By Matt Polito
The 2015 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle series kicked off in dramatic fashion at the Amalie Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL. The high anticipation of a new season was dashed as a string of bad luck besieged the top racers. In the end Karen Stoffer - who has not raced since Indy 2013 and had not considered running the Gators just weeks ago – outlasted the field for her first win since 2011.
Optimism is always high at the first race of the season. New teams, new bikes and new alliances brings new enthusiasm to the NHRA series.
Top of the list is two-time champ Matt Smith who inked a major deal with Victory® Motorcycle to field a pair of Victory-branded race bikes. It marks the first time a new OEM fielded a bike in NHRA competition since the introduction of the S&S-powered Buell® in 2003. Victory is going all-in, with a major display area in the pits and having Smith navigate the tricky NHRA process of approving a new competition body. The new race bike is based on the Victory Gunner and powered by the S&S Pro Stock motor. Smith will run two bikes this season with him and his wife Angie on board.
Smith did well by his new sponsor, qualifying number one in the fast Saturday qualifying session with a run of 6.867 seconds at 194.02 mph. Ironically, wife Angie would face him in the first round of eliminations, having made the field in the 16th spot at 6.992/189.20.
With the sun shining as eliminations opened, Smith was dealt a crushing blow. A shop rag was left inside the body and was sucked into the engine during the burnout. Smith was able to re-start the bike but with the bike smoking, NHRA officials shut him off. Wife Angie took a single but lost to eventual winner Stoffer in the next round. It was a heartbreaking turn of events for the MSR team.
Also debuting a new body at Gainesville was the Lucas Oil team of Hector Arana and his son, Hector Jr. The new bike is based on the Erik Buell Racing (EBR) 1190RX. The production EBR 1190RX is a v-twin sportbike, which makes it a perfect subject for a Pro Stock Motorcycle body to wrap around a current S&S-powered Pro Stock Chassis.
The Arana team struggled with the body in race conditions. Vertical gaps between the front wheel well and side panels cause air to get inside the body making the bike unstable at speed. Sr. swapped back to his old Buell body but Jr. did not have the option of a spare body. Jr. contacted NHRA tech officials and according to him they originally allowed the slits to be taped but then recanted when he ran a 6.88 in the final session. With the final run thrown out, Jr. was seeded to face his dad in the opening round. Citing safety concerns, he opted to sit out, leaving the exciting and good-looking EBR bodies on the sideline.
Angelle Sampey was back on the track in Gainesville after coming out of retirement last season only to injure her ankle in a non-racing pit accident two races later. She made noise on the unsponsored S&S-powered Star Racing Buell, leading qualifying on Friday with a 6.891. She improved on Saturday to a 6.872 but slipped to the second spot behind Matt Smith.
Angelle was the highest seeding rider in round two of eliminations but a throttle position sensor malfunctioned and she lost to the Suzuki® of LE Tonglet.
As eliminations progressed the Harley-Davidson® team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec looked destined to claim the winners circle but mechanical gremlins sidelined them as well. Hines had a transmission fail in the round two and Krawiec had an air shifter line come off in the final against Stoffer.
In the end Stoffer was able to outlast them all. The well-like veteran last raced at Indy in 2013 and wasn’t even considering racing Gainesville six weeks prior to the event. Husband Garry decided to dust off, update and repaint their Suzuki TL and enter the fray. She qualified 8th at 6.904 and was not without her own mechanical problems. She broke her transmission twice in qualifying and with only one motor, had to make the time-consuming repairs two days in a row.
It was Stoffer’s seventh win of her career and second win at Gainesville. It was only the third win for a Suzuki in the last four seasons.
The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycles are back at it at the 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, NC, March 27-29
Racing: it's where we prove our performance and it's a long tradition and passion of the S&S team! This is why we have decided to sponsor the Nitro Pro Dragster class in the PMRA! Here is what the PMRA had to say about it:
"Professional Motorcycle Racing Association (PMRA) is pleased to announce that S&S Cycle is the new Class Sponsor for the Nitro Pro Dragster class for 2015. Nitro Pro Dragster was a new class in 2014, competing at only 3 out of the 6 events. In 2015, with the help of S&S Cycle, Nitro Pro Dragster will now be featured at all 5 events! These nitro burning, v-twin powered machines are a feature class and the fans and racers line up to watch them blast down the quarter-mile.
S&S Cycle’s involvement demonstrates their continued support of motorcycle drag racing and allows the Nitro Pro Dragster class more opportunities for competition.
S&S Cycle Racing Manager, Justin Bramstedt said, “S&S Cycle has history of supporting and supplying products for v-twin drag racing since 1958. The Pro Dragster class demonstrates the tried and true S&S Super “D” Carburetor, a product which has been around since 1983 and has paved the way for many S&S performance products all the way to today’s complete S&S engines.”
Look for S&S Cycle information and apparel available at all PMRA events in the 2015 season and on the web at www.sscycle.com.
Entering its 22nd year as a racing association, the PMRA looks forward to strengthening its commitment to providing a highly-competitive, family-friendly, quarter-mile, all motorcycle racing venue for many years to come."
For more info: www.pmra.net
By S&S Racing Department Manager Justin Bramstedt
I recently attended the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School in Gainesville, FL. The class was taught by George Bryce from Star Racing. I was a 'classroom only' attendee and had no intention of riding the bikes. But even so, the experience was well beyond my expectations.
The first day started out with introductions. There were eight full program students and three of us who were 'classroom only'. The reasons for attendance ranged from bucket-list to full NHRA Pro-Stock motorcycle licensing. The age of students ranged from low 20’s to upper 70’s. Experience varied from street motorcycle rider to all-out proven champions who raced faster bikes in other classes. Several of the students were repeating the class.
Next we were taught about the steps that were to be required in order to make a pass down the drag strip. There were three main steps required in order to make a pass; burnout, dry-hop, staging. Each step had another series of 20-30 steps. It quickly became obvious that no one was going to remember all these steps until they had practiced them. Oh yeah, and you have to let go of the handle bar when you throw the clutch lever to launch the bike and steer with your feet! So out to the track we went. The first lessons were getting acquainted with the bike, a slightly detuned NHRA Pro Stock style chassis capable of the 7.800 second quarter mile run required for an NHRA license. The full program students rode it down the track while being pushed to get the feel for steering, and braking.
Then it got progressively harder starting with a 60’ pass and then a 330’ pass and so on until the full ¼ mile. The first launches are an eye opening experience. As a spectator, I understood how serious the situation was for the rider but it was hard not to laugh when these crazy individuals tried to pop the clutch at WOT for the first time. For me the terms bucking-bronco and flying tomahawk came to mind. The act of launching one of these pro-level machines is no joke! It became obvious that much more was required of the racer than a simple series of steps. We even joked that more skid marks were left in their shorts than on the drag strip that day.
The day was wrapped up with Frank Hawley in the classroom explaining some of the science and psychology behind learning to launch one of these machines by reprogramming your subconscious mind through repetition in the conscious mind. It was explained that consciously we can only do one thing at a time while subconsciously we can multi-task. The problem is the unconscious mind is a slow learner and it can only be programmed through practice.
Day two brought a rested group of students who had rehearsed their routine step-by-step such that it was committed to their subconscious. Frank walked us through some more drag racing science involving reaction-time, bio-mechanics, vision, clearing your mind and controlling your emotions. All of which was very enlightening and applicable to everyday life.
The students were then allowed to practice their new programs and it was amazing to see how much they progressed over the next few runs. All in all, the experience is much more than just making a ¼ mile pass, it was more about programming your brain to do something new because of the number of tasks that have to executed in such a short amount of time. It gave me a whole new perspective on what it takes to race one of these machines on a professional level. Thanks to Frank Hawley and Star Racing for an excellent experience.
S&S Cycle attended the 2014 JP Stroker S&S Cup finale at the Fukushima Sky Park, near Fukushima, Japan Oct 25th and 26th. S&S was represented by Manufacturing Services Manager, Bill Wise. Bill attended the final race and handed out prizes and trophies during the awards ceremony at the Sky Park after the race.
This is the fourth year for the JP Stroker S&S Cup Series and the program is gaining more momentum every year. There are five racing events at various locations throughout Japan, with the final race at Fukushima. The series is sponsored by S&S Cycle and JP Stroker, the only S&S distributor in Japan, and is held under the auspices of the V-twin Drag Association of Japan. Although there are many participants backed by Japanese speed shops, and private race teams, some of the fiercest competitors are employees of JP Stroker. These guys are really “into it” and are not afraid to invest the time and effort to build highly competitive race bikes. That’s why they are in the business!
There are a number of classes for modern and vintage bikes of different degrees of modification, so there is an opportunity for just about anybody to race, and to race against comparably equipped opponents. It also allows racers with different styles of bikes and budgets to compete.
The speeds for this event were somewhat lower than at some of the other S&S Cup events. The altitude was definitely a factor. The Sky Park is on top of a mountain, and thinner air makes less power. But another factor may be that at the end of the tarmac is a shear drop down the mountain side. That’s got to be on your mind as you speed headlong toward the end of the track!
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.