Rickie Smith clinched his second straight NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series championship during final eliminations at the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas.
The North Carolina racing veteran entered the event with a healthy 76-point lead over 2012 champion Troy Coughlin and 77 over Mike Janis. After Janis surprisingly failed to qualify, the title race boiled down to the series’ two most recent champs and was finally decided when Smith won his second-round race to put his total out of Coughlin’s reach.
Smith built his points lead on a pair of wins this season with his nitrous oxide-assisted IMG Camaro, winning at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Smith also notched a runner-up finish at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the annual Pro Mod season opener.
Smith’s championship earned him $50,000, and Coughlin’s runner-up netted him $20,000 from the Pro Mod points purse, which is sponsored by Speedtech.
Smith then went on to win the event to put a perfect capper on his season.
“Everyone knows that NHRA is the only ballpark; this is the Big House, and there’s no better place to win that here,” he said. “My car was unreal this weekend. it’s hard for a nitrous car to win in Las Vegas, but my car was unreal.”
Smith, who had considered retirement prior to this season, says he’s unsure of his 2015 plans.
“I’m not going to say one way or another right now, but it would be a good time to go having won my last race and the championship,” he said. “I don’t know if I am or not, but I do know that I don’t want to stay out there if I’m not competitive any more. I want to go out on top.”
In addition to his seven career NHRA Pro Mod wins, Smith also is a two-time winner in NHRA Pro Stock competition.