Richard Penland, from nearby Gastonia, NC, held the provisional Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) pole position at zMAX Dragway, near Charlotte, with three rounds of qualifying in the books for Dragstock IX, the ADRL’s longest-running event.
After opening with a sixth-place 4.140, Penland lost traction in his 2010 Mustang off the start in round two before stepping up with a 4.107 at 176.12 mph in Friday’s third and final qualifying round. It marked the first time he’d ever finished a day of XPS qualifying with the overall lead.
“I think we’ve had good power all year and we’ve been close before, qualified number three a number of times, but it just came together tonight,” he said. “It just took everything working the way it’s supposed to.”
It almost didn’t work at all this weekend for Penland, whose only previous visit to zMAX came in 2008 for the inaugural NHRA national event there.
“This is a brand-new motor that we just got at 2:30 this morning and put it in at 3:30. It’s one of the two motors that I blew up in Michigan. We were panicked about even getting to race, but Mr. Allen and his crew up at Allen Competition worked literally 18-hour days for three weeks to get that motor patched up and evidently they did a very good job,” Penland said.
He also credited a gutsy call by crew chief Adam Dryzich for the number-one performance.
“When we had that cloud cover come in tonight the track temperature probably dropped 10 or 15 degrees, but we just left everything alone and went with what we had. It would’ve gone fast in the previous conditions, but that just helped us that much more with the track a little cooler. Literally, we didn’t change a thing from the previous run when it blew the tires off,” Penland said.
“It was an interesting call, but we decided not to detune it and relied instead on the track getting a little cooler and a little better. My crew chief, Adam, made that call and I’m not sure I would’ve done the same, but it was a good call. I have him and Johnny Danner and Ron Hill on the crew this weekend and all of them are doing a great job.”
Penland was clearly encouraged by the large contingent of fellow church members, high-school buddies and local friends who had turned out to form a large cheering section at his closest-to-home ADRL venue.
“You know, (John) DeFlorian qualified first and won at his hometown track in St. Louis, so I ought to be able to do it in Charlotte, don’t you think?”
John Montecalvo held the top spot through the first two rounds of qualifying, but at the close of Friday’s action his 4.120 had been pushed all the way down to sixth place by Penland and a string of 4.11s from Doug Kirk, defending class champion Cary Goforth, Pete Berner and Todd Hoerner. Canadian racer Larry O’Brien was 16th of 20 entries at 4.162 and 173.49 mph in his 2010 Dodge.
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