Gainesville: Mike Castellana heads south

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mike Castellana is anxious to bring his unique style of showmanship to Gainesville, Fla., for the inaugural Pro Modified exhibition program at this weekend's Mac Tools Gatornationals. Castellana, 36, of Westbury, NY., has ...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mike Castellana is anxious to bring his unique style of showmanship to Gainesville, Fla., for the inaugural Pro Modified exhibition program at this weekend's Mac Tools Gatornationals. Castellana, 36, of Westbury, NY., has become a fan favorite on the IHRA Summit Drag Racing Series largely due to his unique pit area, which resembles a classic "American Graffiti" style drive-in restaurant. His nitrous-injected 1957 Chevy Pro Modified entry fits the role perfect.

Castellana feels that making his pit area a haven for the race fans adds to the uniqueness of our sport.

"We brainstormed for a long time what kind of image to create to draw attention and exposure to our team," explained Castellana, who owns a chain of supermarkets in New York City. "I had a t-shirt, which had my car parked at a graphically created Drive-In restaurant, and I really liked that image. Th more I looked at that, the more I wanted to create that kid of atmosphere."

Mike's Drive-In features a neon sign that rests atop his trailer signifying Mike's Drive-In. His pit area features checkerboard flooring as well as a real life malt shop counter that encases a television, which plays videos of American Graffiti. A jukebox also plays Fifties music and there's a play area that allows race fans to sit alongside Castellana and challenge him to a match on a practice tree.

While Castellana may have the showmanship role working in his favor, be not deceived; his car will run fast. In testing this pre-season in Baytown, Castellana became the third nitrous-injected entry to dip into the 6.2-second zone with a 6.28. What makes that feat even more impressive is that it was done with his back-up motor.

Castellana is excited about the opportunity of getting to run at Gainesville.

"I would like to thank the folks at the NHRA for providing this opportunity," explained Castellana. "We pride ourselves in our showmanship and we are confident that we are going to give the fans a show that they are not likely to forget."

The Pro Modified exhibitions will feature four qualifying attempts for an eight-car field. Each team will be afforded two qualifying attempts at 1:30 and 5:00 on Friday and Saturday. Final eliminations are slated for Sunday.

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Series Drag , NHRA