Gainesville: Klement Racing final summary

Llewellyn Makes the Gators, Makes Hasty Exit Peggy Llewellyn and the new Karl Klement team made the cut for the quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle field in history at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. With a run just .002 of a second...

Llewellyn Makes the Gators, Makes Hasty Exit

Peggy Llewellyn and the new Karl Klement team made the cut for the quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle field in history at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. With a run just .002 of a second away from a 6 second pass in the third round of qualifying, Llewellyn placed herself and the team solidly among the sport's elite in their maiden outing.

"I think it surprised a lot of folks how great she went in the first round," said George Bryce, who shares tuning and crew chiefing duties with Shane Maloney, but also acts as driving coach and teacher to Llewellyn. "After studying the data, we decided she could go even quicker, and I think we did it. The data looked better on the second run, but we don't have the timeslip to prove it." The team didn't get a timeslip because of a starting line infraction in the second round.

"Peggy ended up being a little bit more nervous than I thought she would," Bryce said later, worn out from a day of helping tune multiple G2 Motorsports cutomers. "She staged too shallow and backed out of the beam about 1mm. So the redlight came on as soon as she floored it. But we'll get her calmed down and focused on the basics tomorrow.

"The motorcycle is pretty awesome. The S&S powerplant was like a generator today. We basically ran our Valdosta tune-up and didn't have to do anything to the motorcycle. And Shane did a great job. We had a whole crowd of folks over here that we had to entertain today, but Peggy and Shane handled it well. Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler and drier, so we should go quicker."

"We're doing extremely well for being our first race," said team owner Klement. "I'd like to qualify middle of the pack first time out and see what happens. I think this run's gonna do it."

The team did go quicker in round 3, but not quite as quick as they'd hoped given the perfect weather conditions. Still, the team was upbeat, lively, and downright chipper. "Little did you know that we were the number four qualifier that session," Bryce said after the third round. "We had the number one 60 foot with a 1.05. Peggy made a perfect 1-2 shift, then a perfect 2-3 shift that kept us at the top of the page to the 330. Then she got in a big hurry to push the shift button."

Pro Stock Motorcycles have a large shift light facing the rider and mounted on the center of the handlebars. The light is set to come on at the optimum time for the driver to shift. "You need to wait until the shift light comes on, but you want to shift at the first blink," said Peggy. "If you wait too long, it will hit the revlimiter and scrub off speed. It all happens within thousandths of a second. But it's easy to see even on a bright sunny day like today. George taught me to see the shift light in my peripheral while focusing on my target."

Like all Pro Stock Motorcycle drivers (a term Bryce prefers to the more passive "rider"), Llewellyn picks a spot at the end of the track to focus on and point the bike at. "This is a good track for picking a target," said Peggy. "I go for the guy in the ESPN bucket at the end of the track."

Bryce continued to talk about the previous run and what he expected from the next one. "All those good numbers up front, and the torque of the S&S power, and an excellent tune-up by Shane let us run a 7 flat, which is quickest of Peggy's career. So if look at the stat sheet going around it says by the eighth mile we were fifth, so if we'd just stayed right there straight across, we'd have gone a 6.94. So we're tuned up and ready to rock for a 6 second clock."

But the morning session was the one for big numbers, as the day got warmer and times declined overall.

Everyone was loose at the Klement trailer at the end of the last session. Karl was giving the thumbs-up and Peggy was all smiles. All the stress of putting together a brand new team and debuting at arguably the second biggest race of the year was behind them. Bryce and Maloney were beating on the rough and tumble V-Twin to change valvesprings, a part of the normal maintenance routine. Peggy was meeting a steady stream of autograph seekers. Pretty, petite and personable, Llewellyn will be a very popular figure on the NHRA POWERade tour.

"This is awesome," said Klement. "The quickest field in Pro Stock Motorcycle history."

"And we're in the top three quarters," said Bryce.

"And six of the bikes are George's," said Klement. Or did he mean "Georges'," referring to Bryce and partner George Smith of G2?

"I'm calling my dad after every pass," smiled Peggy. "He'll be able to work late at the shop tonight and watch qualifying on TV."

"I'm really glad to be here," said Klement. "It's a family atmosphere and my family gets to be here with us."

"It's sensational," agreed Karl's wife Kim, also an owner of the team. "We didn't know what to expect, but it's exceeded our wildest dreams. I definitely expected to qualify, without question, because we have such a great team between Karl, Peggy, Shane, and George and Jackie Bryce-it doesn't get any better. I told Karl I won't be flying back with him so that he'll have room for the Wally!"

Peggy turned to the job at hand. "I want to be consistent so they can tune the bike. They're doing a bang-up job, but I'm going up there and making too many mistakes. I'll take care of one thing and then do another thing wrong. I'm still trying to learn and develop a routine."

So the team was solidly in the field in 12th place, lining up against Chris Rivas and the Mohegan Sun team on Sunday. But Peggy fell victim to the starting line flu that plagued the top runners in the field in the first round of eliminations.

Did Peggy see and start thinking about the veterans and their own starting line errors in the pairings in front of her? "I don't pay too much attention," said Llewellyn, who is stoic and focused in the staging lanes. "I just go up there and go through with my routine. Maybe I was too relaxed.

"From my peripheral vision I saw him (opponent Rivas) out in front of me a little bit. I knew he got the holeshot and I tried to run him down but I ran out of real estate. My numbers were all there for a winning run, I just have to do the job at the line. Shane and George are giving me a bike capable of winning and I just have to do my job. I set my goals so high, and now I just want to go back to my hotel room and beat myself up. But this was my first national event in years and I know what I have to work on."

"First race nerves I guess," said Maloney, who noted that Peggy had a another 1.05 60-foot time on the pass. "But we're in pretty good company. The Army team, Chip Ellis, and they're all gonna have pretty good years. Peggy's never been on fast motorcycle before, never been expected to win. Now she is. She has a 6.90 motorcycle and people expect her to win. She did great for her first weekend out here, but she needs to be a 6.90 rider, and she'll get there. All it takes is laps."

"I'm real excited about this team," said Karl. "I know we lost first round, but I'm really excited about Peggy. We've got lots of bright things to look forward to in Houston, which is only about 5 hours away for my family and I. All our sponsors are on board, and we're featuring an associate sponsor every race as major sponsor until we get a major sponsor. This week our featured sponsor is Motion Pro motorcycle cables, tools and controls, and I want to thank them very much for their faith in our team. And I want to thank POWERade and NHRA."

-credit: kr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Peggy Llewellyn , George Bryce , George Smith , Chris Rivas , Chip Ellis