Llewellyn Wins Dallas, Advances in Countdown! There is no better story in NHRA POWERade racing than NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Peggy Llewellyn and her Karl Klement owned, Rush Racing team. In Llewellyn's first full year on the tour,...
Llewellyn Wins Dallas, Advances in Countdown!
There is no better story in NHRA POWERade racing than NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Peggy Llewellyn and her Karl Klement owned, Rush Racing team. In Llewellyn's first full year on the tour, Klement's first year as an owner, and Rush's third race as a sponsor, the team took their first national event win at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas. The team also won the coveted Full Throttle Award, but most importantly, they dramatically bumped their way into the final four of the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship playoff series.
It was a home race for Decatur, Texas-based Klement and San Antonio native Llewellyn, and things couldn't have started out better. Right off the trailer, Peggy took the George Bryce and Shane Maloney prepared Buell right to the top of the charts. It was Llewellyn's first time with "number 1" next to her name at the end of a qualifying round, and foreshadowed firsts to come.
But perhaps more impressive from a team standpoint was the qualifying consistency of the Rush Racing, S&S powered Buell through changing conditions. That consistency is what earned the team the Full Throttle Award for the weekend and bode well for eliminations, eliminations that would determine the final four competitors for the championship.
Maloney's former employer Steve Johnson redlit against Llewellyn in round 1 on Sunday, but her ET earned lane choice over Countdown competitor Karen Stoffer in round 2. As if there wasn't already enough pressure on Llewellyn and the other riders in the Countdown, tensions in the pits were further raised following a very serious Funnycar accident in round 2 involving drag racing superstar John Force. "With all that going on, we still had to focus on the job at hand," said Peggy.
Llewellyn won the round against Stoffer, but lost lane choice to trailer neighbor Chip Ellis in the semi. Ellis qualified number one for the fourth time in five races, but lost the race against Llewellyn at the line and Peggy advanced with a holeshot win.
Piece by piece, things were falling into place for Llewellyn to have a chance for the final four. But she would have to win the final round to bump U.S. Nationals winner Craig Treble out of the Countdown field. The final was a rematch of the Memphis semi with Andrew Hines. Three time champion Hines won in Tennessee and had lane choice for this one.
"Peggy said 'What do I do? I've never been here (to a final) before,'" said Bryce, co-crew chief on Llewellyn's S&S powered Buell. "I said 'Yes you have. Just make this pass like every one you've ever run at South Georgia Motorsports Park in testing. Just go through your process and make your lap.'"
That lap produced another holeshot win for Llewellyn, her first national event win ever, and slot in the Countdown's final four! "She's never even been in a final, and she did a perfect job," said Bryce. "Andrew did a great job, Peggy just did better. He never saw what was coming. I could not have written a more perfect plan out better than for Peggy to run her low ET of the weekend, cut her best light, and make her best run in the final. Peggy did a fantastic job."
"Peggy made us look good today, flat out," said Maloney, the other co-crew chief. "She needed to cut a light in the finals, and she did it. Peggy proved why she got this job and why she's here. She went to the line against the three time national champion, cut a light, ran a perfect lap, and won the race."
"I finally did it!" shouted Llewellyn. "This is just unbelievable. I can't believe this is happening! I keep having to pinch myself."
"I don't know what to say," said Klement, who came to the sport with open pockets expecting results, and is surely getting them. "All this happened at my home track. All my family was here, we must have had sixty people here. We won the Full Throttle Award, we won the national event, and we bumped our way into the Countdown--the only woman in the Countdown--what a race!"
"Peggy won the trifecta," said Bryce. "She had to beat the number one qualifier and three time champion to get in the Countdown. She drove the bike great, and that's why she won the Full Throttle Award. I think Angelle (Sampey), Chip, Andrew, and now Peggy are the only drivers that have won the Full Throttle award this year, and that's pretty good company."
"We sucked the first couple of rounds today, but Peggy did good," said Maloney. "In the finals, we collected ourselves and put a tune-up in it that we knew worked. We didn't do all the crazy stuff we tried today, and it went fast."
"Our S&S powered motorcycle ran the most consistent ETs of anybody at the race track, that's why she got the Full Throttle Award and the win," said Bryce. "Even though we goofed up in the semifinal, we came back and ran a good number in the final."
"We earned this win every round," agreed Llewellyn, who had to lean off the left side of the bike on several passes, including the semi and the final. "I shifted too early in semi, and I at least tried to lean using my butt, 'cause that works better than hanging off the bike!
"I heard Andrew's bike the whole way in the final. He was really close and I didn't realize I'd won until they were waving me over to where the TV cameras were and giving me a hat--and a Wally. I wasn't sure what to do next, so I hung out with (Pro Stock Car winner) Dave Connolly. He's done this a few times before, right?
"We had the biggest and loudest winners circle. All my former co-workers were there, and Karl's family and Kim's family. But with all the excitement, my thoughts are still with John Force."
"We were all very, very touched and concerned with our champion, John Force," added Bryce. "We thought about him a lot all day and wondered if he's OK. We want to make sure everybody prays for his speedy recovery, and for him and his family to know how important he is to all of us and the POWERade drag racing series."
So now Llewellyn goes to the last two races on the schedule as a proven championship contender. "When we made the Countdown to 8, I was like 'Wow, that's great.' But I had a bunch of fans today saying 'Do it for the home crowd!' That's how I was able to take it just one round at a time.
"In addition to Karl and Kim Klement, George, Shane, Garret Whaley, and Rush Racing, I really want thank my dad Eugene for putting me on a motorcycle at age 7. He took us to the track and was racing and we wanted to do the same thing. Those five years I was away from the NHRA, he was always telling me it was possible to get back in and telling me to write George and tell him what I wanted to do. He said 'Send it certified so you know he gets it!'"
She did, George got it, and now they were all in the winners circle together. Although it may seem like success has come early for Llewellyn and her team, it's only come through countless hours, test laps, and hard work. "If you're in George and my shoes, it took a long time to get here," said Maloney. "Every single person on this team does a perfect job. Everyone knows their job and does it right, and today they proved it."
"It wouldn't be possible without Kim and Karl assembling the group, spending the money, and getting the Rush guys involved," finished Bryce, who paid kudos to all the staff at G2, Star Racing and S&S Cycle. "It was a dream come true for that little girl from San Antonio, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Sometimes you back into a win and it pays the same points and the same money, but this one we earned!"