the car. I was behind the game. That’s the judgment I’ve always tried to use. There have been times I’ve gotten the car sideways, like I was dirt-tracking, and I’ve been ahead of the car. Last year, it caught me by surprise.”
Smith believes the NHRA should make an adjustment to the Pro Modified cars in the interest of safety which inevitably will slow the speeds down.
“We run these cars with no wickerbill on them,” explained Smith. “The Pro Stock cars have three-quarters on them. I lobbied hard after last year to get the wickerbill regulation on these cars. It will slow us down some, but do we really want to see 250 miles per hours on these cars? I couldn’t get it done so I guess I’ve learned to go with the flow. Remember all of these cars are fine when they are in the groove. We just need some help when we get out of it.”
Smith was one of two Pro Modified drivers who unsuccessfully navigated a bump caused by an underground tunnel, and crashed during the first round.
“Sometimes you feel badass and have done this so many times and you soon realize that it’s the little stuff that will get you every time,” Smith said. “Look at Dale Earnhardt’s wreck that killed him, it was nowhere near the worst wreck he’d ever had. It’s not about how bad the crash appears to be, it’s about when the good Lord calls you home.”
And for Smith, he’s glad last year’s accident wasn’t his time.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - RICKIE SMITH LEADS BRISTOL PRO MOD QUALIFYING
Veteran Rickie Smith powered his IDG ’12 Camaro to the qualifying lead in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway during Friday qualifying action.
Smith’s first qualifying attempt earned him the provisional No. 1 position with a 5.950 second pass but it was his second qualifying pass, 5.900 seconds at 240.85 mph, that earned him the qualifying lead heading into Saturday. If his time stands through Saturday’s final qualifying session (1:30 p.m.) it would be the first No. 1 position of his career.
Troy Coughlin proved that his win in Englishtown was no fluke as he powered his JEGS.com turbo-charged ’68 Camaro to the No. 2 spot with his 5.951 second pass at 251.06 mph. Chip King sits third after a wild second qualifying pass that ended up being the third quickest of the weekend but after his parachutes failed to deploy, the Strutmasters turbo-charged ’69 Daytona ended up in the sand trap. King was not injured in the incident.
The first round of eliminations starts Saturday at 4 p.m. and Pro Mod eliminations continue Sunday at approximately 2:30 p.m.
Friday's results after the first two of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway, fifth of ten events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx.
1. Rickie Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.900, 240.85; 2. Troy Coughlin, Camaro, 5.951, 251.06; 3. Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 5.967, 246.89; 4. Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.971, 242.28; 5. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.974, 238.01; 6. Donald Martin, Camaro, 5.976, 242.80; 7. Leah Pruett, Ford Mustang, 6.023, 248.80; 8. Pete Farber, Daytona, 6.025, 240.17; 9. Mike Knowles, Camaro, 6.044, 239.65; 10. Mike Janis, Mustang, 6.088, 237.67; 11. Donald Walsh, Mustang, 6.119, 247.20; 12. Jay Payne, Camaro, 6.123, 237.46; 13. Rick Stivers, Camaro, 6.177, 231.95; 14. Doug Winters, Chevy Bel Air, 6.455, 217.25; 15. Scott Ray, Chevy Corvette, 6.468, 216.51; 16. Steve Matusek, Mustang, 7.174, 201.43. Not Qualified: 17. Kenny Lang, broke.
JUST A FAMILY TRADITION - It has often been said that success breeds success and when Troy Coughlin enters Bristol Dragway for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, June 15-17, he will looking to build upon his strong results at the most recent NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx event. Fueling that success is the support he receives by his family, which has become synonymous with drag racing through their JEGS Mail Order business.
Coughlin recently scored a final round appearance at the most recent event in Englishtown and was paired against points leader Danny Rowe, but a red-light start by Coughlin handed the race to Rowe. The pain of the loss was fleeting and the preparation for the next event started shortly after the loss.
“Probably 3 or 4 seconds is all I think about it,” Coughlin said. “It's all a part of beating yourself, but we know we have a fast car and we will be hitting hard in Bristol. In all of NHRA drag racing there is not a lot of room for problems, especially in the NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx, where you have only 5.9 seconds in the run to get it done, a lot of mental thought in the 60-90 minutes between rounds of competition making decisions for 5.8 to 6 seconds of a race.”
The Coughlin name is one of the most well-known and respected names in all of racing. This tight knit clan, led by Jeg Coughlin Sr., can be found racing at tracks across the country during the course of the summer. At Bristol Dragway many members of the Coughlin family will be involved in the event. Troy’s son, Troy Jr., will be racing Super Comp and Top Dragster, Troy’s brother Jeg Jr. will be racing in Pro Stock, Meghan, Troy’s daughter, will be assisting with public relations for the team and Jeg Sr. will be in his customary advisory role during the weekend. For this family, the pit area is where they make some of their most cherished memories.
“I love it when as many members of the family can make it to the races; I love their passion for what they do,” Coughlin said. “The family has grown fast in the last 10 years, out of my four kids, Troy Jr. and Meghan are doing stuff in racing, our little girls, Paige and Kelly compete in Hunters / Jumpers competition with their ponies just about three to four times a month and practice four to five days a week. From a technical side, my Dad, my brothers, Meghan and Troy Jr. are very instrumental in what they see and make recommendations to try and help from a driving and car standpoint.”
Father’s Day will be on Sunday of race weekend and many a holiday weekend has been spent by the Coughlin family at the track, which suits Troy and his entire family.
“It seems like just about every Father’s Day and 4th of July we have been racing that I can remember,” Coughlin said. “It goes a good way back into the ’90s.”
SALUTING THE HEROES - Jay Payne and the supercharged FireIce Ford Mustang is rolling into the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this weekend looking for a little more horsepower and a few more round wins in the NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx.
"We've had some good runs at times in the Pro Mod car," Payne said. "We've just not been able to put it all together yet. The competition in the class is pretty stiff, but with a little consistency, we think we've got a car that can contend for a win this weekend."
Payne and sponsor FireIce are continuing their mission to honor America's 1.1 million firefighters and support causes such as the Leary Firefighters Foundation (www.learyfirefighters.org), Angel Faces (www.angelfacesretreat.org) and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (www.firehero.org).
This weekend, Payne and the FireIce team also are saluting Decaturville, Tenn., Fire Chief Kenny Fox, who sacrificed his own life in the line of duty in April to save the lives of two firefighters under his command.
Fox pushed the two firefighters out of the way of a collapsing roof while fighting a fire at a restaurant. In doing so, Fox became trapped by the debris and did not survive.
"That is the kind of sacrifice firefighters make for one another every day in this country," Payne said. "This gentleman was a husband, father and officer of the law as well as a firefighter. Chief Fox was a man who protected his community, and I'm proud we're able to honor his sacrifice in this small way this weekend."
GelTech Solutions, the publically-traded parent company of FireIce, creates innovative, Earth-friendly, cost-effective products that help industry, agriculture and the general public achieve environmental and safety goals such as water conservation and protecting lives, homes and property from fires. All the products currently marketed by GelTech Solutions were invented by chief technology officer Peter Cordani.
There will be two NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx qualifying sessions on Friday starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT from Bristol Dragway. There will be one more chance to get into the field at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Eliminations begin later Saturday afternoon and conclude on Sunday.
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