It took his final-round opponent to ultimately convince him, but John DeFlorian eventually figured out he’d just become the first official Mountain Motor Pro Stock (MMPS) winner in NHRA history.
After qualifying number one and making his way past Rick Cowger and Dillon Voss in the preliminaries, DeFlorian lined his 2015 Camaro up in the left lane against the similar machine of J.R. Carr to settle the final score for the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil Apr. 14, in Baytown, TX. It was an ugly final, though, with Carr leaving .011 too early while DeFlorian encountered severe tire shake before rattling and rolling his way to the top end of Houston Raceway in 10.43 seconds at just 90.12 mph.
“Man, I saw J.R. take off on me and almost right away I blew the tires off. I pedaled it to try and catch him, but he just checked out and I just dropped my head and coasted down the track. I was really distraught,” DeFlorian says. “I never even looked up at the scoreboard, so I didn’t realize my win light was on. So I make the turn off on the other end, I go past J.R.’s car and they’re flagging me over to the side at a certain spot, the same thing they always do. I’m getting my stuff off and I’m like, ‘Why are these two National Dragster guys kneeled down in front of the car taking pictures?’
About the same time DeFlorian recalls FOX Sports top-end reporter Amanda Busick approaching and saying he’d won, but seeming distracted by a message in her headset and then saying, no, Carr had won. Meanwhile, track owner Seth Angel is standing beside her with a coveted NHRA “Wally” trophy in his hands.
“It’s total confusion and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding? Are you messing with me?’ And she’s like, ‘They’re saying you redlighted.’ And to be honest, even at that I wouldn’t have known because I didn’t pay attention to the tree. So I tell her, ‘Man, you guys are killing me here!’
“It was about this time that J.R. rolls up and he goes, ‘Hey, John, if you don’t want that trophy I’ll take it!’ So then I go, ‘What?’ And I’m looking at him like, ‘What do you mean?’ And he says, ‘I redlighted oh-eleven,’ and right about the same time they finally got it straightened out with Amanda and she says, ‘Congratulations, you won!’ And that’s when I started losing my mind!”
DeFlorian ran 6.24 at 224.40 mph to qualify on top of an eight-car field in Houston, where MMPS represented the only Pro Stock entries on the grounds after NHRA cut its traditional Pro Stock class down to racing at just 18 of its 24 scheduled national events this year.
Following an unprecedented exhibition run by the MMMPS crowd last fall at the NHRA’s prestigious U.S. Nationals–where DeFlorian also prevailed from the number-one spot–the Houston event represented the first of four official NHRA appearances for the tight-knit group this year. Next up will be a 16-car field for the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, NC, Apr. 26-28; then back to eight-car fields June 14-16, at Bristol, TN; and July 5-7, at Epping, NH.
“Right now I guess I have a perfect record in NHRA, so hopefully I’ll be able to continue that with a win up in Charlotte,” DeFlorian says with a laugh. “But seriously, we’re all absolutely thrilled to be out here competing with the NHRA. It’s like a dream come true for us. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever have a Wally.”
Mountain Motor Pro Stock’s quarter-mile roots date back to the 1970s with IHRA, where it remained until the mid-2000s before being adopted by the ADRL, XDRL and PDRA as an eighth-mile attraction. DeFlorian won races within each sanctioning body, but says his NHRA victories already have special significance in his career.
“You know, when we won that exhibition race in Indy, that was all on us, we didn’t receive anything from NHRA for that. So (fellow MMPS racer) Elijah Morton, he took it upon himself to have a trophy made for the U.S. Nationals win,” DeFlorian explains. “So we’ve got the first unofficial NHRA trophy and now we wound up getting the first official NHRA trophy.
“I mean, all my other wins are very important to me, but when you get to the level of NHRA–and I know because this is all I’ve done my entire life–when you’re racing NHRA, that is the top. Period. And when you pull off a win and get a Wally, that’s a special, special thing. I can’t even tell you how humbled I am that we’ve even had this opportunity and this great fortune for this to happen. I’m speechless, to be honest, and anyone who knows me will tell you that’s a rare thing!”
Based in Arnold, MO, DeFlorian now owns his race team, but following the win he was adamant about thanking former team owners Kevin and Karen Bealko for getting him back into racing just prior to the 2012 season, then selling the team to him a couple of years back. He also credited wife Liann, daughter Ashley, and crew chief Brian “Lump” Self along with fly-in crewmembers Jeff Graber and Jason Petzold for helping him remain competitive.
“You know, what Lump does with what I give him is amazing, because you talk about small-budget teams? I’m a no-budget team. You’d have to have money to have a budget,” DeFlorian laughs. “So these guys coming out here doing this, I could never thank them enough for what they contribute.”
They do no less than help deliver a dream, he insists.
“When I was riding back to our pit with that Wally in my lap it kind of hit me. I mean, this is forever in history, you know what I mean? We’ll be the first-ever Mountain Motor Pro Stock winner forever. Records come and records go, and, you know, wins and championships are always gonna’ be great, but getting the first Wally ever for a class? I mean, that’s a very special thing.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019