Jose Gonzalez clinched his first career E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service world championship on Sunday at Bristol Dragway as part of this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
The event was the 10th of 11 events during the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season.
It’s been a dominant 2021 season for Gonzalez, who clinched the world title by advancing to the final round in Bristol. He drove to five wins this season in his ProCharger-powered Q80 Camaro, advancing to six final rounds in all. Gonzalez suffered an early-season crash at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, but rebounded in dominant fashion, winning three straight races at one point and clinching the world championship a race before the final event of the season.
“We went through a lot this year,” Gonzalez said. “Since our mishap in Charlotte, we started running really good. The effort of this whole team, they deserve it all. They’ve done a tremendous job and they’re the ones who have to get the car ready. I just have to get in it, so I’m probably doing the easy part right now. For me, I could never believe I’m doing this. I was just glad that we could win a couple of races. A championship is way over what I would have wanted.”
In racing action on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, rookie J.R. Gray capped off his impressive weekend by racing to his first career NHRA Pro Mod victory. He went a strong 5.699-seconds at 250.64 mph in his blown Gray Construction Camaro in the final round to beat Gonzalez, who left the starting line too soon.
Gray advanced to his first career final round on Sunday on the strength of wins against No. 1 qualifier Rickie Smith and Mike Salinas, who also won on Sunday in Top Fuel. Gray went 5.699 at 251.53 in his first-round victory against Smith and then tied his career-best pass with another outstanding performance in the final round to cap off his memorable day in Thunder Valley.
“This is so surreal and amazing,” said Gray, who was the No. 14 qualifier. “I can’t even put into words what this means. We’ve been facing adversity all year, but this team kept digging and digging, and we haven’t stopped. There’s so many people who have been involved in this and I just want to thank everyone.”
Gonzalez reached the final round with round wins against Lyle Barnett, Khalid AlBalooshi and Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who had won the two previous world championships in the class before Gonzalez took control in 2021.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service closes out its 2021 season Oct. 29-31 with the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Final finish order (1-16) at the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 10th of 11 events in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
1. JR Gray; 2. Jose Gonzalez; 3. Steve Jackson; 4. Mike Salinas; 5. Mike Castellana; 6. Brandon Snider; 7. Khalid alBalooshi; 8. Lyle Barnett; 9. Rickie Smith; 10. Doug Winters; 11. Justin Bond; 12. Jeffery Barker; 13. Eric Latino; 14. Dwayne Wolfe.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Sunday’s final results from the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 10th of 11 events in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
Pro Modified — JR Gray, Chevy Camaro, 5.699, 250.64 def. Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Final round-by-round results from the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 10th of 11 events in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
ROUND ONE — Steve Jackson, Chevy Camaro, 5.779, 247.93 def. Justin Bond, Camaro, 8.769, 103.04; Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.776, 250.51 def. Eric Latino, Camaro, 12.441, 91.41; Brandon Snider, Camaro, 5.773, 249.07 def. Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 7.537, 127.81; Mike Salinas, Camaro, 5.742, 248.75 def. Dwayne Wolfe, Camaro, Broke – No Show; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.752, 248.02 def. Jeffery Barker, Toyota Camry, 11.054, 78.63; Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.735, 250.18 def. Lyle Barnett,
Camaro, 5.932, 220.48; JR Gray, Camaro, 5.699, 251.53 def. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 6.260, 178.19;
QUARTERFINALS — Gray, No Time Recorded was unopposed; Salinas, 5.738, 249.49 def. Castellana, Foul – Red Light; Jackson, 5.749, 249.63 def. Snider, 5.759, 249.86; Gonzalez, 5.717, 250.51 def. alBalooshi, 5.774, 250.97;
SEMIFINALS — Gray, 5.719, 250.41 def. Salinas, 5.758, 249.26; Gonzalez, 5.727, 250.09 def. Jackson, 5.734, 250.18;
FINAL — Gray, 5.699, 250.64 def. Gonzalez, Foul – Red Light.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Point standings (top 10) following the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 10th of 11 events in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
1. Jose Gonzalez, 838; 2. Brandon Snider, 658; 3. Steve Jackson, 643; 4. Justin Bond, 641; 5. JR Gray, 495; 6. Jeffery Barker, 411; 7. Doug Winters, 398; 8. Mike Castellana, 376; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 368; 10. Lyle Barnett, 360.