Andrew Hines put together one of the most impressive seasons in Pro Stock Motorcycle history last season, and certainly enjoyed the best year in his remarkable career. In a year where nearly everything went right, Hines won half the races in the class, rolling to his sixth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world title.
With the 2020 Pro Stock Motorcycle season set to open at this weekend’s 51st annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, Hines is solely focused on this year and not trying to top his banner campaign. The way Hines tells it, he’s not attempting to raise the bar, in part because what he did a year ago on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson would be nearly impossible to exceed. But racing for another championship certainly isn’t out of the question.
“There’s no way you can top last year,” Hines said. “It’s just not going to happen. Now, you just try to continue that success and put on a show for all the Harley fans. Being around this sport nearly my entire life, I’ve seen the trials and tribulations that can happen, and you can never expect to have a year like that. It was just a phenomenal year, but this is a new year and you just have to focus on that.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage on Sunday, March 15 at 9:30 p.m. (ET). It is the first of 16 races during the 2020 Pro Stock Motorcycle season and Hines feels confident coming off another productive off-season.
That comes on the heels of winning eight races and advancing to 10 final rounds, winning seven of the 10 races in the regular season. It was a completely dominant performance for Hines, who is the winningest rider in the class on the strength of 56 career victories. Reaching 100 career final rounds is well within reach for Hines, who has 96 finals appearances, and staying motivated has never been a problem, either.
“We’ve done a lot of work,” Hines said. “We built a new bike for (teammate) Angelle (Sampey), and we’ve got a new jet-fire orange color this year as a throwback to a 1970s orange that Harley-Davidson used to have, which is pretty cool. We also found some time to make some more horsepower, so we’re looking forward to Gainesville. It’s always nice to try to set the tone for the season there. I’ve had decent success and you want to do well, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.”
The new look will undoubtedly be an eye-catcher in Gainesville, where Hines will try to grab his second straight victory at the iconic facility and his third overall. Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, won the previous three years at the Gatornationals and has six career wins at the opener, while a talented field of 20-plus riders in Gainesville will also include the likes of Matt and Angie Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Jerry Savoie, Steve Johnson, Karen Stoffer, Ryan Oehler and Scotty Pollacheck. With talent at every turn, Hines knows there will be plenty of challenges in 2020.
“It’s nice to get going, get back on the bike and try to have a good season,” Hines said. “As far as the competition in the class, everyone has gotten better and it’s going to be one of the toughest years as far as the level of competition. Everyone’s bringing their ‘A’ game and if you have fields in the low 20s (as far as participants), that drives more passion to the sport, and it’s better for the sport and the class.”
Doug Kalitta has enjoyed early success in Top Fuel in 2020, winning in Pomona, but he’ll be challenged by the likes of back-to-back world champ Steve Torrence, who won in Phoenix, Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen.
Hight used his fourth win at the legendary facility as momentum for his third world title in Funny Car. He’ll face off in the loaded class against Pomona winner Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., who won in Phoenix, John Force, J.R. Todd and Ron Capps.
Butner claimed his first Gatornationals win in Pro Stock a year ago, but 2020 has belonged to rival team Elite Motorsports thus far. Jeg Coughlin Jr. won the opener, while reigning world champ Erica Enders grabbed the victory in Phoenix. The NHRA is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pro Stock in 2020. Class legends Larry Morgan and Tony Christian will be honored during the race.
The event is also the season-opening race for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. The race is presented by FuelTech, and the defending winner is Todd Tutterow, who knocked off reigning world champ Stevie “Fast” Jackson in the final round. The races also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, as well as the first race of the 2020 SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series season.
After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch “The Quartermaster” Mustang Jet Funny Car driven by David Douthit. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
For the first time, Tom Bailey and Rod Tschiggfrie will participate in an NHRA Street Car Showdown, making several passes throughout the weekend. Fans won’t want to miss the fastest street car versus the quickest street car showdown.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity 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.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA fans can take part in the NHRA 101 walking tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Gainesville Raceway will also host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. New for 2020, the winner’s circle will be moved to the track surface, allowing fans a more intimate and up-close experience to help celebrate the event winners.
While enjoying the Gatornationals, fans who renew their tickets on-site will receive a FREE NHRA Legend mini replica helmet, commemorating NHRA’s historic 70th anniversary in 2021.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 14 at 12:45 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.