Author: McKenna, Kevin
Date published: May 18, 2012
Much like Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Andrew Hines, Pro Mod racer Danny Rowe can seemingly do no wrong when he rolls into Royal Purple Raceway. Rowe claimed his third win in the last four years at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries and now sports a gaudy 14-1 eliminations record after stopping Kenny Lang in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Pr°Care Rx final.
"We have a certain confidence when we come here," said Rowe. "We know we can win and that our car runs very consistent. We have the mind-set of doing what we need to do and bettering ourselves whenever possible. Since we're also winning a lot of rounds, we have a lot of data, and that really helps as well."
Coming offa semifinal finish at the most recent event in Charlotte, Rowe remained strong in Houston, where he qualified his Jimmy Rectortuned Sterling Bridge Camaro No. 3 with a 5.94. Mike Castellana and Rickie Smith, the winners of the first two events of the 2012 season, qualified first and second, respectively, but both drivers went out in round one, giving Rowe a golden opportunity to make up a lot of ground in the points battle. He quickly capitalized with a pair of 5.95 runs in his wins over Mike Knowles and Troy Coughlin and a 5.97 in the semi's to best Donald Walsh's turbocharged Mustang.
"That was a really fortunate break for me," said Rowe. "The nitrous cars have done well this year, and we're doing all we can to keep up with them. As soon as I saw them both go out, I knew this was our chance to make a move. We knew that the pressure was on us, and as long as we didn't do anything stupid or have some bad luck, we could win this race."
Waiting for Rowe in the final was the supercharged Summit Racing Equipment Camaro of Kenny Lang, who had earlier run a best of 5.99 in his first-round win over Jay Payne. Determined to finish the job, Rowe turned in his best performance of the day, a .018 reaction time and a 5.96, to claim the win and the silver Wally trophy that signifies the 25th anniversary of Royal Purple Raceway.
"No matter who your race, you never know what can go right or wrong, so I wasn't taking anyone lightly," said Rowe, who now holds a one-point lead over Castellana after three of 10 series events. "I've been in races where I thought I was home free and had turbo cars drive by me, so I wasn't counting anything until I saw the win light. Last year, we won more rounds than anyone but still didn't win the championship. I wish we used a little different points system, but it is what it is. We're going to do what we have to do to stay in this. If I need to win more rounds or more races, then that's our goal. We'll accept the challenge."
The key race: Rowe cut a great .010 light in round two against Coughlin's much-improved turbocharged Camaro and held on for the win, 5.95 to 6.04. "All of the cars that run [NHRA Pro Mod] are strong; there's nobody that's a lay down," said Rowe. "Troy and [crew chief] Steve Petty are doing great with that car, and they're throwing everything they have at it. They're tough competitors, and I knew we'd need something special to beat them."
The runner-up: Appearing in his first NHRA final round since his landmark win at the inaugural NHRA Pro Mod exhibition event in 2010, Lang posted a respectable 6.04, but it wasn't enough to stop Rowe. The Canadian auto-body shop owner was solid in qualifying with a fifth-best 5.960.
Fast facts: R2B2 tuner Brad Brand once again filled in for team owner Roger Burgess behind the wheel of the Silver Bullet '53 Corvette and set top speed at 251.02 mph. ... Just 88 points separate the top 10 drivers in the standings. ... When the nitrous cars of Smith and Castellana ran during qualifying, their engine sizes totaled 1,757 cubic inches.
Did you know: Rowe has finished second in the championship battle the last two seasons and has accumulated a class-best 31-15 roundwin record in that span. He has also claimed three wins in seven final-round appearances since the start of the 2010 season.
Quotable: "This weekend, we just tried to go out and stay consistent. We blew the tires offof it when we tried to run as quick as the No. 1 guys, so we just focused on getting the car to go down track every time, and that worked out for us." - Rowe ND