It took all of one race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship for reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Andrew Hines to take the points lead, something he has not relinquished through the first half of the NHRA’s six-race playoffs.
But just as quickly as Hines grabbed that lead, jumping from third to first with a win at the Countdown opener in Charlotte, the four-time world champion knows it can disappear just as quickly in a class loaded with talent.
That means there will be no let-up from Hines at this weekend’s 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, where the longtime Pro Stock Motorcycle standout hopes to take another step towards his fifth series crown – and win his second straight race in Dallas – on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“It can go away just as fast as it happens,” said Hines, who currently holds an 89-point lead over teammate and second-place Eddie Krawiec. “You’re getting 20 points per round, so if you go out in the second round it just opens the door for someone. We’re trying to be consistent on Sunday and we’ve really worked on that throughout the year. Now we’re running consistent from lap-to-lap. We’ve been putting in a lot of time figuring things out.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) joined Hines as winners of the tradition-rich event located just south of metro Dallas one year ago. It marks the fourth of six playoffs races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, kicking off what surely will be a memorable second half of the NHRA’s playoffs. The race will be televised by ESPN2.
Hines has already put together a strong start to open the Countdown, winning two of the first three events, including the most recent at super-fast Maple Grove Raceway. It has put him in control of his own destiny and to take ownership of a possible fifth world championship ring, but Hines wants to ensure that things continue to move forward.
The two Countdown wins pushed his season total to three, but Hines is just as focused on correcting the things that led to a second-round loss in St. Louis at the second playoff loss.
“We had a little stumble in St. Louis and I could have done a better job of reacting on the starting line, and I’m really working to get those reaction times down,” said Hines, who has 41 career victories. “But I feel like things have gone pretty well. We’re making good power and good mile per hour, and we’ve made up a pretty good margin in three races. We were running OK before the Countdown and we’re running well now. Everything has lined up really well. We have a good motorcycle right now.”
The consistency has improved significantly during the postseason after a regular season where Hines and his team, led by crew chief Matt Hines, were not afraid to push the envelope and try new things.
There were up and down moments, but now that the team is in the middle of the Countdown playoffs they are utilizing what worked during all of the vast experimentation.
“We looked at what was working and pieced it all together, and it’s been running strong since,” Hines said. “We just have to keep it rolling. It’s tough to bring that performance week in and week out but we’ll go out and try to do the best we can. We’ll be prepared for Sunday and hopefully we can continue this string.”
Looking to stop that momentum will be a host of challengers, including Krawiec, who was the points leader heading into the Countdown on the strength of three wins. Other Pro Stock Motorcycle stars include Hector Arana Jr., who won in St. Louis and is 101 points behind Hines, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, two-time world champ Matt Smith, 2009 champ Hector Arana, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Jim Underdahl, Chip Ellis and Scotty Pollacheck.
But with a week off before heading to the Texas Motorplex, Hines and his team will certainly be ready. The goal will be to pick up his second career win in Dallas, extend the points lead and continue to perform well in pressure situations.
“The goal for Dallas is to get a cowboy hat,” said Hines, referencing the ultra-popular Texas Motorplex winner’s circle tradition. “I would like to get another one. I ran well there last year and I know the bikes like the track. It’s just a matter of bringing the right tune-up. I just enjoy racing in general and it’s nice hitting a different part of the country this weekend. We’re going to go to the track and just let the chips fall where they may.”
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown remained perfect in the Countdown, winning his third straight race and opening up a 94-point lead over reigning world champion Tony Schumacher. Other Top Fuel stars in the Countdown are three-time world champion Larry Dixon, Brittany Force, who moved to third, Doug Kalitta, Richie Crampton, who has four wins in 2015, J.R. Todd, Dave Connolly, 2013 world champion Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence.
In Funny Car, Del Worsham, who won the first two races of the Countdown, saw his lead shrink to just 16 points over Jack Beckman, who won his seventh race of the year at Maple Grove, also setting a world E.T. record. Other Countdown stars include reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan, who trails Worsham by 90 points, Tommy Johnson Jr., who is 98 points outside of first, Ron Capps, John Force, Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
Erica Enders will look to get a step closer to a second straight world title in Dallas in Pro Stock, but will have to deal with the likes of four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who sits 72 points back in second, Allen Johnson, rookie Drew Skillman, who picked up his first career Pro Stock win in St. Louis, Larry Morgan, Chris McGaha, who won the most recent race to move into third and 104 points behind Enders, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will be racing hard in their quest to become winners of the thrilling event during the weekend.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 16, with sessions at 2:45 and 5:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 17, at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18.
AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fourth of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Texas Motorplex, Ennis, Texas. The track is located at 7500 W. Highway 287.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 500 feet above sea level; Track direction is southwest to northeast.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 15-18
THURSDAY, Oct. 15 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 16 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 18 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 18, ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 18, ESPN2 will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET)
2014 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Dave Connolly, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 7; Tony Schumacher, TF, 6; Warren Johnson, PS, 5; Cruz Pedregon, FC, 4; Greg Anderson, PS, 4.
Top Fuel – 3.761 sec. by J.R. Todd, Sept. ’14; 326.71 mph by Doug Kalitta, Sept. ’14
Funny Car – 4.039 sec. and 314.90 mph by Courtney Force, Sept. ’14
Pro Stock – 6.550 sec. and 211.99 mph by Allen Johnson, Sept. ’12
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.828 sec. by Hector Arana Jr., Sept. ’11; 197.22 mph by Michael Phillips, Sept. ’11
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.897 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ‘15, Reading, Pa.; 330.47 mph by Matt Hagan, Sept. ‘15, Madison, Ill.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the third of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, and the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 2,432; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2,338; 3. Brittany Force, 2,238; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,234; 5. Richie Crampton, 2,187; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,181; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,177; 8. Doug Kalitta, 2,173; 9. Steve Torrence, 2,160; 10. Dave Connolly, 2,158.
Funny Car: 1. Del Worsham, 2,361; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,345; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,271; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,263; 5. Ron Capps, 2,256; 6. John Force, 2,211; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 2,169; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,162; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 2,154; 10. Robert Hight, 2,140.
Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders, 2,385; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,313; 3. Chris McGaha, 2,281; 4. Larry Morgan, 2,240; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,227; 6. Drew Skillman, 2,212; 7. Vincent Nobile, 2,187; 8. Jason Line, 2,179; 9. Shane Gray, 2,149; 10. Jonathan Gray, 2,119.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,378; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,289; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2,277; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,259; 5. Matt Smith, 2,244; 6. Chip Ellis, 2,223; 7. Karen Stoffer, 2,199; 8. Hector Arana, 2,167; 9. Jim Underdahl, 2,126; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,076.