ORLANDO, Fla. — Khalid Al-Balooshi had the top Pro Mod all weekend and that was emphasized in resounding fashion in a record-breaking final round on Sunday at the CTECH World Doorslammer Nationals presented by JEGS.
Al-Balooshi put on a thrilling show during eliminations at Orlando Speed World Dragway, saving his best for last under the lights against 2020 Pro Mod Alex Laughlin in the final round. The former NHRA Pro Mod world champ and tuner Brad Personett unleashed something special in his Bahrain 1 Racing ProCharger-powered Camaro, making the quickest run in the history of the class with a pass of 5.613 seconds at 254.76 mph to beat Laughlin’s 5.698-second pass at 250.46 mph.
It came just hours after Al-Balooshi first set the E.T. record in the opening round of eliminations and it put a fitting stamp — along with a $50,000 prize — on his dominant winning weekend.
“The car got the job done this week and Brad has given me a badass car,” Al-Balooshi said. “Brad has given me a great car since last year and I think we’ve got a good shot to do even better this year. We couldn’t have asked for anything more than what we did. I’m living the dream.”
Al-Balooshi going 5.61 on two different occasions was seemingly an alternate reality, but the Bahrain 1 Racing team was on another level in Orlando.
He qualified No. 1 with a 5.659-second run at 251.25 mph, but that was just a preview of what was to come in eliminations. Al-Balooshi opened Sunday was a massive statement, going a then-record 5.617 seconds at 253.18 mph to knock off Kris Thorne.
He stayed in the low 5.60s, going 5.634 seconds at 228.85 mph against Jerico Balduf in the second round and following it up with a 5.625-second run at 230.06 mph to beat class newcomer J.R. Gray and advance to the final round.
Laughlin was quicker off the starting line, but Al-Balooshi hit his shift points perfectly and drove by him en route to the world record and the impressive victory. The team put significant runs on the car in the off-season in Bahrain and it translated almost flawlessly to open 2021.
“What we learned in Bahrain was big. To get the chance to race over there, we learned a lot. We made almost 40 runs and that gave us the chance to start the year with a great car,” Al-Balooshi said.
“We ran it all winter long,” added Personett. “This is probably the best car I’ve worked on and it just prints tickets, and Khalid just keeps better and better as a driver. When the conditions change here, it’s Disney World. It’s a confidence-builder for all of us.”
The addition of manual shifting into the Pro Mod class was a major change, but the early results have been incredible for Al-Balooshi. He was impeccable throughout qualifying and eliminations, and despite it being a new challenge for the talented driver, it’s something Al-Balooshi has loved.
“This is what I’ve been excited to do. This is fun,” Al-Balooshi said. “This the best thing that could have happened for the class.”
Personett was quick to praise Al-Balooshi for the job he’s done on the car, too, namely when it comes to shifting. In fact, the versatile driver has proven to be a natural at it.
“He’s a machine. He’s getting almost Pro Stock-like where he’s hitting it as the light is turning on. He’s just amazing as far as his feel and touch in the car. It’s a neat deal,” Personett said.
Laughlin made a valiant effort with his new Elite Motorsports ProCharger-powered Mustang, making dramatic strides in the car’s debut. After beating teammate Lyle Barrett in the opening round, Laughlin topped Dustin Nesloney in the second round with a 5.701-second pass at 253.66 mph. He went 5.723 seconds at 249.90 mph to beat Justin Jones and advance to the final round, where Laughlin had hoped to beat Al-Balooshi and claim the $50,000 prize for a second straight year.
But he couldn’t hold off Al-Balooshi despite a strong run, as the Bahrain 1 Racing team was stellar from start to finish.
It was also a motivated group following the loss of a number of close friends in the off-season. Al-Balooshi dedicated the victory to Sonny Leonard, Adam Lambert’s father, Timothy, and close friend Salah Bin Eidan, calling it a special moment to win for them.
“This winter has been a difficult one,” Al-Balooshi said. “We lost a lot of friends, starting with Sonny (Leonard). We miss Adam Lambert’s dad and, two weeks ago, I lost one of my friends. We grew up together and raced together. He’s from Kuwait, and it’s just been a difficult winter. This is good to win for all of them and I hope they’re watching us. This trophy is for those people.”