Champion Profile: Hot Rod – Kenny Underwood

When it comes to winning big races, no one does it better than Kenny Underwood.

Already recognized as one of the top sportsman racers in IHRA history, Tampa, Fla. native Underwood added several more accomplishments to his storied career in 2010 with a number of big wins capped by a victory at the Tournament of Champions in October, handing the longtime veteran his second career Hot Rod World Championship.

“What can I say? Everything just went really smooth this season. We had no car trouble all year and when the car is running good it makes my job easy,” Underwood said.

In addition to beating out Michael Schiberl to claim the Hot Rod championship at the recently completed World Finals Nitro Jam, Underwood also led all drivers in 2010 with an incredible four TOC qualifying victories. Underwood notched two national event wins at Rockingham Dragway and Maryland International Raceway in April and August, a TOC qualifying win at Immokalee Regional Raceway to open the season and a victory in the Summit Allstars race in the spring.

Thanks to his string of wins, Underwood entered the TOC as one of the clear favorites in the Hot Rod class and proved himself once again with his second career championship. Underwood’s previous championship, won under the old format, came in 2006.

At the Tournament of Champions, Underwood eliminated Michael Schiberl, Matthew Robinson, Tony Jordan, John Furr and R.L. Koontz on his way to the win. In the final Underwood defeated Schiberl with a 10.85 on the 10.90 dial, a number that meant very little as Schiberl went red.

“It was a huge deal to be a part of this race. I have been in a lot of big money races before, but when I was up there for the final I was like ‘man, this is big’ and I was shaking which is something I usually don’t do” Underwood said. “When I pulled to the line I just put everything aside and concentrated on the race. I knew I just needed to stay calm and do my job and everything would work out just fine.”

Ironically, despite a near perfect year, Underwood needed a little help in the first two rounds as he struggled to hit the numbers, but help did arrive in the form of red lights by his first two opponents. Once in the quarters, however, Underwood finally found his groove with back-to-back runs of 10.93 and a 10.94 to reach the finals.

“It was an exciting day overall. I screwed up on a couple passes, but in the end I managed to get by and get the win,” Underwood said. “Other than those few minor hiccups, everything went well for us during the weekend.”

Thanks to that solid weekend Underwood can add champion to his name once again and will carry the all-important No. 1 into next season.

“I just have to say thanks to my girlfriend Michelle, Anthony and all the guys at Jegs and everybody that helps with the car and all the fans,” Underwood said. “And a big thank you to the IHRA for putting this thing on. I can’t wait to do this again next year.”

The final Hot Rod top eight are Underwood, Schhiberl, Bill Upton, Matthew Robinson, C.J. McDonald, Ray Knight, Tony Jordan, Marlon Goates.

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