There was plenty for Steve Matusek to be encouraged about following his semifinal appearance at the most recent NHRA Pro Mod race in Virginia.
But what will make that weekend even better for the Elite Motorsports team is if it leads to an even bigger result over the next three weeks, starting with this weekend’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Matusek’s turbocharged Aeromotive 25th anniversary Mustang showed the first glimpse of his car’s immense potential in Virginia, meaning there are bigger things the veteran hopes to accomplish at his home track in Topeka.
“We’d like to continue to forge ahead and get more data, and when we get to eliminations, I don’t think people want to run us,” Matusek said. “We have all the tools, it’s just making lap after lap after lap. Right now, we’re not the fastest, but we’re going A to B and everyone is doing their jobs. I think we’re going to be a problem for the top 10 teams in the points from now until the end of the year.”
That was the case in Virginia, where Matusek qualified eighth with a 5.817 at 257.58 mph, and then knocked off No. 1 qualifier Khalid AlBalooshi en route to the semifinals.
An immediate goal is qualifying in the top five in Topeka, with hopes to improve on that during stops in Bristol and Norwalk in the coming weeks.
But performing well in Topeka is of utmost importance for Matusek. His company, Aeromotive Inc., is just over an hour from Heartland Motorsports Park and all the employees will be there to watch him perform.
Matusek, though, believes his team is ready to string together something big this weekend. After not qualifying at the first three races of the season, Matusek and his team simply kept working.
“It just seems like we all have a certain amount of persistence,” Matusek said. “We don’t give up and we keep our head down. You have to do some soul-searching and then you go and try to fix the problem. A hope and a prayer is not a gameplan. You have to have a plan of action and you have to activate it.”
The Elite Motorsports Pro Mod team, which also includes Shane Tecklenburg and Justin Elkes from Modern Racing, stayed the course through the early-season struggles, building on a strong test session heading into Virginia.
When they arrived, they stuck to the gameplan and made a strong run right off the trailer. The team built on that, which is the recipe for success they want to replicate in Topeka.
“When we rolled into Virginia, we were very positive,” Matusek said. “We don’t go out there swinging for a home run. There was a feeling of relief when we made that first run when we went 5.86 and then an .82 and then an .81. We were feeling very good going into eliminations, and it was great just to get in the game.”
The first of four E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying sessions takes place at 4:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying take place on Saturday at 12:00 and 3:15 p.m. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.