This drag race was something special.
In fact, the NHRA E3 Spark Plugs Pro Modified category was something special from beginning to end at the 50th annual Amalie Oil Gatornationals — but the finale was, inarguably, the greatest in the 18-year history of the class. And the stage was set early.
Following Friday’s two rounds of qualifying, the bump spot was already a 5.948 — Todd Tutterow was third with a 5.765 and Steve Jackson was mired in the 23rd position on the sheet. But Saturday afternoon delivered a frenzied throw-down session highlighted by a new national E.T. record of 5.665-seconds by Jackson and the lowering of the bump spot all the way down to 5.773 in one fell swoop (it was later lowered to 5.753, marking the quickest Pro Modified field in history). In the final session lined up opposite of one another in the final pairing, Tutterow got the better of a slowing Jackson as he sailed to the second quickest pass in the class’ history at 5.671.
From there, the two doorslammer racing veterans were on a collision course.
Tutterow clocked low elapsed time of round one Sunday with another 5.671 … Jackson was second-quick at 5.683. A round later, Tutterow was low again at 5.684, and in the semifinals they clocked the two quickest elapsed times ever in separate pairings — a 5.653 for Jackson and a 5.665 (matching Jackson’s qualifying time but losing out on speed) for Tutterow to advance into the money-round.
The much-anticipated finale was everything everyone expected it to be — a climactic barn-burner with record-breaking potential. The kind of singular contest that only comes around every so often and leaves a lasting impression on all there to bear witness.
The North Carolinian Tutterow pinned .028-seconds on the Georgian out of the gate and never looked back in the quickest side-by-side NHRA-legal Pro Modified drag race in history, decided on a holeshot by a scant .0096-seconds at the stripe — as Jackson, on a national record 5.643-second tear came up inches short of reeling in Tutterow’s 5.662.
The numbers on the boards marked the first and third quickest runs in history, and there’s little question these two Pro Mod superstars saved their best performances for last — which may be hard to say for the Pro Mod class as a whole, as it will be a tall order to top what it displayed at the golden anniversary of the Gatornationals.