The adrenaline rush started with the second-quickest pass in NHRA Pro Mod history and it continued into the early evening on Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
When it ended, Rick Hord had recorded his first career victory in the talent-heavy class with one most of the most impressive performances of the season. Hord qualified No. 1 with a 5.681 at 258.67 mph blast in his turbocharged “Maximum Effort IV” ’16 Corvette and then never strayed far from that in four impressive round of eliminations. With tuner and World Series of Pro Mod champ Carl Stevens Jr. calling the shots, Hord ran between 5.706 – which he put up in the finals – and a 5.728 through four rounds of eliminations, enjoying the thrill ride that included an impressive array of runs, quick turnaround times and, ultimately, his first NHRA Pro Mod win at the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
“It was awesome. The excitement level was certainly high and I don’t think the energy level ever dropped,” Hord said. “It was there in the first round and it was there all day. I think it was just determination. Both Carl and I felt like we could make this happen. It’s been my experience that once you get past the first round the adrenaline just kicks in. Everyone had that same level all day.”
It was a worthwhile weekend in what has turned into a great NHRA Pro Mod debut season for Hord, even if it didn’t start that way.
A longtime Comp racer with two decades of success, Hord spent the previous three seasons racing in the PDRA before jumping to the NHRA Pro Mod scene in 2018. But his season started with a damper, as he didn’t qualify in Gainesville and then had his run disallowed at the spring Charlotte race when he refused to give NHRA a hard copy of his ECU data.
But Hord remained steadfast that he had a strong team and things have changed dramatically since then. He posted his first No. 1 qualifier in Norwalk and Hord felt there was potential to win races in St. Louis and Dallas when parts breakages ended his weekends. It was frustrating to see that potential not come out at the right time, especially when he felt like he had a winning car for several races this season, but Hord had no problem persevering.
“This team has just worked hard and it’s truly been a team effort,” Hord said. “We got better as the season went along and a lot of people told me in the second half of the season we were a win waiting to happen. We ran some strong numbers but would stub our toe at some point. It was like we would drive down to the one-inch line but couldn’t put the ball across. We had a lot of stats but no touchdowns.”
That’s the former coach in Hord coming out, but he reached the proverbial end zone in Charlotte, as the team displayed remarkable consistency in near-flawless conditions.
But there’s being consistent and running just okay, and it’s another thing to be consistently quick and fast. Hord had that special combination in Charlotte, starting with the 5.681 No. 1 qualifier in what he ended up as the quickest qualifying field in Pro Mod history.
It was a mark that was just set two races ago, but the class continues to advance at a torrid pace and that includes Hord. He went 5.706 at 257.68 in the final-round win against Sidnei Frigo, crediting the work of Stevens and his team in pressure situations.
“Carl did an outstanding job tuning. He was on a laptop every minute between rounds,” Hord said. “From the first round to the finals, it was like a blur but he was hammering on that laptop. The team was just thrashing. Carl has been helping me for three years and we’ve made a lot of runs this year, so we feel like we know what it will do in certain conditions.”
Even before the win, Hord, who reached his first final round in Houston, has had the time of his life in the Pro Mod class as competition and performances reach unbelievable levels. But that’s brought out the best in Hord and he hopes to take that showing in Charlotte and carry it over to the final race of the 2018 season in Las Vegas in two weeks.
“I ran Comp Eliminator for 20 years and I tell my friends there I should have made this move 10 years ago,” Hord said. “I like where Pro Mod is at right now. It’s so good and so competitive. Anybody can win on any given day.
“We’re excited for Vegas. Our mindset is to go out there and try to double up.”