Story by Matt Polito
Hector Arana Jr. finished the Pro Stock Motorcycle season on a high note, going from the number one qualifying position to the winner’s circle at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona CA.
Andrew Hines, who entered the event with an almost insurmountable points lead, cinched his fourth Mello Yello championship.
While the attention was on Hines and his quest for the championship, Arana Jr. was the star of the event. He qualified his Lucas Oil S&S-powered Buell number one at 6.832 seconds, recorded the low e.t. (6.808) and top speed (198.17 mph) of the event, and took the second win of the year and ninth of his career.
“We are happy we were able to seal the deal and win the event,” said Arana, Jr. “Sometimes when you qualify number one it jinxes you. I am glad we were able to get the win for the team. It is a real confidence booster for us and a great way to go into the off-season.”
Arana Jr. led qualifying from the onset, recording the 6.832 during the second session on Friday.
Following Arana Jr. on the qualifying sheet were the Harleys of Hines and teammate Eddie Krawiec, the Nitro Fish Buell of Matt Smith and the Bad Boy Buggies Suzuki of Jim Underdahl.
The field was anchored by the popular local rider Freddie Camarena on his Danny Griego Suzuki. Camarena recorded his first career six-second run at the event and was congratulated by what seemed like the entire PSM pits. His best of 6.974 held the 16th spot.
A notable non-qualifier was Michael Ray. After leaving the Star Racing team, Ray made a splash in Las Vegas qualifying third on his independent Gruene Harley-Davidson Buell with tuning my Matt Smith. Mechanical problems kept Ray from making a full pass at Pomona and he did not make the field.
Notable off the entry sheet was John Hall, the number 8 ranked rider of the Nitro Fish Buell running out of Matt Smith Racing. Reportedly, a dispute developed between Smith and Hall’s chief mechanic Bobby Webb and Hall decided not to run without Webb.
Hines, who came into the event with a 92 point lead in the Mello Yello points chase, sealed the championship with a first round win over Katie Sullivan.
Arana Jr. held a torrid pace during eliminations. He ran a 6.83 in round one to oust Camarena, “slowed” to a 6.88 in round two to dispatch the Suzuki of Steve Johnson, and then ran the quick lap of the event at 6.808 to get by the Star Racing Buell of Chaz Kennedy and earn lane choice against Krawiec in the final.
Arana Jr. cut a sharp, .010 light in the final and led the whole way as Krawiec struggled in the suspect right hand lane. Krawiec was out of power just before the finish line as Arana Jr. took the win, 6.832 to 6.977.
“We’ve been making the right adjustments to stay consistent,” said Arana Jr. “I feel good, the bike is running good that brings all the confidence back. When it is running smooth it is easy to ride.”
Arana Jr. dedicated the win to his brother Adam who will leave the drag racing scene to join the Coast Guard next year. We wish him well.
The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello PSM season kicks off in Gainesville, FL March 13-15, 2015.
The final NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle Points:
||Screamin’ Eagle H-D
||Screamin’ Eagle H-D
||Hector Arana Jr
||Lucas Oil S&S Buell
||Nitro Fish S&S Buell
||Johnson Racing Suz
||Petrohead S&S Buell
||Lucas Oil S&S Buell
||Nitro Fish S&S Buell
||Kandy Mag S&S Buell
||Greune H-D S&S Buell
Story by Matt Polito
Andrew Hines cruised to his sixth win of the season in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle series at the Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a final round victory over defending series champ Matt Smith.
Smith, at the event where he wrapped up his 2013 national title, could not hold off Hines, who now looks to be the inevitable 2014 Mello Yello champion. Hines, who has led the points in 13 of the 15 races run so far this season, now has a 92-point lead over his nearest competitor – Harley-Davidson® teammate Eddie Krawiec. Despite the strong showing, Smith has been mathematically eliminated from contention from the championship.
A wild turn of events happened at the track on Friday morning when Angelle Sampey suffered a gruesome injury when a starter cart rolled down the trailer ramp and hit her in the ankle. She received 20 stitches and made the first two qualifying passes on the Star Racing Buell®, which put her outside the field with 7.12 elapsed time.
She was later deemed unable to compete, putting in jeopardy her string of qualifying for 184 consecutive races she entered. There was a possibility of the team putting a substitute rider on the bike, thus voiding her runs, but they could not work it out. Sampey, a three-time NHRA PSM champion, came out of retirement to join Star Racing and former crew chief George Bryce when Michael Ray left the team following Indy.
Speaking of Ray, the Texas rider put his own independent team together with funding from long time backers Gottspeed Racing and Gruene Harley-Davidson. Ray has his own Matt Smith Racing-built Buell and will be supplied S&S motors and tuning from MSR for the rest of this year the 2015 season.
The new venture hit the ground running at Vegas with Ray leading qualifying going into the final session with a 6.899 elapsed time. Ray improved to a 6.883 in the final session, at the top speed of the meet 195.79 mph, but fell to third on the final qualifying sheet as Hines took his first pole since the 2012 finals with a 6.856. Smith took the second spot on his Nitro Fish Buell at 6.882.
Ray broke during his burnout in round two giving number six qualifier Katie Sullivan a free run into the semis on her Suzuki® for her first semifinal appearance of the year.
Smith beat Sullivan in the semis with Hines taking out the Suzuki of St Louis winner Jerry Savoie.
Smith got the holeshot in the final and led Hines at half-track but the Harley rider was able to get around him, 6.955 to Smith’s 6.971, with a win margin of .008 seconds. It was Hines’ 38th career victory.
Hines now has the inside track to get his first championship since 2006. Still, he noted that he would not be conservative going into the finals at Pomona, saying, “I don’t want to play defense. I’m going to go on the offense.”
Krawiec would have to gain the maximum qualifying bonus points to have a shot and qualifying has been his game this year, taking the number one position a series-leading nine times.
Hines knows he can lock it up on Saturday before eliminations even begins.
“I don’t want to give up any bonus points during qualifying,” he said. “I want to keep it over 80 points so we can roll into Sunday with the championship basically mathematically locked up.”
Hines currently has three championships as does his brother and crew chief Matt who won three consecutive championships in 1997-1999. One more would give him four, one better than his older brother. The late Dave Schultz holds the mark for most NHRA PSM championships at six.
The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season wraps up at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, CA, November 13-16.
Story by Jim "Jimbo" Fischer
After an almost punishing 2013 LSR season for our new 100 Cu. In. S&S Superstock Sportster engine, the decision was made to “freshin up” the engine with a complete inspection and update on some parts. This meant – Road trips – Best of which is going to the S&S Ranch in Viola Wisc. A must visit for any motorcycle performance enthusiast. A walk through the S&S Museum is like a walk through time. This time, freshin up took on a whole new concept for us. I mean we're talking S&S Proven Performance type freshin up – Nobody does it better. After several trips the engine and parts are back home in the garage for final assembly. Time to get ready for the LTA Maine Event in Loring Maine http://www.loringtiming.com/
The LTA event will be our first time out sporting a fairing and we’ll be entering the Partial Streamline class. Jimbo picked up replica parts to the Cal Rayborn XR 750 1968 Daytona fairing and got down to some fiberglass body work to adapt it to our stretched frame. I worked in a fiberglass shop back in the late 60’s, but it’s been awhile, and I had fun getting into it again.
Everything back together in time – get pre registered, get hotel reservations done, get truck & trailer servicing done , we’re ready for LTA. This track is being called the premier Land Speed Venue east of the Bonneville Salt Flats, and after attending a couple years now I can see how it will fill those shoes. An historical site with a great friendly staff of Volunteers and a Board that really knows how to keep things rolling, with one of the best rookie track orientations a racer could ask for. Good food track side, and in town – this is up state Maine – can you say Lobstah ?
What a great track. You get a time slip for the standing start 1 mi. as well as the 1- 1/2 mile – Records are kept separate for both. What makes it extra special for most is that extra 1/2 mile of W F O – So here’s the story -
First day out was a bit breezy for my first speed run with a fairing, and the education wasted no time in coming with a diagonal cross wind that was the beginning of school. I mean you just gotta love it.
The next day gave us near perfect conditions and here is what happened. We established records in the APS-PG 1650 class with 177.194 in the mile & 184.096 in the mile & half. In the APS-PF class we set records at 177.985 in the mile & 185.119 in the mile & half. Our newly freshened up S&S Superstock engine was just singing. The trip and event was a bit of a tough pull for Warner & Babs at times & they toughed it out and still had fun.
With minimal time left to the event Warner, Babs & I had a pow-wow and decided to go after the existing A-PG 1650 class record. I mean we came here to dance, not sit on the bench. The fairing was removed, gearing changed to accommodate the extra aero drag now. The numbers we had to beat were 171.264 in the mile & 171.165 in the mile & half. After a couple days now on this incredible track, Jimbo is on his game and the Ghost is singing. We bumped those records up to a 174.623 for the mile & a 177.945 for the mile & half. I mean our S&S 100 Cu. In. Superstock Sportster based engine was singing at 7 K+ rpm like – I am so happy I am walking on sun shine . OK, what kind of shine Jimbo ?
OK – Ok – no time to waste. Get back home a get ready for the Big Enchilada, the Mecca of Land Speed Racing – The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
After the learning curve at LTA the decision was made to use a different fuel additive for our fuel class endeavor. Sorry, can’t tell ya what additives & what ratios unless I can get a sponsorship from them, then I tell you everything about it. The point was – this S&S EFI & ECM system has proven to easily handle the changes with just a little change in the ECM map. Dyno Mike will testify to this. Incredible, I know. I mean I come from the generation of rotary dial telephones. You either memorized your friends phone numbers or had them in a little black book in your pocket.
The 2014 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials were pulled off under some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. I call it the 2014 Slush Fest.
The pits were just that – But – the BMST volunteers had two tracks on higher ground/salt, and had them groomed very nice. Big Kudos to all the BUB Volunteers who returned this year. Rex & Tom in the tower, you guys rock. So after a couple of hair on the back of your neck standing up, maybe even a fresh pair of shorts runs we clocked a good record run. A 185.57 qualifying down run & a 189.336 return run for a new record in the APS-PF 1650 class of 187.45 After nine years going to Bonneville, I have to say this year was the most challenging.
Some good action & helmet cam here to give you a taste of the Bonneville Salt Flats
Ok, no sniveling allowed – time to get ready for the season final event at the East Coast Timing Assoc. Ohio Mile www.ecta-lsr.com
The September ECTA event in Wilmington Ohio offers the Annual Street Bike Shoot Out & more. If you like cool really fast cars & some of the fastest bikes in the country here is a spot that is really spectator friendly. You can walk the pit or sit track side for an up close view of the action. In fact so many cool street rods & customs come to spectate and that turns out to be a show in itself. OK – Ok – get down to business. The Gray Ghost & I are totally in sync now. He’s talkin to me & I am liking it and talkin back – If I have to explain you’ll either understand or think I fell off the wagon.
We worked awfully hard preparing for this race season, & so far its has been paying off. The records we were going to challenge were APS-PF 1650 at 167.529 and APS-PG 1650 at 181.320 – We finished our 2014 season toping those records with a 186.412 in the APS-PF 1650 and a 186.877 for the APS-PG 1650 class.
Now on YouTube you can check out some helmet cam video – puts you in the drivers seat.
A spectacular season for the Gray Ghost II Team ended with eight new land speed records spread out from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to the LTA Maine event in the north lands of Maine.
A huge Thank You goes out to our Sponsors – AutoMeter – Woodstock Harley Davidson – Andrews Precision Cams & Gears – Laurie Jane Swallow – Wayne & Donna Pingel – and most of all to the Team at S&S Proven Performance, you guys Rock the Performance scene.
Not to forget - our Gray Ghost II Project Team of - Crew Chief & LSR Legend Warner Riley, Master Tuner “Dyno Mike” Witt, Inspector & Chief Task Master my inspiration & better half Babs, Brother Lou photo & video documentation & oh yah me, builder/assembler & lucky pilot of this extraordinary Sportster. It Takes A Team !
So what’s up for the 2015 L S R Season for the Gray Ghost II Project ? Stay tuned – We’ll see
The Gray Ghost Project
21 Land Speed Records
Story by Matt Polito
Hector Arana Jr. qualified on the pole at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway as Eddie Krawiec took his fifth event win of the season.
The event was the fourth-straight Countdown event in a brutal string of four consecutive weeks. Maple Grove is known for fast conditions and unfortunately, rain. This year’s running was no exception with some of the quickest times of the year and some short rain delays.
Jerry Savoie, coming off his first-ever event victory on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki at St Louis a week earlier, led qualifying through Friday with a 6.860 second elapsed time. Conditions improved on Saturday and the field got fast.
Arana Jr. was in the sixth position going into the final session but then recorded a 6.796 at 197.22 mph to take his second pole of the season on his Lucas Oil S&S-powered Buell. Points leader Andrew Hines was second at 6.799 and Savoie third at 6.821.
“We struggled this weekend in qualifying,” said Arana. “We were trying different things but couldn’t get it figured out. We threw a Hail Mary at it. We’ve got nothing to lose. It went right down the track, and we went all the way to number one. I was shocked.”
Arana Jr. went into the event well behind points leaders Hines and Krawiec and the number one qualifying performance was what the team needed to make their move.
Arana Jr. was second quickest in round one and faced defending champ Matt Smith in round two. His day – and possibly his hope for a championship hopes – was over when he redlit against Smith. In a cruel twist, Smith was out of power at half-track and coasted across the finish line.
The semifinals saw the Harley-Davidson team face off with Matt Smith Racing. Krawiec met up with Smith and Hines took on MSR racer Scotty Pollacheck on his Petrolhead Apparel Buell. Both races were decided by redlights.
Smith had a razor-thin -.007 redlight on his Nitro Fish Buell giving Krawiec a free run into the final. The Hines-Pollacheck matchup was bizarre as Hines had an uncharacteristic -.026 redlight during which his bike moved only a few feet before an electrical malfunction shut it off. Pollacheck ran a 6.840, giving lane choice in the final to Krawiec.
Pollacheck is quickly being tagged “bridesmaid” as he has no wins in several final round appearances over the last two seasons. He had a total of seven final round appearances coming into Maple Grove including specialty events like the Charlotte 4-Wide and the prestigious, invitation-only MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle in Sonoma, CA.
The eighth time wasn’t the charm for Pollacheck. He got the holeshot with a strong .011 light but couldn’t hold off Krawiec who turned in his best lap of the event at 6.793 seconds. Pollacheck recorded a 6.853 elapsed time.
The win brought Krawiec to within 25 points of Harley-Davidson teammate Hines in the championship chase. Arana Jr. still has a mathematical chance to earn the championship but needs a stellar performance and a near total meltdown of the two Harleys at the two remaining races.
“We were joking around that it looks like it’s going to come down to a two-hog race instead of a two-horse race,” said Krawiec. “I knew that this was an important day for me personally. If I wanted to stay in championship contention, I have to make sure I can make up every round.”
NHRA PSM competitors have a three-weekend break until competition continues Oct. 30-Nov. 2 with the Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
story by Matt Polito
Jerry Savoie finally sealed the deal on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki, earning his first NHRA Wally with a final round victory over Andrew Hines at the NHRA AAA Midwest Nationals in St Louis. The event also saw S&S racer Hector Arana Jr. move back in to third place in the Mello Yello points with a semifinal finish.
Savoie, an alligator farmer from Louisiana, is popular among the other racers and it seemed like the rest of the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders and team members were behind him as he turned on the win light.
“Drag racing is a family,” said Savoie. “Its amazing that the whole Pro Stock Motorcycle pits were so happy for me.”
There was a time when Suzuki motors dominated Pro Stock Motorcycle racing. But since the advent of the modern V-Twin Pro Stock motors by S&S and Harley-Davidson, Suzuki’s have been relegated to second-class status. Of the last ten NHRA PSM championships, only one has been won by a Suzuki (LE Tonglet, 2010).
2014 seems to be the year when they are mounting a comeback. Steve Johnson opened the year with a win on his Suzuki at Gainesville and for the month before the next event, he let everyone know he was the points leader.
That was the first win by a Suzuki in a while. You have to go back to 2011 to find the last time a Suzuki won an NHRA PSM event before this year.
Savoie struggled in the beginning of the season losing in the first round at 6 of the first seven races. Savoie and crew chief Tim Kulungian kept at it and improved until they qualified third at Norwalk.
Savoie was forced to withdraw from the next event on the schedule, Denver, to fly back to Louisiana to tend to his alligator farm, which was under threat of a major storm.
When he came back on tour at Sonoma, he qualified number one and went to the final where he redlit to Eddie Krawiec. The next event was Indy were he again went to the final and again lost to Krawiec.
Sadly, his withdraw from the Denver race cost him a shot at the Mello Yello championship as he missed the Countdown field by two points.
At St Louis Savoie qualified second to Krawiec at 6.838 seconds and made the fifth final of his career when he beat Arana Jr. in the semifinals.
Arana Jr. is still the best hope to win the NHRA championship with an S&S motor. He passed Steve Johnson to re-take the third position in the points. Still, he lost a little ground to points leader Hines who made the final against Savoie.
In the final Savoie had a telepathic .005 reaction time but didn’t need it as his Suzuki beat the Harley 6.871 to 6.881.
“I’ve been out here for four years and I always said if I win one I’m retiring,” Savoie said afterward. “Well, I lied…”
“We struggled early in the year with reaction times,” he continued. “We made clutch changes and ECU changes and we had some awesome lights this weekend. We had a good bike this weekend.”
As for any regrets on missing the Countdown, there are none for Savoie.
“Hey we got the fastest [PSM] Suzuki on the planet earth,” he said. “And that is a great thing!”
The next event on the NHRA tour is the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove, PA, Oct 2-5.
Story by Matt Polito
The NHRA AAA Fall Nationals in Dallas was a double-dip for racers challenging for the Mello Yello championship. The race also held the complete elimination rounds for the Charlotte event postponed due to rain. The Harley-Davidson® team of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines were the big winners with each earning an event win.
The format for getting two races to compete in one weekend was pressure-packed for the competitors. After one shot at the track during the first round of qualifying on Friday, each qualifying lap would serve as an elimination round for the competitors still in competition. The finalists would run the final as a non-qualifying pass late Saturday afternoon. The Dallas event would be run as scheduled on Sunday.
The event saw the much-anticipated return of 3-time NHRA PSM champion Angelle Sampey who last raced in 2008. It was a reunion for Sampey and George Bryce of Star Racing who was instrumental in bringing the S&S-powered Kosman Buells into NHRA competition in 2003.
Her return was anti-climatic as she qualified 12th at 6.988 and lost in round one to John Hall. Still, Sampey has never failed to qualify for an NHRA event and her streak of Sunday starts now extends to 184 races.
The semifinals of the Charlotte event, run on Saturday, saw the two Harleys facing off against each other with Krawiec advancing to his third final in a row. The other side of the ladder was a heartbreaker. Chaz Kennedy, a rookie riding the Star Racing Buell, had made his first semifinal appearance of his career, but he had a razor-thin -.003 redlight as the Suzuki of Steve Johnson broke in the other lane but still took the win light.
Krawiec took his fourth win of the year in a good race, getting by Johnson 6.88 to 6.91. He also earned the top qualifying position for the Dallas event in the process.
On Sunday, Krawiec spun the tire hard in the first round of Dallas eliminations giving Freddie Camarena his first round win in 11 years of racing on his Danny Griego-backed Suzuki.
The Dallas semifinals saw two Matt Smith Racing teammates get taken out with Scotty Pollacheck getting beat by Andrew Hines and Smith himself losing to Johnson, who made his second-straight final in forever.
Johnson broke a motor and couldn’t make the call in the final giving Hines a single for his fifth win of the season.
Incidentally, Krawiec’s win on Saturday moved him ahead of teammate Hines for the points lead but it only lasted one day as Hines took back the lead with his win on Sunday.
The top S&S-powered Buell riding in contention for the championship is Hector Arana Jr. Arana Jr. had a good day on Friday, taking the early lead in qualifying with a 6.855 and winning the first round of the Charlotte event but things went downhill from there. On Saturday he lost the second round of Charlotte competition to rookie Kennedy on a holeshot and then lost the Dallas pole position to Krawiec who turned in a 6.841. It got worse on Sunday when he lost in round one to Shawn Gann, putting a serious dent in his championship hopes.
With his two-straight final round appearances, Johnson and his Suzuki moved to third in the points. Arana Jr. slipped to fourth.
The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racers are currently in a four-week stretch of consecutive races. The next event on the calendar is the AAA Gateway Nationals in St. Louis on Sept. 26-28.
Story by Matt Polito
The NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship kicked off at the Pep Boys Carolina Nationals in Charlotte but the event was over before it began. Rain postponed Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations before the first pair of bikes took to the track for round one on Sunday. Eliminations will be run during the qualifying sessions at the next event on the schedule, Dallas.
There was big news coming into the event when Michael Ray announced he was leaving the Star Racing team following a first round loss in Indy. Sources stated that sponsor Gottspeed Racing was disappointed that the under-performance of Ray’s bike resulted in first-round losses in four of the last five events. Gottspeed Racing will back Ray on the Suzuki of Joey Desantis for the remainder of the season.
Star Racing’s George Bryce responded with the blockbuster announcement that 3-time series champ Angelle Sampey-Drago will come out of retirement to run the team’s Buell starting either in Dallas or St Louis.
With only 16 bikes entering the Charlotte event qualifying would determine not who would race on Sunday but what the first round matchups would be.
Hector Arana Jr. led the field after the first day of qualifying on his Lucas Oil S&S Buell, running a 6.876 elapsed time at the top speed of the meet, 195.48 mph.
“This means a lot as far as my confidence goes,” said Arana, who qualified number one in Denver this season. “It’s all about confidence. I know I have the equipment to take me to the winner’s circle, but confidence is the key.”
Eddie Krawiec spoiled Arana’s party, edging him out for the number one spot at 6.849 seconds on Saturday to take the pole for the second race in a row.
While qualifying was run under two days of hot and humid conditions, Sunday dawned cool and overcast. The forecast was for fast. But there was an underlining issue: with the surrounding Charlotte area getting recent heavy rains, the resultant saturation had caused the rubber on the racing surface to peel. The nitro cars, with their massive amounts of aerodynamic down force, had run their first round of eliminations without incident.
The Pro Stock car class began eliminations with the vehicles skating around on the top end. NHRA officials halted the action to apply more traction compound but it did not resolve the issue as the cars continued to overpower the available traction until V. Gaines suffered a nasty, high-speed wreck.
The remaining Pro Stock Car competitors immediately began discussions of refusing to race on what they felt were unsafe conditions. As NHRA officials were surveying the situation the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders gathered to discuss their options.
At around 3:00 rain came into the area and settled the issue.
With three races in a row and the next available date to run the event at Charlotte being in conflict with a NASCAR event, NHRA officials felt their best option was to run the event in Dallas.
Next Event: AAA Texas FallNationals, Dallas, TX, Sept. 18-12
A land speed racing event at the Bonneville Speedway is something you should experience at least once in your life. You may love it or you may hate it, but it's something you will always remember.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first organized races on the salt flats, and S&S was on the salt for the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials (formerly the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials) to celebrate and to support the people who have put so much time, energy, and yes, money into bringing a bike to the track.
It should also be mentioned that S&S is supporting the construction and organization of the new Bonneville Speedway Museum, an effort lead by Wendover, Utah, Mayor Mike Crawford and local Bonneville enthusiast John House. S&S has designed and produced a commemorative 100th Anniversary T-shirt, which is currently for sale on the S&S website and from the folks in Wendover. The proceeds of the sales will be used to fund the construction of the museum.
We invite you to look at these videos and photos from the 2014 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. Maybe they will inspire you to make the scene at the salt-flats next August to experience it for yourself!
Want this poster? Free to anyone who stops by the S&S Display at any event. Visit https://www.facebook.com/SScycle/eventsfor our event schedule.
||Jay Allen Racing
||Warner - Riley - Witt
||Chris Rivas V-Twin
||The Chop Parlor
Story by Matt Polito
Eddie Krawiec took out the Suzuki of Jerry Savoie for the second race in a row as the Countdown to the Championship field was set at the NHRA Chevy Performance US Nationals in Indianapolis.
The US Nationals, held every year in Indy over Labor Day weekend, is the most prestigious event on the NHRA Mello Yello championship tour. It is also the last event racers have to place themselves in the Countdown playoff. This year was the 60th running of the event.
Krawiec and Savoie knocked each other out of the top spot as qualifying progressed. Krawiec led on Friday with a 6.930 elapsed time. Savoie led after Saturday’s runs with a 6.878 but Krawiec came back on Sunday and took the pole with a 6.829 at 196.56 mph.
S&S powered Buells were well-represented in the field, holding the next five positions led by Matt Smith at 6.888, Michael Ray with a 6.890 and Hector Arana Jr. at 6.906. In all, there were 10 S&S powered Buells in the qualified field of 16 bikes.
The race was run under the constant threat of rain and Monday’s eliminations were no exception. And while rain never became a factor, the race was held under grey skies and in humid air.
Hector Arana Jr. came out swinging, setting the low elapsed time of the first round with a 6.896 time slip. Krawiec set the pace with a 6.986 in round two which saw a couple of teams facing each other: Matt Smith took out wife Angie and Krawiec beat teammate Andrew Hines.
The semifinals perfectly represented the elite of the class: Krawiec from Harley-Davidson; Matt Smith from the MSR team on his Buell; Hector Arana Jr. representing his family’s team on his Buell and Savoie, currently the quickest Suzuki in the class.
Savoie advanced to his second straight final when Smith had shifting problems. Krawiec outran Arana Jr.
The final had even bigger implications for Savoie, as he needed to win the event to make it into the Countdown.
Having redlit to Krawiec in the Sonoma final, Savoie went easy on the tree and the result was a disastrous, .143 reaction time. Krawiec had a solid .026 light and took the win with a 6.941 to Savoie’s 6.987. Savoie missed the Countdown by 3 points.
The win was special for Krawiec. The three-time champ has won everything there is to win in the class but has never won Indy.
“It’s so awesome to get a win here at Indy,” said Krawiec, who now has 25 career wins “There’s so much tradition at this race, a win here is sort of on a different level. My professional goals have always been to get a win at my home track in Englishtown, to win the championship, and to get a win at Indy. Now I’ve done all three.”
The Countdown format takes the top 10 riders and tightens up the points between them to ensure anyone in the Countdown has a legitimate shot at earning the championship. The number 10 rider is reset to 2000 points, effectively eliminating any rider not in the top 10. Each place up from the tenth position is given an addition 10 points, half of the value of an elimination round win of 20 points. The top rider is given a 30-point advantage.
The field for the Countdown is as follows:
||Screamin' Eagle H-D®
||Screamin' Eagle H-D®
||Hector Arana Jr.
||Lucas Oil S&S Buell
||Lucas Oil S&S Buell
||Nitro Fish S&S Buell
||Nitro Fish S&S Buell
||Gottspeed/Star Racing S&S Buell
||Petrohead Apparel S&S Buell
||Kandy Magazine S&S Buell
||Hite Rodgers/Snap Fitness Suzuki
Most impressive on the list is that the Matt Smith Racing camp has all four of it’s S&S powered Buells in the top 10: Matt Smith, his wife Angie, John Hall and Scotty Pollacheck. Of note is that both Hall and Pollacheck announced sponsorship extensions throughout the season, Hall with Nitro Fish and Pollacheck with Petrohead Apparel. It can be said that MSR accounts for 40% of the Countdown field.
The Countdown to the Championship kicks off with the Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, NC, September 12-14 and continues for four consecutive weeks including stops in Dallas, St Louis and Maple Grove, PA.
The Summer Shootout Nationals in Beech Bend Raceway Park Bowling Green KY proved to be a scorcher! Once again, the threat of thunder storms was in the area all weekend but heat and humidity is what the racers had to deal with while leaving conditions less than desirable.
Despite the weather, some good times were still put in over the weekend. Tim Grindle ran 160.31 mph in testing Friday with his new 144 inch Pro Stock S&S engine from GMS Racing Engines but as the conditions grew worse, and clutch issues started, he was unable to back the numbers up. Gregg Dahl would put in some good numbers as well with a qualifying pass of 5.530 in the 8th, 8.580 in the quarter, but again heat and humidity kept him from backing up the numbers.
In eliminations Gregg Dahl managed to squeak by after standing his bike up on the rear wheel and throwing the chain at about the 330 and drifted through the finish line at 56.85 mph over Greg Baugh,s sputtering machine that got to the stripe running 81.77 mph, but Dahl's reaction time gave him the win.
On the other side of the ladder Charlie Douglass put Ken Miller on the trailer with a 8.787 to a slower 9.109 putting himself into the semi finals. Tim Grindle's .142 at 157.85 mph did not stand up to Nick Gonatas's .053 reaction time at 149.28 mph matching up two riders that have been running consistent numbers all weekend. As the tree dropped, Douglass's -.038 red advanced Gonatas into the finals setting the stage for a rematch or would it be a repeat of Rockingham?
The weekend would end just like Rockingham as Nick Gonatas of Youngstown Ohio would put his Warren Harley-Davidson V-Rod in the winner's circle with a whole shot win of 8.782 over Gregg Dahl's 8.813 GMS Racing Engine's FXR.
Story by: Michael Davis Moto Lenz Photos