In short, Derek Menholt is all in.
After making his Pro Mod debut a year ago at the DRAG ILLUSTRATED World Series of Pro Mod, Menholt is back for this year’s race and the Billings, Mont., native is not messing around.
He has enlisted the services of super tuner Steve Petty for this weekend’s World Series of Pro Mod at Bandimere Speedway, also coming to bat with a new Pro Line Hemi, a new torque converter and a new transmission in his turbocharged ’68 Camaro.
He’s been stricken with the lure of the biggest and richest Pro Mod race in the history of the known universe, and though short on Pro Mod experience, Menholt isn’t backing down from anyone this year.
“Last year was the first time I competed in a heads-up race. This year, we’ve got high expectations,” Menholt said. “We’re way better prepared.”
That tends to happen when working with a tuner as acclaimed as Petty.
He’s made the calls on NHRA Pro Mod championship-winning teams, offering experience and expertise on a level that can be a major benefit for Menholt.
During the first two days of testing on Thunder Mountain, it’s allowed Menholt to simply concentrate on his driving, making a number of solid passes on Wednesday on what were the first runs on his new motor.
That remains the biggest area of concentration for the team heading into Saturday’s eliminations and Menholt knows the constant communication with Petty will pay off. How much so is still to be determined at the $100,000-to-win Pro Mod race, but Menholt is taking every aspect of the event seriously.
“With Steve tuning it, he can just continue to pick away at it,” said Menholt, who lost in the first round to eventual WSOPM winner Mike Bowman a year ago. “It’s a new set-up but I think we can be as fast as anybody else out here. Our whole plan was to put together a strong team of guys. It’s been amazing. I haven’t had to touch the car. It’s been a really good first couple of days.”
Keeping that momentum going will be important, but racing at the WSOPM remains a tremendous thrill for Menholt, who continues to be one of the biggest supporters of the race.
Competing last year made his season and Menholt’s entire 2018 is based around this race. The Top Sportsman veteran referred to the WSOPM as his Super Bowl and his U.S. Nationals, which may put a little extra pressure on him to perform this weekend.
But Menholt is fine with that. He has a big group of friends and family making the 500-plus-mile trip from Billings to watch this weekend, and Menholt also senses the buzz in the air as the race approaches. That, he believes, will only help his performance.
“I love this track,” Menholt said. “We’re just excited about it. Our whole plan was to be ready for this race. I think we can be a contender. We’re definitely still the underdog, but I think the whole weekend is going to be great. Everyone is excited.”