The first race out with a new car can often throw drivers and crew chiefs for a loop, and the phrase “new car blues” is something to which many racers can attest. However, Pete Berner and the Summit Racing Equipment team are proof that new cars don’t always result in the blues. In fact, Berner is quite pleased after his first outing behind the wheel of his new RJ Race Cars-built ZL1 Camaro.
“I really can’t be more excited about this car,” Berner said. “It’s such a pleasure to drive. We were thrilled to run as quick as we did, knowing how much is still left in the car and how little data we have to go on right now. This is a phenomenal machine—there’s no doubt about that.”
Berner took his new Summit Racing Equipment machine all the way to No. 2 in qualifying in its first race with a stout 4.084-second pass at 176.90 miles per hour. Berner slowed in round one, as did the entire field, but won his way into round two with a 4.181-second pass. Berner picked back up in round two, completing a 4.133-second run, but his day ended there as eventual winner John Pluchino pulled ahead with a 4.131-second effort.
“We certainly can’t be upset about our performance in our first race out,” Berner said. “We had very limited info to work with on this car since much of it is different from anything we’ve worked with in the past. Even when we made the pass that qualified us No. 2, we could have run much better with more info to go on. Each pass with this car, we’re learning. It may be that we learn what not to do, but even then, we’re learning how to utilize the tools on this car and make better passes the next time out.
“[Engine builders] Jerry and Mike improved our program over the winter and are doing a fabulous job with our engines. So not only do we have many improvements to utilize in the car but also in our engines.”
Not only was this Berner’s first race out with a new car, it was also the team’s first time with new crew member Rick Varnold.
“I couldn’t have hoped for things to go better with the team in our first race together,” Berner said. “Eric and R.V. worked flawlessly together. This team is very focused and doesn’t get rattled under pressure. I am really quite pleased. When the team works well together, everything flows better and racing is more fun.
“We’re already planning another test session or two before the next event. We’re excited about uncovering all the tricks of this new car, and I feel positive we’ll be much better the next time fans see us at the ADRL.”
In between races, Berner’s fans can support him through his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and now fans can vote for Berner in the CarSafe Elite Hero Challenge. Fans can pick Berner as their favorite ADRL “hero” and win cool prizes along the way.
“We really appreciate CarSafe putting on this program,” Berner said. “Their support of drag racing and contribution to the sport is wonderful to have. This program is really a win-win for all involved. I want to go ahead and thank all of our Summit Racing Equipment fans that are voting for us at keepyourcarsafe.com. We’ve got some great feedback from fans on our new look this year and can’t wait to score the first win in our Camaro for all our Summit Racing fans!”