Danny Rowe and his team have been working for more than three months straight to finally have a race like last weekend. An early-season filled with struggles and trying to dial in a new car in the midst of an ultra-competitive NHRA Pro Mod season hasn’t been easy for Rowe, but the veteran received a huge dose of good news in Richmond.
Rowe qualified second in his new RJ Race Cars Camaro, had a career-best pass and picked up his first round wins of the year, advancing to the semifinals of the Virginia NHRA Nationals.
Needless to say, after weeks of work, it was an encouraging sign for Rowe and his team.
“I have to be honest, that was a huge relief,” Rowe said. “This team, they’ve been working really hard. Darryl, Karen, Matt, Chris, Jerry, Jeremy and (crew chief) Jimmy (Rector), they have been working tirelessly the last few months to get on track. Jimmy and the crew have just been unbelievable. Whenever we’ve had a problem, they’ve tried to figure it out.
“They have been working the last 14 weeks straight, doing whatever it takes. There wasn’t one person that said they needed a weekend off.”
That certainly made Rowe proud and the good vibes finally came his way in Virginia, with a little help from the rest of the NHRA Pro Mod community as well.
Rowe went a career-best 5.781 to beat Sidnei Frigo in the first round, while teammate Steve Matusek upset No. 1 qualifier Jeremy Ray to advance as well, but both cars hurt parts on their runs. Multiple teams stepped up and offered assistance, helping both Rowe and Matusek make it to the starting line for the second round.
“There were so many team that were trying to help us,” Rowe said. “We literally had to put eight pistons in Steve’s car and everybody worked their butts off to get it done. We had so many different teams helping us.
“Then within about 20-30 minutes left, we took a look at my computer and realized that it was hurt, too, and had to put a new No. 4 piston in. It was just a scramble, but there’s just so many great, quality people in this class.”
The added subplot to it all was Rowe was slated to race “Stevie Fast” Jackson in the second-round matchup, a race Rowe eventually won with a 5.843. But the story within the story was Jackson buying as much time as possible so Rowe and his team could get everything fixed to be able to race. That also didn’t go unnoticed by Rowe.
“Stevie Fast was the man,” Rowe said. “He did everything he could to make it a two-car show, and it just shows how respectable he is in regard to racing and his business.”
There was too much damage to the motor to continue in the semifinals against eventual winner and current points leader Mike Janis, but that wasn’t enough to put a damper on an overall encouraging weekend.
With races the next two weekends in Bristol and Norwalk on what will likely be hot racetracks, it was precisely the sign Rowe needed to see.
At the same time, he knows it’s only a building block at the moment. Heading to Bristol Dragway this weekend, Rowe is hopeful the team can build on this momentum and continue to close in on the team’s first NHRA Pro Mod win since 2015.
“We’ve got a really strong program and we’re working in the right direction,” Rowe said. “Both cars are making consistent laps and we’re going to Bristol with great expectations. We’re on the right side of things, and everything you do builds confidence. We needed that little bit of pressure release and to see that sunshine. But we don’t want to be overly confident. We’re not done yet and we’ve still got work to do. But Jimmy is a bad man on a hot track with what he does, so we’re excited.”