Series spotlight - Pete Berner

Berner falls short of incredible upset, finishes second in points For the fourth year in a row Pete Berner finished in the top two in IHRA competition. This year, however, that finish came as a bit of a surprise. Berner entered the IHRA...

Berner falls short of incredible upset, finishes second in points

For the fourth year in a row Pete Berner finished in the top two in IHRA competition.

This year, however, that finish came as a bit of a surprise.

Berner entered the IHRA World Finals at Rockingham Dragway last month needing a miracle just to contend for the championship, sitting third in the standing some 63-points behind the leader. But as the weekend progressed, it became quite clear that someone was listening to his prayers.

To even have a chance at the championship Berner needed both John Montecalvo and Frank Gugliotta to fall out early, needed to set a new world record and win the race just to have a shot at the title. By mid-afternoon on Sunday he had accomplished all but one of those tasks.

Starting from the fifth spot on the ladder, Berner easily dispatched of J.R. Carr, Richard Freeman and Ned Katuran to secure a spot in the final round while Montecalvo and Gugliotta both suffered early losses.

With the door open all Berner needed to do was set a new world record and he would find himself right back in championship contention.

Berner received a bit of assistance when the event was shortened to an eighth mile format on Sunday due to safety concerns. With near perfect conditions and a fresh record to attack, Berner wasted little time going after and surpassing that mark with a brand new eighth mile world record of 4.097 seconds at 176.70 miles per hour on his first pass of the afternoon.

He backed it up one round later.

With the championship in sight Berner entered the final round against Bob Bertsch with everything on the line, but never got a chance to contend for the win as he went red by .005 seconds to give Bob Bertsch his second victory in the last three races.

Had Berner got the best of Bertsch he would have pulled off one of the most improbable come-from-behind championships in IHRA history, but as it stands Montecalvo was able to hold on for his first title by a slim five-point margin.

"To be in a position to be in the top two four years in a row is truly a tribute to my team and my sponsors -- Randy Doughitt, Eric Fleming, Pat Norica, Ram Clutches, Dave Braswell and Doug Schreifer of Braswell Carburetion. Our engine program with Jerry Janota and Mike Slaviero has also provided us with winning power all season long," Berner said. "They all put in so much hard work behind the scenes and their presence is felt every time I let the clutch out."

Berner's improbable weekend began on Friday where he qualified fifth with a 6.408 pass at 216 mph in Pro Stock's one and only qualifying shot. After that it was all up to Berner as he took out Carr, Freeman and Katuran to catapult himself into the final round.

It was there that he was met with an unfortunate red light which handed the victory to Bob Bertsch and the championship to John Montecalvo.

Berner's 4.097 second pass in round one, backed up by two 4.10's in rounds two and three, were what kept Berner alive.

The following day Berner went on to the final round of the Elite Motorsports Elite 8 Pro Stock Shootout against Gugliotta. The Shootout was postponed to Rockingham due to weather in Maryland and then had to be postponed again during the World Finals.

On Monday Berner and Frank Gugliotta were set for a final round match-up when rain once again stole the show. The two decided to split the winnings.

Berner's year has been one of struggles and victories as he finished with one win and two runner-ups in a season that saw a lot of tweaking to the new engine program in anticipation of another title run in 2010.

"We began the season utilizing our motors from the previous championship season, while testing our new motor program as a work in progress. While we were working on our new motors we were continuously upgrading last year's motors making them better, but also making it a hard choice for us on whether to use our new motors or our old faithfuls," Berner said. "At Grand Bend we ran fast enough to be low E.T. of eliminations and did not realize until we got to the Martin event that our tried and true motor was hurt. We decided to test one of our new motors after the race, and by the time testing was complete, our E.T. was as good and our speeds better than our best runs with our race motor.

"At that point I decided to begin using our new motor combinations. I felt that it was time to understand how to make the new motors work to the best of their potential. A considerable amount of time and capitol was used to develop the new motor combination, and I was getting anxious to get them off the dyno and in the frame rails. I was tired of Dave Braswell yelling at me about 'dyno racing.'

"I knew this would possibly make the season's end more difficult, as we would have to go on the learning curve of gathering data for these new combinations, and wouldn't always make the right calls, but I knew we needed to head in that direction. As it turned out we continued to be fast, qualifying well and setting low E.T. and the eighth mile E.T. records, which enabled us to get the 20 bonus points to secure second place, only five points from the championship."

Montecalvo finished the season with 676 points and the championship despite not winning a race. Berner was second with 671 points and Gugliotta fell to third with 661 points. Bertsch (559) and Cary Goforth (506) round out the top five.

"I would like to thank all who have helped us get to this point:, Pontiac Motorsports, Ram Clutches, Braswell Carburetion, Aeromotive Fuel Systems, Strange Engineering, Browell Bell Housing, Diamond Racing Pistons, Bill Miller Rods, Jesel Valve Train Innovations, HRE Manifolds and TEK Headers," Berner said.

"This is our last season with and I would like thank Rick and Bonnie Jones for their contribution to the Mountain Motor Pro Stock community. They have been a faithful supporter through the Quarter-Max Pro Stock Challenge, as well as through outstanding customer support. I've enjoyed having on the side of my car and am still proud to run an R.J. Race Car.

"I would also like to thank Fred Simmonds who believed enough in us to partner with Pontiac Motorsports when the GXP first became available. It has been quite an honor to have G.M. support.

"We have a continued work in progress going on in the engine power department. We will begin the year with much more data than we currently have. Much testing will be done before the 2010 season begins. I feel confident that we have not yet had our best season. I am truly excited with the possibilities."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers John Montecalvo , J.R. Carr , Richard Freeman , Frank Gugliotta