Danny Rowe made his first visit to the winner's circle since 2004 by defeating Rick Stivers Sunday in the final round of the Get Screened America Pro Mod Challenge presented by ProCare Rx at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Baytown, Texas.
After a frustrating first day marred by rain and cancelled sessions and a second day that witnessed the quickest run in Pro Mod history, Sunday's performance kept the standing-room only fans on their tip-toes and the edges of their seats in anticipation of the next run. The Houston Raceway Park quarter-mile improved throughout the entire event, setting up a stellar final that was ultimately decided by a margin of less than 20 inches.
In the final, Rowe and Stivers faced off for a true battle; Stivers having delivered a stunning 5.911 at 236.55 mph in the first round with hopes of setting a world record, and Rowe pounding out consistent 5.90s en route to the money round. At the stripe, Stivers had the better numbers but Rowe took the prize based on starting line reactions: Rowe giving a psychic .015 light to Stivers' .069. The holeshot victory went to Rowe - 6.016 at 244.43 mph to 5.966 at 243.68 mph in one of the best final rounds of the day for any class.
"This is why I love quarter-mile NHRA Pro Mod drag racing," said an ecstatic Rowe as he clutched his Get Screened America Warrior trophy - a bronze statue of the Greek warrior-god Achilles. "The cars that race here are truly the very best. We race on the best-prepared tracks with the NHRA Safety Safari watching us every step of the way. This is the place to be for drivers who are serious about Pro Mod racing."
Rowe was quick to give credit for his victory to his crew chief Jimmy Rector and his crew. "It takes a whole team to get here, and Jimmy and the entire team earned this honor this weekend. It's been since 2004 since we've won a final here, and all I can say is, it's about time. Hopefully the next one won't take nearly as long," he said.
Stivers made his first trip to the finals since Richmond 2007 when he won his first Pro Mod Challenge event, and definitely backed up the performance advantage he's been delivering since making a move to the Brad Anderson-owned Pro Mod team. He defeated Tim Tindle, his teammate Jay Payne and Gainesville event-winner Mike Castellana on his trip to the finals.
"Danny had an incredible light, and he was just meant to win the race today," Stivers said. "We might have had the quickest car in the final, but he definitely won the race."
Defending event champ Joe Baker won his first round of eliminations soundly over nitrous-powered Burton Auxier, but exited competition in round two in a tire-shaking against Castellana.
Number one qualifier Raymond Commisso delivered a shot heard round the world with his qualifying blast of 5.884 - the quickest run in Pro Mod Challenge history, but was unable to back it up for the official record when he had an uncharacteristic red light start against Taylor Lastor in the first round.
R2B2 Racing driver Roger Burgess and Jay Payne had the closest race of the event in the first round Saturday evening, a 5.984 to 5.972, with Payne taking the stripe by .0011 seconds - less than five inches.
Burgess said, "We're serious about Pro Mods here, and I'll lay down a challenge to any driver out there, that if they think they can compete with the best of the best, come on over and take a shot. We're building a long-term foundation with solid sponsorship support, and we've got the very best drivers anywhere."
The Get Screened America Pro Mod Challenge presented by ProCare Rx is in action next May 1-3 at the O'Reilly NRHA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill.