In this life, there are people who wait for things to happen and there are people who make things happen. Canadian Pro Mod veteran Eric Latino counts himself among the latter.
When word came down that Wes Buck was putting together an incredible event pitting the best of the best against one another for a $100,000 winner-take-all purse, Latino knew he had to be part of it. The lack of an invitation to the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod Presented by One Cure and J&A Service didn’t hold him back for a second.
“It’s funny,” Latino said. “I had heard about this race and people got these invitations and we weren’t invited, so I was riding him pretty hard. He was like, ‘Look, man, that’s not how it went down.’ He made every possible excuse he could think of.”
That conversation took place at the Gatornationals, the kickoff event for the NHRA Pro Mod class. Latino didn’t take home the Wally, but he did lay down a lap of 5.727 seconds, good enough for the national record. When he appeared on Buck’s Facebook Live show afterwards, the Drag Illustrated Editor-in-Chief had a question for Latino.
“He invited me on his show,” Latino said. “He called me on a Wednesday and we did his (Facebook) show and that’s when he invited me to the race because I bugged him so much.”
As for the race itself, Latino is looking forward to this weekend’s one-of-a-kind race at the legendary Bandimere Speedway. He knows due to the conditions, no one is planning any record runs and with the lack of qualifying (E1 matchups were determined weeks ago via random draft), drivers are racing out of their comfort zone.
“It’s exciting!” he said. “I love the format. Look, I’m an old-time street racer and I love this whole format. When I go testing my car at the race track, I don’t pay attention to anybody’s number but my own. All I’m trying to do is improve my car every time I go out.
“It’s going to be tough because it’s nice when you qualify and you look at your number compared to No. 1, you’ll say ‘Wow, I’m only two hundredths behind.’ It’s kinda scary not knowing how far behind. But we’re so used to testing our own cars to maximize the runs anyway, so I think we’ll be OK, but I’ve never run on that kind of stuff. Going to Bandimere, it’s cool and the format will be cool, but the numbers won’t be so great.”
Knowing he’s facing Rowe, a competitor Latino has gotten to be better friends with over the past season, doesn’t make a huge difference to Eric, but not due to a lack of respect, but because every driver participating is dangerous. However, any variable that becomes a fact on race day is always appreciated and Latino appreciates knowing who he faces first on Saturday.
“It’s one of those things where I think it prepares you better,” Latino said. “Normally, you don’t have time to think. We get a third qualifier on Saturday, everybody gets bumped in, bumped out, and you don’t really know who you’re going to run until that third qualifying round. Then you’ve got two hours to kind of focus on your deal.
“But at the end of the day, these cars are so consistent and they’re so close to each other that I don’t think they’re winning the race at the end of the quarter mile anymore. I think the races are all won on the starting line, you know?”
As has been the case with other NHRA Pro Mod regulars, the idea of the purse only going to the winner with nothing allotted for second on back isn’t a deal breaker at all. Latino said, though, he would’ve raced for far less and would’ve raced even if it wasn’t a situation where only the driver holding the trophy at the end of the night gets paid.
“We run NHRA and if you qualify, you get $300, like it’s a joke,” he said. “So really, winner takes all here doesn’t seem to bother me. I think it’s exciting. I think it could’ve been even a $50,000 purse for the winner because nobody’s done that.
“Even the Shakedown (at E-Town) race, which we won in 2012, it was $20,000 to the winner. So even if the format was fifty grand to the winner and maybe twenty-five for runner-up and then you’ve got twenty-five to cut up amongst the (remaining racers). Overall, I think it’s great, but I think if I won fifty thousand rather than a hundred and runner-up won twenty-five, that would be pretty cool, too.”