Entering the 2018 season, Jose Gonzalez was simply glad to be part of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service for the first time. The early-season success and quick rise in the talent-rich class has simply been the icing on the cake.
Gonzalez qualified No. 1 at his second career NHRA Pro Mod race, following that up with a victory at the most recent event in Charlotte. That has Gonzalez, a standout for years in various racing organizations, fourth in points heading to the next E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service event of the season, which takes place as part of this weekend’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park.
“I’ll be honest, we weren’t expecting these kind of results in such a quick fashion at the beginning of the year,” said Gonzalez, who drives the turbocharger-powered Q80 Chevrolet Camaro. “Knowing the team we have behind me, with (crew chief) Steve Petty and Pro Line, and the way we ran in other series, we knew we could do decently, but I didn’t think we would have so much triumph. When you have 35 cars and the caliber of drivers in this class, just qualifying is a win.”
The race, which is presented by Summit Racing Equipment, is the fourth of 12 events during the 2018 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Stevie “Fast” Jackson is the defending event winner, but Gonzalez has already sparkled in his debut NHRA Pro Mod season.
After qualifying 15th in his debut race at the season-opener in Gainesville, Gonzalez has made steady strides over the past two events, running an impressive 5.696 at 257.78 mph to take the No. 1 spot in Houston. From there, he headed to his first four-wide race in Charlotte, where Gonzalez was cool under pressure, beating a loaded lineup in the final quad that included Jackson and three-time world champion Rickie Smith. Gonzalez has been stellar in his driving, but he continued to credit Petty, who tuned Troy Coughlin to three championships, and his team.
“After qualifying first in Houston, we found something out with the car and we can’t feel better with the way we’ve started,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a dream come true. We’ve been able to pinpoint and fine-tune the combination we’ve had, and there’s so much data that’s it’s all coming together really well. That helps you feel a lot more comfortable in the car.”
Continuing that success won’t be easy, especially with another loaded lineup of more than 30 Pro Mod cars this weekend at Heartland Motorsports Park. That list also includes the likes of Mike Castellana, Houston winner Jim Whiteley, Mike Janis, former world champion Khalid AlBalooshi, and Bob Rahaim, but Gonzalez has enjoyed every minute of the new opportunity this season.
“Just qualifying in Gainesville was a good feeling, and that felt like a win,” Gonzalez said. “Being a part of NHRA and this class has been astonishing for me. They’ve welcomed us, everyone has been great and it’s just a tremendous organization. It’s such a good group of drivers and teams, at the end of the day the key is consistency in qualifying. Anybody in the top 16 can win and we just want to try to qualify and get as far as we can. With all these top teams, there’s going to be a lot of different winners this season, so we’re just trying to continue to get better.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, like ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door pro mod cars travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.
E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying begins Friday, May 18 with two qualifying session at 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., continuing with the final two qualifying session on Saturday, May 19 at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Round one of eliminations takes place on Sunday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.