After falling just short in his bid for an NHRA Pro Mod world championship in 2015, Lancaster's Mike Janis has finally sealed the deal.
Janis clinched the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing World Championship on Sunday in the season finale during the 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas.
"I've won races before, but this is the cream of the crop right here," Janis said of the first championship in his NHRA career. "The NHRA Pro Mod champ, I love it."
Janis had the points lead entering the 2015 finale, but problems relegated him to second place in the standings, 14 points behind champion Troy Coughlin.
It looked like history might repeat itself last weekend, with fate derailing Janis for a second time.
Janis arrived at Las Vegas with a 24-point edge over rival Rickie Smith of King, N.C. Janis qualified a solid fifth, while Smith struggled to a 14th-place qualifying effort. That meant Smith needed to win two more rounds during eliminations than Janis to snatch the title from Janis' grasp.
Janis left the door wide open when he lost in a first-round upset to Fairport's Marc Caruso while Smith beat Jeremy Ray of Lugoff, S.C.
Janis could only watch and hope that Smith went no further.
Janis was able to finally let out the biggest exhale of his 40-plus year drag racing career when Smith lost to Rick Hord of Belle Isle, Fla., in the second round, securing the title for Janis by seven points.
He nervously watched the Smith/Hord race from the finish line area to either accept the champion's trophy or congratulate Smith. Fortunately for him, Janis left carrying the winning hardware.
"It looked like Rickie had Rick beat and then Hord went by him right at the end," Janis told the NHRA website. "I thought, this can't be true."
Janis drives the Al-Anabi Performance/Mike Janis Superchargers 1969 Camaro. His son, Mike Janis Jr., serves as his crew chief.
"After losing in the first round we were all kind of down," Janis said. "Now it's just incredible feeling, I can't explain it. We had a good car all year. We had a good car when we got here, nice and consistent runs."
Janis built his title on consistency throughout the season as Smith had three wins in 2018 compared to Janis's lone 2018 victory at Richmond.
Janis has been drag racing since 1978 when he started his career in local classes at Lancaster Speedway before moving up to the regional and national stages of the sport. He has been competing in Pro Mods full time since 2001. He claimed IHRA Pro Mod World Championships in 2001 and 2004 before concentrating on NHRA Pro Mod competition.
"The whole season we've been going rounds and the car and crew have been flawless, which gives me a lot of confidence," Janis said. "I've had so much support from family and friends this year."