DOHA, QATAR -- Todd Tutterow's duties last year in the Arabian Drag Racing League only included tuning a car.
His first foray into driving in Qatar is quickly off to a fine start.
The 2009 Pro Extreme World Champion in the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) is the leader after two rounds of qualifying on Thursday during Round 1 of the eight-race series in the Arabian Drag Racing League at Qatar Race Club.
In a loaded field, Tutterow took an early lead in Pro Extreme, going 3.74, which comes on the heels of going as quick as 3.68 in what was a productive test session.
"I'm staying pretty busy, but things have been good," said Tutterow, who is also tuning the car of PX driver Bader Ali. "We've been doing a lot of testing and hopefully it works out (well)."
Due to weather and a crash in Pro Nitrous, only two qualifying sessions were completed on Thursday in all classes. Racers will get a third session on Friday before eliminations begin for Round 1.
Following Tutterow in Pro Extreme was Rickie Smith, who went 3.84 in his first official pass in a brand-new Bahrain Racing PX Camaro. KH Al-Thani was close behind with a 3.89.
In fourth was another driver making his debut, as former NHRA Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd went 3.91 in his first pass in a new '57 Chevy.
The rest of the field struggled to get down the track, which was also a similar theme in Pro Nitrous.
Shannon Jenkins was one of few who didn't shake the tires, as the Al-Anabi Racing driver shot to the top spot with an impressive 3.92.
Before leaving for Qatar, the legendary "Iceman" was excited about the opportunity to race in the Arabian Series.
"I can't wait for it," Jenkins said. "I can race all year."
In Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Terry Schweigert has the top after two sessions with a strong run of 4.19.
Rob Hunnicutt is in third with a 4.32.
Tutterow arrived in Qatar early to get some extra testing and it appears to have paid off in the early part of the season.
But Tutterow knows things won't be easy in a strong field that also includes Frankie Taylor, who went a remarkable 3.61 in a testing session earlier this week, Alex Hossler, Joshua Hernandez, Von Smith and Ellis Vial.
"The competition is going to be real good. It's pretty amazing, really," Tutterow said. "The competition is always exciting and it's great to be racing all these people.
"But I feel good. We've got as good of a chance as anyone."
Tutterow is also impressed by the reaction of the crowd and how the Arabian Series has grown in popularity over the past year.
"It's gained a lot from last year and it's getting real big for sure," Tutterow said. "I'd say it's more than three times as big as it was even at the end of last year."
With all the extra eyes on QRC, it should make for an even more intense atmosphere.
That shouldn't bother Smith, who is simply trying to get acclimated to driving a Pro Extreme car.
"If we can get through this first race, get some points and get some data, we'll be in good shape," Smith said. "It's a challenge, but we're up for it and hopefully we will do well."
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