Llewellyn locked in the Countdown
Reading, Monday: In only their first full season of racing, Peggy Llewellyn and the Karl Klement NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle team have made the cut for the Countdown to the Championship. The Countdown is the NHRA's new playoff series that starts with the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis. Only the top 8 in the POWERade point standings will be eligible to compete for the season championship, and Llewellyn's weekend at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals locked her into the Countdown in 7th place. "That's a huge accomplishment," said co-crew chief Shane Maloney. "There are a lot of really good motorcycles that did not get in. Antron Brown, Steve Johnson, and either Craig Treble or Chris Rivas. Those are all really good motorcycles."
Llewellyn's weekend didn't start off so great, as she shut off early with a broken transmission in the first round of qualifying.
qualifying round 1
22nd Peggy Llewellyn right lane 9.242 at 91.03 mph
Her round 2 pass, though, showed that Maloney and co-crew chief George Bryce had the S&S powered Buell dialed into the Maple Grove conditions.
qualifying round 2
5th Peggy Llewellyn left lane 7.065 at 189.71 mph
qualifying round 3
6th Peggy Llewellyn right lane 7.001 at 190.78 mph
qualifying round 4
3rd Peggy Llewellyn left lane 6.940 at 193.24 mph
Round 3 saw the bike improve in better weather conditions, but the final round saw Llewellyn run her career best pass. Maloney and Bryce hugged and celebrated at the staring line, yet the numbers showed that the pass could have been better yet. Peggy's slow-for-her 1.08 60 foot showed that plenty was still left on the table. "I'm real proud of Peggy and her career best ET and speed," said Bryce. "That was awesome."
"193 felt so smooth, though I did have to use the back brake more than usual," said Llewellyn. Maple Grove has a notoriously short shutdown area.
The team tweaked the tune-up slightly for round 1 of eliminations. "Just a touch difference in the tune-up," said Maloney. "It was set on kill yesterday, and it's set on kill today. It's definitely got 6.80 horsepower, and we'll prove that."
"We started out kinda struggling and busted the transmission on the first run," team owner Karl Klement said Sunday morning. "But after the third run we got it dialed in. I think the bike could have gone faster yet, and it will go faster today." Well, maybe not "today," as the motorcycles never hit the track on a rainy Sunday.
Peggy let the gray day soak into her and enjoyed a restful Sunday night at her hotel. "This kind of weather makes me really tired, so after we went to eat, I went back to my room and chilled out," said Llewellyn. "I called my family and watched 'Army Wives' on Lifetime. Oh, and I had to cancel my Monday flight!"
When racing got under way on Monday, Peggy ran quicker yet while taking out former champ Geno Scali in round 1. "We made one small, tiny change in the fuel injection this morning and that was it," said Maloney. "It picked up, but I think we would have run just as good yesterday. Peggy had a 1.05 60 foot on that pass. She's really staying with the bike, or a little bit ahead of it, and that's what it takes."
eliminations round 1
(W) Peggy Llewellyn .063 6.928 at 191.00 mph
Geno Scali .059 16.237 at 36.33 mph
eliminations round 2
(W) Chris Rivas .028 6.977 at 188.67 mph
Peggy Llewellyn .105 6.965 at 190.32 mph
But a bad light against Chris Rivas in round 2 put Peggy's quicker bike on the trailer. "She lost her focus," said Bryce. "She was real calm, collected and perfect. Then when it was time of her to go in and Chris to go in, she lost her concentration. When she got focused again, all the lights were coming on and it was too late."
"I think my dad's gonna order a practice tree and I'll get some more practice at home," said Llewellyn. "Our runs were really good this weekend, but I didn't feel like my runs were as good as they were at Brainerd. It's a testament to my team. They've given me the bike and I just have to tweak reaction times and work on my progress. If I'm gonna go rounds and get a win, that's what it's gonna depend on."
Though the team didn't snag that elusive first win, their position in the Countdown qualifies as a huge success. "It almost seems like this is the end of the season, but this is a new beginning," said Llewellyn, who only recently started feeling like the Countdown was in her grasp. "Probably after Chicago. Before that I was just learning how to ride this V-Twin. My original goal was to finish in the top 10, because I forgot about this Countdown to the Championship thing. I still have as a goal to win a race this year, and they've given me the bike to do it so it is attainable. I'm excited about that."
"I guess it's just now hitting me," Klement said about the team's achievement late in the day on Monday. "This is really like winning the championship. I've gotta thank Peggy, George, Shane, Garrett Whaley and the whole team."
"I'm proud to be in it," said Maloney. "There's a lot of people who didn't think we'd be in this position, but we've really jelled as a team and I'm really excited. We've got as good a chance at this as anybody. You can literally go from eighth to first at one race. Now we have to get everything ready for almost a week of racing at Indianapolis. Other than that, it's just another race."
"I guess when I go to Indy, I'll just be like 'Wow!'" said Klement. "This was kind of a tough weekend and things keep breaking, but we got through it and are ready for the countdown. Peggy's capable of beating any person at any track right now."
"Peggy's really coming into her own as a driver," agreed Maloney. "Even the mistakes she makes, she knows it right away. That's what's impressive."
"It doesn't matter, you still feel like crap when you mess up at the Tree like that," finished Llewellyn, sounding decidedly less than satisfied with simply being in the Countdown to the Championship.
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