With a strong test session under his belt in a new 2017 RJ Race Cars Camaro, Danny Rowe is excited for this weekend’s NHRA Pro Mod season-opener in Gainesville.
A sterling run of 5.79 in the first full lap in the car also shows Rowe is plenty ready to compete in a loaded field that includes a remarkable 35 cars.
“That’s the fastest we’ve ever been and to do it on the car’s first full lap ever, that’s pretty awesome,” Rowe said. “Right now this class is so competitive, but it’s so exciting to be racing in the Pro Mod class. We know we have to step up our game, but we’ve got the equipment to do it and we’re excited.”
Rowe has been impressed with the way everything has come together with the team’s race program, as Rick and Rickie Jones have worked close with Rowe’s team, led by crew chief Jimmy Rector.
Rowe sees only positives from that combo, and he’s been determined to have everything in line for the 2018 season. Disappointed with a 2017 campaign that included an 11th-place finish in points and zero wins, Rowe believes his team can make a huge jump in 2018, despite the Pro Mod class continuing to get deeper and more competitive.
There were nine different winners in 12 races a year ago, including six first-time winners, which indicates the strong parity in the class. It’s definitely good for the health of Pro Mod, but it certainly presents plenty of challenges for the standouts in the class, including Rowe.
“There’s so many people coming out to be involved in the class and it’s really exciting,” Rowe said. “It’s a double-edged sword. I’m happy the class is doing well, but it makes it a big challenge for team owners and drivers. Just to qualify in the top 16, it’s a big deal. When it’s this competitive, you can’t be off any, you can’t miss the mark whatsoever, but we’re going into it with the best equipment we’ve had.”
Tuning both Rowe’s and teammate Steve Matusek’s car in the midst of the competitive field means Rector’s hands will be full, especially when a fourth qualifying session is factored in. For the first time in class history, NHRA Pro Mod will get four qualifying sessions in 2018, with a second one being added on Saturday, moving the first round of eliminations to Sunday.
It’s another big and important step for the class, and Rowe is excited to see the effects of it, starting this weekend at one of his favorite tracks.
“I love racing in Gainesville and I think we’re going to see some really, really fast runs,” Rowe said. “Four qualifying sessions gives everyone one more shot and I think it’s going to tighten the field up even more. It gives you a little more confidence, but at the same time, the fields get tighter. I think we’re going to see some seriously impressive, seriously fast runs. It could be a record-setting weekend. Being part of it is a big deal.”