Harris hopes to apply exclamation point to championship season

Pittsboro driver has raced in every final round in PDRA Pro Mod Series

ROCKINGHAM — When he showed up at Rockingham Dragway six months ago to drive his nitrous oxide-boosted 200 mile-an-hour 1968 Pontiac Firebird in the first event in the new Professional Drag Racing Association Series, Jason Harris was just a local hero trying to enhance his credibility among the sport’s touring professionals.

When he returns to The Rock for this week’s PDRA finale, Dragstock XI, he’ll do so as much more than just the unofficial Pro Nitrous Champion of the Carolinas.  Instead, he’ll startFriday’s first qualifying round as Champion of the nation’s premier eighth-mile racing series.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Significantly, that title would be his even if he didn’t compete this week.  However, sitting out never was a consideration insomuch as he returns to his adopted home track with a chance to make history.

An auto mechanic and business owner from nearby Pittsboro, Harris is hoping to apply an exclamation point to a dream season by winning his third straight Pro Nitrous title at Rockingham and by taking the bright red hybrid he calls “Warbird” to the finals for the seventh time in seven PDRA races this year.

“This season has been amazing so far,” the 34-year-old Harris told Drag Illustrated magazine.  “Counting the last ADRL (race) at Rockingham (in October, 2013), I have 30 round wins and three losses. We’ve just been on fire.  I don’t know what else to say.

“I drove good when I needed to,” said the Pro Nitrous world record holder for eighth mile speed at 200.89 miles per hour, “and the car has pulled me out when I didn’t drive so (well).  I can’t give Robert (Hayes) enough credit.  He’s a hell of a crew chief.”

Apparently, Hayes also is a hell of a car builder.

“Robert built the car in our front yard back in 2010,” Harris recalled.  “He literally built it from the ground up and when he was finished, I took over and wired it.  It took a couple of years to get it to where it is today.”

Powered by a 903 cubic inch motor built by Outlaw legend Pat Musi, the Pontiac has helped establish Harris as one of the Pro Mod “royals.”

Not that he didn’t start out with a pretty good pedigree.  The son of Bob Harris, one of the principals in the PDRA and a former owner of Piedmont Dragway, he admits that he has been racing “since I was born.”

“I come by my love of cars naturally,” he said. “I had one of the first Junior Dragsters in the country when the class started.”

From the Junior ranks, he started driving outlaw street cars at his dad’s track before eventually graduating to bracket racing.

“I got my head beat in a couple times,” he said of his early experience, “but it was a good way to learn the ropes.  There’s nothing like seat time to the get the experience you need to become a better driver and competitive racer.”

He and his dad eventually formed a two-car team that ran International Hot Rod Association series events from 2001 through 2007.  Bob Harris drove a Top Sportsman sedan; Jason a dragster in either the Top Dragster or Quick Rod class.  Both were successful but Jason maybe a little more so.

“I won the divisional championship two years in a row and won some national events including Norwalk (Ohio),” said the younger Harris.  “(Then), in 2008, I got into door cars, first in Top Sportsman and then in Pro Mod.  I ran the Big Dog Series at Piedmont before moving on to the ADRL (and, finally, to its successor, the PDRA).”

Despite his own contributions, the sport’s newest Pro Mod star credits crew chief Hayes for the bulk of his success.

“We have a good relationship,” Harris said.  “I tell him what I think.  He tells me what he thinks and (then) we race as a team.  We try to race as smart as possible.  Sure, we’ve hurt some parts but I’ll be the first to tell you that if we need to burn a piston to win a race then that’s what we’re going to do.

“My guys are willing to fix it between rounds; we’re not afraid of work and we’ll get it done (but), if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it.”

Harris’ speed record is one of 10 PDRA performance records set at Rockingham in the spring.  Now, track owner Steve Earwood is bracing for more record-shattering competition in Pro Nitrous, Pro Extreme, Pro Boost, Extreme Pro Stock and Extreme Motorcycle classes.

One qualifying session on Friday and three on Saturday will set the starting lineups for Sunday racing beginning with sportsman eliminations at 10 a.m.

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