MADISON, Ill. – It may be Jeremy Ray’s first season competing in the talent-filled and ultra-competitive E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, but he is hardly performing like one. Ray, a Pro Mod veteran, took the next step in his rising career this season and sits in the top 10 with a final-round berth already to his credit through eight races.
Ray isn’t stopping there and has big hopes to conclude his first season in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, starting at this weekend’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park as part of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. He is looking for his first win in his “Carolina Kingpin” ’63 Corvette, while continuing to make a steady climb in the standings.
“My goal this year is to finish in the top five,” said Ray, a native of Lugoff, S.C. “I probably won’t be satisfied unless it’s a top-five finish. I’ve got the least amount of experience out here when it comes to NHRA racing, but I’m just going to keep working hard and believe in myself. We’ve been learning at every race and if we keep qualifying we’ll have a chance.”
The race, which is presented by the Real Pro Mod Association (RPM), is the ninth of 12 events during the 2018 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Defending world champion Troy Coughlin is the defending winner of the event and Ray would like to add his name to that list in 2018.
In a class drawing upwards of 30 racers at every event, Ray has been impressively consistent, qualifying at every race, including a top qualifier spot at Richmond. He raced to his first final round just weeks later in Norwalk and won a round at the most recent race, the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy. It’s that success as of late that has Ray confident he can continue to make big moves later in the season. He sits just two points out of eighth, 97 out of fifth and 113 out of third, giving the talented racer something big to shoot for over the final four races.
“I had no experience on a NHRA track prior to this year and the only way you’re going to learn is to be here and just make runs,” Ray said. “The more runs I make, the more I can get a handle on my tune-up and get it all working together. I’m very satisfied with what we’ve done considering it’s our first year running 1/4-mile. I do all the tuning and then drive, so that makes it a little more difficult, but that’s just how I have always raced.”
Growing up in South Carolina, Ray was a big fan of the likes of Rickie Smith, the three-time world champion who has three wins in 2018 and holds a share of the points lead with Mike Janis, and Todd Tutterow, another standout in the class, leaving Ray thrilled to be competing against them and the rest of the talented lineup. It’s a group that also includes Indy winner Stevie Jackson, Mike Castellana, Jose Gonzalez, fellow rookie Chad Green, Khalid AlBalooshi and Danny Rowe, and Ray doesn’t take the opportunity lightly as the class continues its rapid ascension.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s an honor to race some of these guys,” Ray said. “I consider it the highest level of Pro Mod. You come to the race and there’s thousands of people in the stands. It’s just a good deal. Everybody enjoys Pro Mod racing, the fans have been great and it’s just steadily getting better. Everyone is working hard and getting better all the time. You can’t just show up and be competitive in this class.”
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.
The first of four E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying sessions takes place at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, and the final two rounds of qualifying take place on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 1:30 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12:20 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (618) 215-8888. Tickets also are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com. 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 info about NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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About Real Pro Mod
The Real Pro Mod (RPM) association was created by Pro Mod team owners and drivers to preserve and promote the future of these amazing spectacles of drag racing. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door Pro Mod cars travel the quarter mile in under six seconds and at speeds exceeding 250 MPH.