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Kenny Delco battling hard for final Countdown spot in Pro Stock

Kenny Delco has overcome a lot of adversity this season, now he's on the verge of his first top ten finish in Pro Stock since 1990.
31 Aug 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
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Kenny Delco didn’t compete in the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas and he suffered through a nasty crash at the Dodge Mile-High Nationals in Denver, yet through all the adversity, he finds himself on the verge of clinching a spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Delco entered the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as the tenth-ranked driver in the Pro Stock class but he’s just three points clear of 11th place Fernando Cuadra and 12 points ahead of teammate Val Smeland.

“We’ll be okay,” Delco says matter of factly. “We’ll see what happens. At the start of the season I wasn’t even thinking about racing to make the top ten. I mean, the new [18-race] schedule works in my favor, but I knew from the start I wasn’t going to Las Vegas. Now, I wish I had. I’d be at least 30-points ahead instead of just three. That was a mistake, but I think the bigger mistake was changing cars. I never should have done that.”

Delco went to the semifinals in Gainesville and a short time later, he rolled out a new race car but he struggled to find consistency. The new car was heavily damaged in the Denver accident, forcing Delco to pull his old Camaro out of mothballs for the races in Sonoma, Seattle, and Brainerd. He even went so far as to have the car brought from New York to California on a short notice so he would not miss a race. Now, that move looms large with a Countdown spot well within his grasp.

“When something like that happens, you do what you have to do,” said Delco. “I like this car a lot better than the new one. It’s just easier to tune. It does what we tell it to do. We never really had a chance to find the set-up in the new car so I’m not saying the deal in Denver was a good thing, but it’s just good that we’ve got this car back and it’s working.”

On Friday in Indy, Delco ran 6.648 and is currently ranked No. 14. Cuadra is 12th while Smeland was quickest of the three playoff contenders with a 6.627. The points battle between all three drivers is so close that the final spot in the Countdown could easily be decided on qualifying points.

“We should have run a lot better but we broke a lifter warming it up in the pits so we had to change engines before we ran,” Delco said. “I definitely think we’re going to make a better run today. We’re going to need to. Like I said, I really didn’t anticipate being in this spot but as long as we are, we might as well make the most of it and get [in the Countdown].”

Delco last finished in the top ten in 1990, the same year he won his lone Pro Stock title in Gainesville. All told, he’s got four top ten finishes from 1987-90, and was the eighth-ranked driver in the class in 1988, when he was No. 8, ahead of the late Joe LePone, and Mark Pawuk, who is racing in the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown.