Summit XPS Camaro iands its first final round
MILLINGTON, TN – The RJ Race Cars built Summit Racing Equipment ZL1 Camaro made it to its first final round at this past weekend’s ADRL Memphis Drags. Pete Berner and the Summit Team had been struggling with hot weather tune ups, but the season-long plague seems to be behind them as the Memphis weather varied from 70 to 100 degrees and the Summit Camaro breezed down the eighth mile pass after pass.
Berner qualified number two posting a 4.097 in the heat at a tick over 176 MPH. Saturday offered a significant weather change as an overnight storm cooled temperatures a whopping 30 degrees. However, the Summit Camaro seemed unaffected and posted 4.0-s nearly all day long. In round one, Berner took on Richard Penland, who’s becoming an increasing threat in Extreme Pro Stock. While Penland bested Berner in elapsed time by a hundredth, Berner was on his driving game and got to the finish line first by way of a hole shot (.015, 4.116 to .048, 4.106). Berner laid down another killer light in round two (.002) to John Pluchino’s .010. This one would be played out in elapsed time as Berner’s 4.07 put him out in front of Pluchino’s 4.11. The rest of the day Berner could have bracket raced his Camaro as he went 4.077 and 4.081 in the semis and finals respectively. In the semis Berner met against David Schorr, who got past Berner first round at the last event. This time it was Berner on top, and he was headed to the finals to take on John Montecalvo. Although both Berner and Montecalvo hold multiple Championship titles, this was the first final of the season for both teams. As mentioned, Berner laid down an impressive 4.081, but a red light start would hand the win to Montecalvo.
“Gratitude and appreciation goes out to all our Summit fans,” told Berner after his win. “They’ve stuck by us this season despite our struggles and early exits. Now, they’ve cheered us back to the finals. We appreciate all the support they show us at the track, through phone calls and online.
“We’re obviously excited to have done well and returned to top form,” he continued. “With the drastic weather changes, this was a difficult weekend for tuners. We had to change the car around quite a bit, but it accepted everything we threw at it and performed exactly as we wanted it to. Saturday morning, for the final qualifying pass, we changed the car completely, and although we kept it conservative, it still ran very well. Our struggle has centered on getting the extra power Jerry and Mike developed in our motor over the winter to meld with the tricks and tools we asked for in this new Camaro. It’s still a job in progress, but we’ve gained tremendous ground.
“Going into eliminations our goal was to keep lane choice and get the left lane. It appeared to be a couple hundredths better. For round one, we knew we had to be on our game. Richard has really stepped up his program. He has a great team and they’re really coming along. He made a nice run and I’m glad I had the light I needed to get past him. My focus as a driver has been better this year and it really came into play this race. Running against my good friend John Pluchino in round two, I knew I would need it again. He’s always on his driving game so I knew he would be .02 or better. I like to give him a hard time about cutting such great lights on me. This time he was able to give it back! In the semis I had to face another good friend in David Schorr. A few times we’ve raced I’ve gone red against him, so I was determined not to do that. Our plan was to make a good run and if he beat us, so be it. He also had a great light against me, but luckily our ET was enough to hold him off. We made some clutch changes in the finals, and while I knew those changes would affect my reaction time, I hope to stay in control of it. Unfortunately, those changes bit us and I went red. John did an excellent job on the starting line, though, and was consistently fast throughout the day. Like us, he’s struggled much of the season and it was good to see him get a win. I just wish it wasn’t against us!” Berner joked. “Still it was great to have two RJ cars in the final.
“All in all I was quite pleased with everything. I’m very proud of RV and Eric. They did a phenomenal job this weekend, even in the worst of conditions. In fact, our generator even went out before the semis. Thankfully, Richard Otwell and John Pluchino and their guys came to our rescue with extension cords and lights. It just goes to show you how much we’re like family in this sport.
“Not only did my guys at the track work exceptionally hard, but Jerry and Mike in the engine shop have been busting their tails. The motor we ran with this weekend was the same one that had catastrophic damage at the Martin event. They got it back together and we’ve made 15 runs in testing before coming to this race. I truly couldn’t be more proud of this team and everything that we’ve accomplished together. Our hard work and continued effort throughout the struggles we’ve come up against this season have paid off and altogether made us a better team."