Budds Creek, MD - It was a weekend for superlatives at the IHRA's CARQUEST President's Cup Nationals. The quarter-mile at Maryland International Raceway yielded up some unbelievable new speed and elapsed time records during qualifying in several...
Budds Creek, MD - It was a weekend for superlatives at the IHRA's CARQUEST President's Cup Nationals. The quarter-mile at Maryland International Raceway yielded up some unbelievable new speed and elapsed time records during qualifying in several classes, including Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock. Mercury Cougar pilot Gene Wilson, who has already clinched his first-ever "factory hot rod" title, served notice that he wasn't planning to ease up on the competition for the balance of the season when he cranked out a blistering 6.532 at 213.376 to shatter both ends of the old mark.
But perhaps this escalation of the highly publicized Ford/Mercury verses Chevrolet/GM conflict within the ranks of "mountain motor" Pro Stock will be the straw that broke the camel's back as far as a number of the teams are concerned. Now the pressure will be on for those lagging behind in performance to redouble their R&D efforts during the off season, or be left at the gate in 2002. One guy who already has a leg up in that respect is Center Moriches, New York competitor John Montecalvo.
The Citgo-sponsored driver and his team have spent the best part of the current season "de-bugging" a new Rick Jones-built 2001 Chevy Cavalier, and lately their efforts have been bearing fruit. Two races ago, at the Amalie Oil North Americam nationals in Epping, New Hampshire, Montecalvo put a season full of ups and downs behind him by pounding his way into a final round showdown with Wilson. One race later, at the CARQUEST Autumn nationals at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina, he again went to the final, and again his opponent was Gene Wilson. And although Montecalvo came away with runner-up honors both times, the real reward was the confidence he and his crew at last had in their new combination.
On this early fall weekend in Maryland, Montecalvo made his move early, posting a fifth quickest lap of 6.621 at 210.73. He decided not to run in the final session on Friday evening as track conditions were less than ideal. His first attempt on Saturday was over quickly as he lifted early and coasted down the track. He fared little better in the fourth and last session on Saturday night, his red, white and blue Chevy drifting out of the groove, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On the strength of his only full pass, however, he clinched a respectable seventh spot overall.
On raceday, Montecalvo was matched up against number 10 qualifier Terry Leggett, and was looking ahead at another shot at the finals. His weekend came to an abrupt end, however, as he got off the line a tick behind his opponent, and then lost power as he set off in pursuit, coasting through the traps at 11.593, 88.31. It was a disappointment, for sure, but buoyed by recent success, Montecalvo was optimistic about the future. "Sure, Gene raised the bar this weekend, but there are plenty of cars out here with great drivers behind the wheel and great crews in the pits that can match him. We're all running under the same rules, so he's not invincible. He's had a great year, and no one can take that away from him, but next season it could be someone else, and we'll be working hard to make sure it's this Citgo team."