Pro Mod: Von Smith Bristol preview

Pro Mod driver Von Smith races before home state fans BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28, 2004) - With back-to-back races, this weekend the AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge, an NHRA exhibition class, moves to Bristol Dragway as the NHRA O'Reilly ...

Pro Mod driver Von Smith races before home state fans

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28, 2004) - With back-to-back races, this weekend the AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge, an NHRA exhibition class, moves to Bristol Dragway as the NHRA O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Quaker State unfolds April 29-May 2.

Driving the Tommy Lipar Racing-owned supercharged Pro Mod, with associate sponsorship from Houston-based Angel Bros. Construction and Century Asphalt Materials, Von Smith, from Oak Ridge, Tenn., hopes to do well in his home state.

"One thing I know is that Tennessee fans love their football and country music, but racing is the one thing they can't live without. I can't wait to race in Bristol as the fans in this state can really pump you up. After a slow start by my standards, (crew chief) Howard Moon's standards and the standards of the whole Tommy Lipar Racing organization, we need to have these fans give us a lift. Hopefully, they'll cheer us right into the winner's circle," said Smith, currently No. 6 in the 2004 DRO/NMM Cup point standings.

Smith cut his teeth on Top Alcohol Funny Cars (TAFC) on both the IHRA and NHRA circuits. In 1995, with veteran engine builder and crew chief Howard Moon by his side, Smith began his assault on the IHRA TAFC class. Smith gained a top ten finish that first year but was already looking to 1996.

In 1996, he served notice that he had found a place in Top Alcohol Funny Car, advancing to nine semifinals, five final rounds, winning two of the 10 national events contested that season. His consistent performance won him the first of three IHRA TAFC championships. He dropped to second in points in 1997 before claiming back-to-back championships in 1998 and '99.

One can mark 1998 and 1999 as two years of domination in TAFC on the IHRA circuit for Smith. In '98, he set several elapsed time national records and ended the year with a new standard in total wins with five. 1999 turned out even better as he rewrote the IHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car record book. Of 11 IHRA events contested in '99, Smith competed in nine final rounds winning seven. For his outstanding performance, Smith was named the 1999 IHRA Driver of the Year.

He started the new millennium once again finishing runner-up to the top spot. In the five year span from 1996-2000, Smith won three TAFC IHRA championships and finished runner-up twice. In 2001, he moved to TAFC on the NHRA circuit.

Here, in one of the toughest classes on the NHRA circuits, he also made his mark. In 2001, he finished No. 5 nationally and second in Division 2, which comprises Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. In 2002, he moved up a notch nationally, to fourth, and won the Division 2 championship.

Returning to his IHRA roots in 2003, he ran six of the 12 events on the TAFC circuit and finished No. 7 in points before assuming the driving duties of the Tommy Lipar Racing-owned 2003 Ford Mustang GT Pro Mod for the final four races of the 2003. In those final four events of the 2003 season, Von Smith was the hottest driver on the NHRA AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge circuit.

Smith went to the final round in all four events he raced, winning the final two -- the NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals in Dallas and the NHRA AC Delco Las Vegas Nationals. That installed the Oak Ridge, Tenn., driver as the preseason favorite for 2004.

This season, by his own admission, Smith has cooled down somewhat. That is if you can call qualifying second at Gainesville and sixth at Houston a cool down. According to Smith the cool down is not during qualifying but during Sunday's eliminations.

"Yes, you've got to be on your game to qualify race in and race out because there's enough good drivers and teams out there to get the job done. There are 20 or more cars trying to get into the eight-car field and all are capable. Our problems are on race day. We need to go rounds and do it consistently, just like we were doing at the end of last season. Maybe the fans in Bristol can get us jump started," added Smith.

This is the third of 10 scheduled events on the NHRA AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge. Pro Mod qualifying gets underway on Friday with two sessions scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. Two additional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3 p.m. on Saturday. The eight quickest Pro Mods make the field. Eliminations for all classes begin at noon on Sunday. All times are EDT-- local Bristol time.

-tlr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Von Smith