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When the 2018 Midwest Short Course League season started, Daely Pentico was on few people's radar as a championship contender in the ultra-competitive PRO 2 class. But by the time the series rolled into Crandon for finale, everyone knew his name. Thanks to an ultra-consistent result sheet of three podiums and three 4th place finishes, The Rookie came into the final 2 points races at Crandon just 8 points behind leader Mike Vanden Heuvel.
The long weekend kicked off with a special Crandon Tradition. Pentico got a police escort to downtown Crandon, where race vehicles lined the streets and set the route of the annual Labor Day Parade. Candy was thrown, music was played, and Crandon history and family was celebrated in the community's signature way.
After everyone had processed back to the track, Pentico geared up for Friday's race: a make-up points round from rained-out Round 1 action. The race was an ultra-short 8-lap shootout on the abbreviated track in front the of fans, so Daely had no time to waste if he wanted to finish up front.
Pentico got a great start, coming around the hallowed Crandon Turn One in third with hard chargers Chad Hord and Mike Vanden Heuvel in tow. Pentico had faster times than Andrew Carlson, who held the second spot, but couldn't make a pass stick on the tight track. Lap after lap, Pentico held off the highly-experienced drivers behind him, hanging tough and grabbing his third podium of the year. By finishing two spots ahead of Vanden Heuvel, he cut the championship points deficit down to four!
"I had a good jump off the start and able to work my way up to third place quickly, and just run solid, smooth, consistent lines to bring it home," said Pentico. "The race was only 8 laps since it was a make up race from spring Crandon. I was pumped on my podium finish, it chipped off a few more points towards the championship!"
Pentico qualified 5th fastest on Saturday out of a stacked 18-truck field. To win the points championship, he would have to beat Vanden Heuvel by three positions in Saturday's race. He got another good start, coming through Turn One in 5th. He tucked in behind Mike Vanden Heuvel and went to work, looking for an opportunity to pass.
"I was really confident for Saturday. We lined up in-between Hord and Vanden Heuvel - both guys I for sure had to beat to win the championship. Got a decent start off the line but that meant it was gonna be 4 wide at 100+ mph into Turn One. We all banged doors a little bit then the dust cleared and I was in 5th behind the current points leader!"
Unfortunately Daely's championship hopes would come to an end a few laps later, as a tire popped off the bead after a sideways landing in the barn turn. The tire shredded as Pentico made his way to the hot pits for a change, and caused further damage to the truck:
"The tire snapped my brake line and loosened my shock reservoir," Pentico recalls. "I ended up pulling off and finishing the day with a DNF."
Fortunately for the Humblecock Clothing-backed Daely Pentico Racing team, the weekend was not over. Crandon World Cup Sunday featured two more chances for Pentico to show his stuff, starting with a East vs West PRO 2 World Championship race. Pentico and the Midwest PRO 2's got a head start over their higher-horsepower West-Coast counterparts and tried to stay ahead of them for as long as possible.
"Sunday was all about the money!" said Pentico. "I knew I had some heavy competition for it and the gloves were off but I still had a shot at the East vs West Pro2 World Championship. We didn't qualify since we were still getting the truck ready from Saturday, so I started last."
"I worked my way up through the field over the first few laps, then the west coast guys showed up," said Pentico. "I ran some clean laps with CJ Greaves until he got by. Then Deegan came into the gravel pit low and I was running up on the cushion. Our paths started to merge coming out of the turn and his rear tire drove up my front tire and onto my hood, we separated and I kept forward. The next lap he caught back up and we split around a slower car and Deegan got the better line and finally got me. It was a fun race and pretty hectic racing some of the drivers I've looked up to forever! Brian and I laughed off the incident later at the autograph signing, so we were good."
Finally, it was time for the AMSOIL Cup: The weekend finale that pits the Midwest and West PRO 2s against the PRO 4's in a triple-staggered-start. Pentico took off with the Midwest PRO 2s and got a great start, falling in to the top 4. He passed Andrew Carlson in the opening laps to move up to 3rd. As the race went on, a few more of the higher-horsepower trucks made their way by. Pentico ran strong through the finish:
"The AMSOIL Cup race was gnarly; my lap times were the fastest all weekend," said Pentico. "I tried to hang with all the boys in PRO 4 when they'd get around me; didn't think I'd be able to stay that close to them through the turns but we were all inches off of each other setting up the corners, it was rad! I learned from the best and had my highest ranking spot in PRO 2 Midwest lineup all year with a second behind Hord and 7th overall!"
It was an up and down weekend at Crandon, but overall the season was a huge success for the DPR Racing Team. Pentico proved he could run with the best of them in PRO 2, and won yet another Rookie of the Year award in the process. The #36 PRO 2 will certainly be one to watch next season!
"Really amazed at how this season went for us with so much to learn with no seat time at all going into the season," said Pentico. "I'm stoked to end up top 5 overall and to get my 6th Rookie of the Year award out of the 8 years I've been racing! Should be the last one in my career… unless I go to PRO 4!"
Daely will head back West to compete in the LOORRS finale - the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona on October 20-21.
Daely Pentico Racing would like to thank their 2018 partners: HumbleCock Clothing Company, Radar Tires, Roush Competition Engines, Ultra Wheels, Xcess Industries, 2X Motorsports, Real Time Reviews, Kincaid Motorsports, and Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Phoenix, AZ.
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