After a season of disappointments and underperforming results, John Montecalvo was almost ready to give up on the 2012 Camaro he debuted in competition early this year. But winning the ADRL Memphis Drags III gave the 2010 Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) world champion reason to reconsider.
“I’ve got a brand-new Bickel car sitting in the trailer right now,” Montecalvo revealed after beating a redlighting Pete Berner in the XPS final Sep. 8, at Memphis International Raceway. “It’s gotten so bad my friends are giving me race cars to try out in the hope that we can turn this ship around.”
With a 4.136-seconds pass at 175.16 mph, Montecalvo started from deep in the field at 12th place after four rounds of qualifying. He improved to a 4.123 at 175.48 to edge out Dean Goforth in the opening round of eliminations, though, and followed up with an even better 4.089 at 177.37 to beat Todd Hoerner and his EFI-equipped machine. That sent “Monte,” as his friends all call him, to the semis, where he again stepped up with a 4.056 effort at 178.50 mph to oust Goforth’s son and the reigning class champion, Cary Goforth, from competition and earn lane choice for the final.
On the other side of the ladder, Berner, who qualified second behind only Cary Goforth, started with a 4.116/176.17 win over Richard Penland, followed by a 4.075 at 177.21 against John Pluchino and a 4.077 win at 176.90 against David Schorr in the semi-finals.
The final round was over, unfortunately, before it even started, as Berner left .021 early and handed the event win to Montecalvo, who coasted to a 5.541 pass at just 91.76 mph after shutting off early.
“It started carrying the wheels pretty good and drifted over toward the left wall, so I just got out of it. Then my guys were on the radio telling me we’d won and I couldn’t believe it,” the Center Moriches, NY-based driver said.
Montecalvo said he wanted to dedicate the win in honor of Bert Jackson, the XPS driver who lost his life in a qualifying accident at Rockingham Dragway exactly one year ago to the day. “Bert was a great guy and he was on our minds all day long.”
Suddenly feeling a little more connected to his RJ-built Camaro, too, Montecalvo pointed out it’s still a new piece and perhaps just needs more testing to make it work.
“We’ll see; I haven’t made my mind up yet, but it’ll be a lot easier to decide if we can win again with it,” he said.
“We needed this. Last year we went to four finals and didn’t win once and this year has been just terrible so far. The year we won the championship we won four races in a row! Maybe this is the start of a new streak; there’s still a couple of races to go, so it could happen.”
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