Pro Modified racer Robert Gallegos will enter his sophomore season in the sport’s premier doorslammer category with new pipe and a fresh pep in his step after entering a marketing partnership with two of the auto-body world’s leading brands. Gallegos, who a season ago debuted in the class with a rather unique 1941 Willys, has taken delivery of a brand new Jerry Bickel Race Cars-built (JBRC) 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, that will carry the colors of global chemical company BASF and national auto-body chain Crash Champions.
The 52-year-old native of Santa Fe, New Mexico drag raced competitively in the early 1990s, but stepped away from the sport to focus his time and efforts into a new family-owned collision repair/body shop venture, Custom Craft Auto Collision. In the ensuing decades, the business has flourished, becoming one of the nation’s largest and most successful body shop conglomerates. So successful, in fact, that over the last year it drew the attention of Crash Champions, a billion-dollar collision repair chain headquartered in Chicago with upwards of 300 locations around the country. Gallegos and his family (all of whom worked at the business in what was truly a family-run operation) negotiated a sale of their business to Crash Champions this offseason, which included a sponsorship agreement of Gallegos’ racing efforts in the Mid-West Drag Racing Series (MWDRS) and the PDRA.
BASF, maker of the paints and other chemicals utilized by Gallegos’ business and with Crash Champions, has also partnered with him in his racing endeavours, and he says both parties are extremely excited about the relationship.
“They’re gung-ho…they want to get BASF employees out to the track. It’s really cool to see someone as excited [about racing] as we are,” Gallegos says.
Gallegos competed almost exclusively with his Willys in the MWDRS last season, and after knocking the cobwebs off early, was going rounds by seasons-end. “That was my first year in a Pro Mod car, and we were really making gains — we went from never being in a car like that before, to going to the semifinals at the second-to-last race of the year. And we were going rounds at races prior to that.” Gallegos clocked a best of 3.70 with the Pro Line Racing-ProCharger combo, but the season ended on a sour note at Texas’ Xtreme Raceway Park when he “got a little overconfident” and turned the car over in the shutdown area.
“That Willys, we were right there, just a few numbers off the top guys and enough to be competitive, but it was never going to be the No. 1 or 2 qualifier with that body style. They were telling us it was a few numbers off,” he explains.
The Willys is by no means a loss and is in fact nearing completion on repairs, but understanding it was at a disadvantage aerodynamically, he began the search for a more competitive body-style. He found that through his relationship with Pro Line’s Eric Dillard, who informed him of a car in process. Gallegos was fortunate to take ownership of the project, and several months later, it is painted, complete, and nearing its first on-track test. The car, which features the brand-spanking-new 2022 GT500 nose, is finished in the very same primary color (a grey borrowed from the palette of late-model Toyota Tacoma pickups), with candy-apple red stripes again bordering raw carbon-fiber accents. “This Mustang is just a beautiful car, and it’s a great package, so we should be right there with the frontrunners,” Robert says.
Gallegos sold his previous “MH5” PLR Hemi combination and acquired a newer “MH6” PLR Hemi. He will again utilize an M&M Transmission, Strange rear and center section, a FuelTech FT600 ECU, and ProCharger F3-140. Lee White will again serve as the primary tuner, and Grant O’Rourke will provide support to the program.
With the additional financial backing, Gallegos intends to campaign both the MWDRS and the PDRA, but admits economic forces currently in play may determine where he commits to chase points in 2022. “We’re going to run the first two events in each series, and see where we go from there. I want to also try hitting some of those big-money races where 40, 50, 60 Pro Mods show up, as well. We planned to do that last year and then I wrecked the car. But I can’t imagine being at a Pro Mod race with that many cars.”