Gainesville: Pro Mod debut preview

NHRA GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES TO MAKE DEBUT AT TIRE KINGDOM NHRA GATORNATIONALS GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- NHRA's newest national touring series will make its debut at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals: The NHRA Get Screened America Pro...

NHRA GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES TO MAKE DEBUT AT TIRE KINGDOM NHRA GATORNATIONALS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- NHRA's newest national touring series will make its debut at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals: The NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

Conducted for nine seasons as an exhibition at select NHRA national events, the new series will feature some of the world's fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, featuring an eclectic mix of vintage and late model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. A diverse group of drivers in the series will compete for Wally trophies, official NHRA points and world championship titles.

The Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, the first of 10 events in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Series, will be contested March 11-14 at historic Gainesville Raceway and will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.

West Virginian Burton Auxier enters the season with the coveted No. 1 on his car as the status of NHRA Pro Mod racing makes its shift from exhibition to official. He finished on top in the 2009 Pro Mod Challenge standings by getting off to a great start in the early season with a win and a runner-up finish and not suffering any DNQs during the 10-event schedule.

"We're going to try to do the same things as we did last year, but we'll need to be quicker and more consistent," Auxier said. "We've already tested in different conditions, and I think we've learned quite a bit. Like always, we'll be looking for ways to keep the car consistent through the whole season."

Auxier will enjoy plenty of support from the powerful Al-Anabi Pro Mod team, which features some of the best talent working today with nitrous-oxide-injected engines. His new Jerry Bickel-built '68 Camaro is tuned by Jack Foster with team crew chief Shannon Jenkins, an eight-time Pro Mod exhibition event winner, also available in the pits.

As a class, Pro Mod has become noticeably more consistent and deeper over the past three or four seasons, which means Auxier will certainly have his hands full as he seeks the first official NHRA Pro Mod title. At the top of any list of championship threats for 2010 would have to be Roger Burgess' three-car stable of powerful supercharged entries, which features Burgess, record-setting Canadian Raymond Commisso, and Melanie Troxel, who also drives the In-N-Out Dodge Charger in Funny Car competition in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

A number of other drivers with supercharged powerplants are likely to be challenging for the top few spots in the points standings. Jay Payne, already well-known as one of the best alcohol-class drivers ever in the Lucas Oil Series, has also established himself as a heavy hitter in Pro Mod, scoring seven exhibition event wins and 82 round-wins, the second-highest total in class history, since he made his debut in 2004. Danny Rowe is a veteran driver who has been competing in the exhibition races since they began in 2001, and his team is as solid as they've ever been. Joe Baker, who opened the 2008 season by winning the first two NHRA Pro Mod races he entered, is always a threat to win, as are drivers Tim Tindle and Rick Stivers.

"It's really going to be hard this year; there's a lot of guys who really have good programs going," Auxier said. "There's no easy rounds out there. I expect it to be harder than ever now that NHRA made it a series."

In terms of performance, the sky seems to be the limit lately for the Pro Mod class, which has obliterated its performance standards on a consistent basis since the first 5-second run was recorded at the 2007 season-opener. Entering the 2010 season, the best-ever marks posted at an NHRA track are Commisso's 5.817-second elapsed time and the best speed belongs to turbocharged-driver Brad Personett, who posted a 253.28 mph run.

NHRA recently announced the official national records for the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series and Commisso's 5.817 holds down the spot for time, but Personett didn't back up his career-best 253 mph performance within the required 1 percent per NHRA rules. However, he does hold the national speed record at 250.92 mph, which he recorded in Las Vegas last October.

* SCHEDULE: Get Screened America qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on March 12 and March 13. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled to begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 14.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA or visit www.ticketmaster.com to purchase tickets.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 30-minutes of racing highlights from the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series portion of the NHRA Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday, March 21 at 11 a.m. (ET).

-source: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shannon Jenkins , Jay Payne , Rick Stivers , Danny Rowe , Joe Baker , Brad Personett