E3 Spark Plugs Highlights the Players in Pro Mod: Eric Latino

Nashville, TN, (May 15, 2018)…One of today’s most exciting classes in NHRA drag racing has become the Pro Mod series that is now in its first season, sponsored by E3 Spark Plugs. The 2018 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service is the only one that allows multiple makes of cars, builders and engines to compete on a level playing field. This combination is now drawing ever increasing throngs of fans to each city that Pro Mod races at NHRA. The 2018 season is shaping up again as one packed with thrills as barely hundredths-of-a-second divides the number 1 with the 16th qualifier, from entries topping 30 cars per event.

One of the competing racers is Eric Latino, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Eric first started racing 38 years ago, at 16 years old. At 20 yrs. old, Latino opened his first performance center. “I realized after a year that I could not do both racing and run the business,” says Latino. “I pulled the engine and tranny out of my race car, kept the car, sold the engine and just focused on my business.” Around 1988, he tried again and built the same car. Latino claims, “I put a back half in it, tubbed it, put a big block in it. Back then I was running super street class, where it had to be like Pro Street; street tires, muffler exhaust, wipers, headlights, etc. I started racing that class, running 9.20s, and of course I lost focus!” Latino says once again, he chopped that car too; put it up on a jig, cut the chassis out and put the car up on a fixture. He says he realized, “I’m not going to race until I can afford to race,” and Latino again took a break to focus on his business.

 

Nearly a decade later, Latino picked up a Pro Mod car belonging to Carl Moyer; a Jerry Bickel, ’38 Chevy. “I put a 706ci nitrous big block in it from Eagle Engines (Knoxville, TN),” says Latino. He ran the car 2006 through 2010. He then partnered with 25+ years racing veterans, Rob and Ann Sporring, for the 2011 debut of their G-Force Race Cars, ‘69 Camaro Pro Mod. “We won the Canadian championship in 2012, and won the shakedown race in Englishtown, NJ. In 2013 I was testing at Rockingham, and there were some other teams on-site testing as well,” says Latino. “They approached me and asked if I had ever thought about racing NHRA Pro Mod. They were trying to get more cars in the field. At that point I decided to try the NHRA circuit to see how well I could do. We showed up, participated and we ended up qualifying.”

 

Latino continues his partnership with the Sporrings, and currently races a ’69 Larry Jeffers Pro Mod Chevelle. “I had an unfortunate run in Las Vegas last year,” says Latino, “I tagged the wall and that ended the career of my previous McAmis car in NHRA. I ordered a brand new one but it’s not ready for the season yet. So when the year started, Jim Whiteley (J & A Services) was kind enough to sell me his car, just to get me going at the beginning of the season.”

 

In the works says Latino, “I have a brand new car being built by Tim McAmis. It’s their new ‘68 Camaro V4 (Version 4 – the latest body). It’s a supercharged alcohol, Al Billes blower package.” Latino claims the new build is also to be ultra light allowing him to pick up some extra speed in other shows as well. “There are a lot of Outlaw races out there that pay big money, and I can run my new car as low as 2400 lbs. It’s pretty trick, with just about everything you can imagine made out of titanium: every nut and bolt, every bracket, every pedal, etc. That way I can run the Outlaw stuff, and at the same time go back to run the NHRA series.”

 

Latino fills his trophy room with quite a few accolades from along the way. “We won our first PDRA appearance,” says Latino. He claims his quickest 1/8 mile was a 3.79 @ 201 MPH. “For us though, our biggest race is the Shakedown in E-town at the end of the year. It’s Outlaw; hardly any rules and it doesn’t really matter. You can have any overdrive, you can have any cubic inch, you can have any turbo. We went in like that, rolled up our sleeves, and we won the last one in 2012.” That same year Team Latino also won the Championship in the Canadian Pro Mod Racing Association, where they won four (4) of the six (6) races. “2012 and 2013, we won the IHRA Nitro Jam. And 2016, we set the world record at the Gatornationals with a 5.72 @ 256 MPH.” Latino laughs, “it got beat, but we still hold a national certificate. And we were still running a blower car 255/256 almost every time the clutch came out. We had the car working great in 2017, and by the time we went to Charlotte we were qualifying #4. We qualified #3 in St. Louis, and we finally had the right combination after working the different track temperatures between Canada and the states. Unfortunately, I then hit the wall hard enough to put that car out of service.”

 

Latino says they will not be running full series NHRA this year. They started with Gatornationals and Charlotte 4-wide, and will be running Bristol and Norwalk. After the summer break they are running the series to the end: Indy, St. Louis, Dallas, Charlotte, Las Vegas. Latino will also run the 2018 Shakedown at E-Town in October.

 

Of all the time spent at the track, Latino recalls two of his favorite experiences. First was in 2015, at Charlotte zMAX. “We went to the finals against Danny Rowe.,” says Latino. “He went a 5.941 to my 5.950. We lost by about 3 inches.” Latino says his second recollection was setting the World Record at Gainesville. “It was unbelievable,” says Latino, “because I had always the dream of the NHRA yellow and black tech officials, telling me that I need to go straight to the pits and to not touch the car; we are going to tear your car down and make sure you’re not cheating. They took the motor apart, tranny came out, and they went through the whole car for two (2) hours. They came back and said; it’s official. You guys have the world record. That was really exciting for us.”

 

Ask Latino his favorite motorsports hero and he’ll tell you undeniably Bob Glidden, and Warren Johnson. “The two were just unbelievable,” says Latino. “Bob Glidden worked at a Ford dealership as a mechanic by day, and bustin’ his ass racing pro stock at night. They were the two guys that made their own stuff. Warren Johnson bought his own equipment to make his own cam shafts, made his own cylinder heads, and nobody knew what he was up to.” Latino claims as a current competitor, “there’s nobody like Ricky Smith. He’s raced for so long, that I remember watching him before I could even drive a car. He was racing pro stock against Bob Glidden. I have a lot of respect for him and I hope to be as good as him one day.”

 

Latino says he had a chance to meet with Don Ward of E3. “They gave us some plugs for testing and we are going to run them on the dyno,” states Latino. “The technology makes sense to me and we are looking forward to seeing their performance. With three legs to fire across I can see the theory that it won’t just wear on one. But we haven’t had the opportunity as of yet to work with them.” Latino also tips his hat to a few of his other sponsors. “Northstar battery (Springfield, MO) is one of our major sponsors and making one of the best batteries out there,” he says. “They were nothing ten years ago and now they are OEM to Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt and more. They’re now entering the racing world as well. We have another new sponsor, Jet-Hot Coatings (Burlington, NC) providing ceramic coatings on pistons, exhaust pipes, manifolds, etc. They work with John Force in fact, and now we are too. Don Butt Auto Body provides all of the amazing paint work on all of my race cars. Spoiled Sports (Courtice, Ontario, Canada) is a local Polaris dealer that provides some funding, in addition to supplying the pit-support vehicles for us. We also work with Kooks Headers, Quality Plus compressors and Global Emissions Systems.”

When he’s not in the race car Latino says he’s hanging around with friends and family and heading out to the lake. Latino claims, “A friend has a boat and another has a cottage. If I’m not working and I’m not racing, I’m 100% with family and friends, and just having a good time.”

 

And just for a fun fact that many may not know, Latino shares that he likes to tell some good stories and that he’s a prankster. “People take me to be pretty serious, too uptight, but once the racing hat comes off and the business tie comes off, I have some pretty funny jokes,” he says. “I’m a one-liner guy. If somebody chirps something, I can come back pretty hard. All in good fun. I certainly am dead serious when it comes to the sport, and I’ll get into that zone. But once the night comes around, it’s a whole different deal; stories and jokes.”

 

Eric Latino has built a formidable career over the years and he says that it’s great to have E3, because the series needs more support. He says that they also want to give all the sponsor support they can too. “None of us do this for the money, says Latino, “but we can run an Outlaw race and win $50,000. With an Outlaw race however, it’s not regulated, it’s not policed, and we typically don’t find that there is the same challenge. We race NHRA because we believe it’s a great series at a professional level. We hope that E3 can help with TV coverage, and that Pro Mod is included in the big show. That when watching the fuel cars and bikes, you see Pro Mod covered as well. We can get larger crowd support and build our race teams with proper TV, instead of seeing it pre recorded and shown a couple weeks later on it’s own.”

 

Latino says he was approached to race NHRA because there were only 12 cars in the field at the time, and they needed 16. “Right now, there are 40 guys that want to run,” says Latino, “it’s that popular. Also perhaps, to support the growing interest in the field, maybe we can consider what PDRA did; they separated into Pro Boost and Pro Nitrous. They took the super charged and turbo charged into Pro Boost, and the nitrous in a separate division of the class. There are enough Nitrous cars out there, that would want to race NHRA Pro Nitrous. And you’d end up with 20 in each division. 40 or 50 total wanting to compete. If we split the Pro Mod class into the two, you’d have more participating, and more money coming in from the high-cost nitrous guys. More cars, more money, 2 full fields and a longer show that doesn’t end by 4pm on Sunday.”

 

Just like Eric Latino, E3 appreciates the support from the racers/teams/participants competing in the E3 Spark Plug Pro Mod class of the NHRA and we are excited for the 2018 season. Rob Fisher, E3 Director of Motorsports says, “We are very thankful for everyone in the sport and everyone in the stands!”

 

For more information about E3 spark plugs and performance ignition products, visit www.e3sparkplugs.com. For the latest company and product news follow E3 on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, or subscribe to E3’s You Tube Channel.

 

ABOUT E3

E3 is a true high-performance aftermarket manufacturer providing high-performance spark plugs and ignitions systems for drag racing, off-road, late model, street rod and muscle car, tuner, sports car, marine, lawn and garden and powersports. E3 Spark Plugs are the product of years of fundamental research in the combustion field. The unique patented electrode configuration of the new E3 spark plugs increases the amount of combustion pressure created during each power stroke of an engine, which results in a marked increase in power output, fuel economy, and reduced emissions in gasoline engines.

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