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Past NMCA Pro Mod Champion Eric Gustafson Gearing Up For WSOPM Debut

After winning the 2020 NMCA Xtreme Pro Mod championship, Eric Gustafson took a planned hiatus from driving to focus on business and family. He put the team in the capable hands of his crew chief Cameron Hensley and co-crew chief/tuner Jason Lee, who took over driving duties for the next few years. 

What Gustafson didn’t know is that he would suffer two significant personal health setbacks during this time, but being the competitor that he is, has returned to full health and is ready to take on the best of the best at the 2024 Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage and J&A Service, March 1-3, at Bradenton Motorsports Park.

Gustafson, who made his return to competition at the U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton in late January, will get back behind the wheel of his 1969 Coast Packing/R&E Racing Camaro Pro Mod, which was recently rebuilt top to bottom by Lyons Custom Motorsports.

“It’s essentially a brand-new, rebuilt car,” Gustafson said. “The chassis was in great shape. We made some significant changes to make the car more competitive. It was time to hit the reset button.”

Efforts to reduce weight were made, and Jason Lee and Patrick Barnhill of PTP Racing completely rewired the car to streamline the electronics package.

“Tim Lyons just freshened the ‘69 with a new body, lots of carbon and tin work, and we rewired the car as it had one of the original Haltech ECUs so we cleaned all of that up,” said Lee. “It has the Nexus R5 now and we pulled the Racepak stuff out. It gave us a more versatile car by removing some weight. We had been wanting to do that for a long time.” 

The newly refurbished Camaro remains powered by the Noonan Race Engineering 4.9-bore-space Hemi and ProCharger F4X-140 supercharger that is backed by a Liberty Gears transmission with a Quick Drive.

Gustafson, whose Coast Packing Company is a WSOPM event sponsor, previously attempted to return to driving in 2021 at a Mid-West Pro Mod event in Texas, but health issues arose right after that, and he was sidelined through 2022 and 2023.

“The plan was for me to still drive after winning the NMCA championship, but not compete in a series as my kids are getting older and their activities take precedence. Unfortunately, it was a little more prolonged recovery than I was initially hoping for, and a challenge I was not looking for, but you don’t always get to choose in life,” Gustafson said.

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Gustafson tested before the U.S. Street Nationals, where he qualified No. 15 and reached the third round. The outing prepared Gustafson for his WSOPM debut this week. 

“Certainly, I need the experience since the World Series of Pro Mod is going to be such an elevated level of competition,” Gustafson said. “You need to bring your A-game. I’ve driven Pro Mods before, but I need to stay focused and level-headed and take my super competitive side out of the equation to get reacclimated.

“The bigger part of this is obviously I want to win, and win the right way, but the opportunity to drive again and be with fellow competitors in this arena versus being there as a bystander is something I feel has been lacking in my life, and I’m very much looking forward to it and am grateful that Wes [Buck] offered me the invitation. There’s plenty of deserving drivers and I feel honored to be among them.

“I’d be selling myself short if I didn’t tell you how excited I am,” Gustafson continued. “I am truly honored to be able to compete with some of the best drivers and people who I respect. Considering the past couple of years, being able to do this again is something I did not think was possible again and is a blessing.”

Ever the competitor, Gustafson closed with, “If the stars align for the Coast Packing/R&E Racing team and Jason and I happen to line up in the finals together, I’m going to bust his ass!”

Tickets for the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod presented by JHG and J&A Service are on sale now and can be purchased at https://bit.ly/wsopm2024. Fans watching from home can tune in to the official event livestream on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3uYLot3

This story was originally published on February 27, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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