GAINESVILLE, Fla. — official series release — NHRA photo —
Andrew Hines will start the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle season firmly focused on going after his third straight world championship.
But another major accomplishment and one of the great, noteworthy NHRA milestones remains in the form of the first 200-mph pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle. That mark appears within reach in 2016, and Hines predicts fans won’t have to wait long to see it.
That adds another exciting layer to this weekend’s 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, where Hines will also be trying to win for the second time on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“I think we’ll see that sitting on a scoreboard somewhere early this year,” Hines said in reference to the 200-mph speed. “It could be one session where you might see two, three, maybe even four motorcycles run over that 200-mph mark, and it might just stack up on who goes out first in that qualifying session. It could be as exciting as that. Or heck, you might see maybe the last two bikes of a certain session put it up side by side. That would be pretty spectacular.
“We are all looking for it. I know a lot of us motorcycle guys have been trying to get it the last couple of years. It’s just a matter of all the stars aligning correctly and finding that couple of horsepower that we all need to push us to that next threshold.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last season’s winners of the event, which will be televised this year on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET). It is the first of 16 races for Pro Stock Motorcycles during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, and the Gatornationals always provides a meaningful backdrop for the talented riders in the two-wheel class to begin their season.
Hines has been incredible over the past two seasons, pushing his world championships total to five in his career, but he has lauded the competition level in the class, and it again will be at a high level in 2016.
Two-time world champion Matt Smith transitioned to a Victory motorcycle a year ago, making strong progress even while having to make a number of adjustments. With a year of experience under his belt on his Victory Gunner, Smith, who finished fourth a year ago, has high expectations.
“We’re excited,” Smith said. “We worked really hard this winter trying to find some power. We worked with Elite Motorsports, and they helped us out a lot. We made some big gains over the winter, so I think it’s really going to show when we get to Gainesville.”
The two-bike Lucas Oil team of Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. also has big hopes for 2016 after bringing on William Cavallo as the team’s new crew chief.
Arana Sr. posted a win in St. Louis and finished eighth in points, and Arana Jr. picked up two victories and a fifth-place finish during a solid 2015 campaign, but with the addition of Cavallo, Arana Jr. figures the team will be more well-rounded. Arana Jr. is also one of the favorites to reach the 200-mph mark after setting the national record a year ago with a speed of 199.88 mph in Charlotte.
“I have a lot of big expectations for this year,” Arana Jr. said. “We’ve got a lot of great things going on. We know we have really good horsepower, but we were struggling leaving the starting line. Sometimes we’d get it, but for whatever reason in these last two years, we’ve struggled with that. We figured it would be a good move to hire a guy like William.”
Gaining every advantage possible is a necessity in a class that is loaded with talent. Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, earned his last championship in 2013 and won the season finale in Pomona last year to finish second in the standings.
Other standouts include Jerry Savoie, who won three races and finished third; Karen Stoffer, who posted two wins in the first five races last year; Chip Ellis; and three-time world champion Angelle Sampey. But even with the recent success, Hines and his team have worked hard to constantly improve, and he hopes that will again result in a strong season.
“I’m feeling pretty confident about what we have done here with our Harley in the off-season,” said Hines, who earned four of his 42 career wins a year ago. “We’re going to go test, and hopefully we’re going to reap our benefits for all the hard work we’ve put in over the off-season. When we get out there, I guess the time ticket is going to tell the truth, but we’ll see what happens.
“We’ve got a lot of great bikes in the class. The racing this year is going to be fantastic, and just like you saw at the end of last year, it’s going to be a crapshoot who is going to win on any given Sunday. We just have to focus on qualifying in the top half this year; that’s going to be key.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications