Fri, 07 Dec 2012, 08:06 AM
If There's a Summit ET Series Hall of Fame He Should Be In It
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2012 Auto Imagery, Inc.
There is an old expression that goes "there are only two things that are certain in life, death and
taxes." And while some people think we may be getting taxed to death these days that's a story for
another day. In drag racing there are a couple of things that, while maybe not quite as certain as
death and taxes, are almost always going to happen. The drivers from Team Schumacher will compete
for the championship in both fuel classes, the Team Force cars will always make a run at the Funny
Car title, someone from the Team Force camp will win the Rookie of the Year and Pro Stock will
always be the most competitive class in the Full Throttle series. Ok, so those may not be absolutes
but they are about as close as you will get in our sport. Oh yeah, there is one more thing that you
can count on, in fact, one thing that you can take to the bank and that is the fact that Tom Klemme
will be a factor in the Summit ET Series, and when he comes to Pomona he will leave with the
trophy. I base that on the fact that the Davenport, Iowa driver has made three trips to Pomona and
he has three trophies on his shelf. You do the math.
Klemme defeated Chad Isley
in 2008 final.
In 2008 Tom made his first trip to California and he made it a successful one with a win over his
close friend Chad Isley in the final round. Three years later his return trip was also a success
when he beat David Primrose in the final round and became one of the few two-time winners in the
series. This year he went one better, making his third trip to the "Finals" and winning for the
third time, and in the process he joined fellow motorcycle rider Micheal Nash as a back-to-back
winner, and this may have been his best performance ever since the motorcycle class was absolutely
loaded in Pomona. "It was just as exciting and fun as the last two," Tom said. "When I go across
the finish line there is no fist-pumping and stuff like that. It's just a relief to know that you
got the job done that you came to do." And nobody gets the job done better than Tom Klemme.
The return trip to Pomona was anything but a guarantee for the veteran rider. "I had to go six
rounds at the divisional final and everyone there was very talented. It's a great feeling to get to
return to Pomona, especially when you know that you beat some of the best to do it." And things
didn't get any easier for Tom once he got to California. "I'm pretty aware of all the other riders
in the class and I knew that it was probably the best field that I've faced in my three years. That's what made the win even more exciting."
That and the fact that he did it wearing an Evel Knievel look alike set of
leathers. "I saw them on the internet earlier this year and thought it would be a fun thing to do.
I figured if anyone can pull off the 'Evel look' it would be me," he said with a smile. "And it was
cool that several folks came up over the weekend and commented on them." I have to admit that I was
one of them!
Once he got to the track Tom went through his normal ritual and that consists of not going
anywhere. "Yeah, call it superstitious or whatever you want, but if I'm at the track for more than
a day I just never want to leave. I guess I feel like I might miss something." If that's the case,
and if Tom does make it to Pomona for a fourth time, I would suggest the other riders offer to take
him for a tour of Southern California because that may be the only way they can stop him. "I try to
pay attention to what the other guys are doing, you know, keep an eye on how they stage, how
consistent they are on the tree, what they run and things like that." Doesn't sound like a
superstition to me, just good planning.
Klemme defeated Bob Nugent in the final.
The weekend didn't get off to a very good start for the defending champ. "I blew a spark plug out
on the first time trail run and I didn't even go sixty feet. It wasn't a great way to start the
week." But as good a rider as he is Tom is also a very good mechanic, and that may come from his
years of racing or the years that he has run his own shop in Iowa. "I do a lot of racing engines
for other guys and I build some street bikes, too." The shop, Klemme Performance Motorsports, has
also been known to work on some of the bikes of the racers he competes against. "Yeah, I actually
freshened up the motor for Curtis Spracklin, who represented Division 4 this year. He and I race
against each other a lot and we're good friends." Anyway, after that sluggish start Tom went to
work, finished his time runs and prepared for race day. "I knew after the dinner on Thursday night
that I had Roy (Hagadorn) in round one. It always seems like the guys you don't want to race you
end up racing." Tom and Roy have raced with and against each other for years. "He's absolutely one
of the best in the sport and I knew that he would be tough and that wasn't the way either one of us
wanted to start eliminations. We've raced each other for years and I have the utmost respect for
him." As it turned out Roy spanked Tom on the tree and it looked like it was all over for the
defending champ. "I have to say that I thought I was in trouble right off the line. I got caught
looking into the sun and didn't have a very good reaction time." But he did have a good bike and
that's what pulled him through. One down and two to go.
Don Lower, Tom Klemme and Jim Greenleaf
Round two saw another tough opponent, the Division 1 champion, Ken George. "I watched him during
the time trials and I noticed that he had a delay box on that I don't think he ran during the
season in Division1. It's tough to put one of them on and try to get comfortable with it in a short
period of time." Tom, who always uses a "box," was second off the line again. "He hammered me on
the tree but his bike stumbled a bit and he wasn't able to run the number. Fortunately I ran right
on my dial and was able to get the win. For the entire day I didn't let go of the button as well as
the other guys did but I do think I had the best bike and that pulled me through." Two down and one
The final round saw Tom square off with another rider that he is very familiar with, Bob Nugent.
"He and I have raced at several 'Dash for Cash' events and he is very good. Hey, he won Division 3
and you have to be good to do that so I knew I was in for a fight." This time Tom was first off the
line and when he ran closer to his dial than Bob did it was all over but the shouting, or in Tom's
case, it wall all over except for the big sigh of relief. "The third time was just as exciting as
the others. I may not show it on the track but inside I'm really excited. My wife, Cathy, was with
me and so was my son, Michael and that always makes it even more special." He was also joined by
Klemme celebrates win with family and friends.
long-time friends, "Dumpster" Dan, Bill Homuth and Mike Van Dieren. "They've been with me at all
three events and I really appreciate their support." In addition to his regular cast of followers
Tom also said that Scott and Laura Gardner from his home track in Eddyville, Iowa, were also there
to support him along with "about ten or fifteen other friends."
The Summit Racing ET Series has been held in Pomona for twelve years and the racers who get to
compete in it absolutely love the event and Tom is no exception. "I can't say enough about what
Summit does for the local racers," he said. "They really make us feel special." And now, what does
he do for an encore. "Well, right now I'm at my winter job driving a truck, I don't want to get
greedy but I'd love to get to go to Pomona again." With his track record, don't bet against it.
NHRA: 10 Most Recent Entries [ top ]
Oct 09- READING -- Through the Lens of Gary Nastase
Oct 08- DALLAS - "Big Daddy" Don Garlits to be Special Guest and Grand Marshall
Oct 08- DALLAS - No Matter How You Phrase It, Drag Racing Is Extreme
Oct 07- LAS VEGAS 2 - Event Preview
Oct 07- NHRA Nitro Spring Training Coming to Phoenix in 2016
Oct 07- DALLAS - J.R. Todd Takes on Determined Mindset for Championship Run Heading
Oct 06- READING - NHRA Keystone Nationals Special Awards
Oct 05- READING - Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Wrap Up
Oct 05- READING - Summary of Eliminations in Competition Eliminator
Oct 05- READING - Summary of Eliminations in Super Stock