Andrew Hines and Bo Butner are in similar situations heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, as both have been the points leader in their respective classes for the entire NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season. With that in mind, it’s simply a matter of maintaining the status quo at this weekend’s 35th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway.
Hines has been dominant in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning seven of the 10 regular-season races in the class, while Butner has been the points leader in Pro Stock since the opener, racking up four wins thus far in 2019. Now both will look to keep that going through all six playoff races, where championships will be on the line. Hines, the winningest rider in the class, is after his sixth world title, but he won’t change his approach on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR, even as the stakes are raised starting in Reading.
“It’s business as usual,” Hines said. “It’s been such a good year and we just want to continue on, refine what we’ve learned and keep moving forward. I feel like you have to constantly improve in this class. You can’t be idle. (Defending world champ) Matt (Smith) is coming on strong and we saw Jerry (Savoie) come on strong in Indy. But right now, we’re focused on our three Harleys and getting them where we want. I’m excited for these last six races and what we can do.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including final eliminations on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. (ET). Both Torrence and Todd used that momentum last year to win their first world titles, a scenario Hines and Butner would like to repeat in the two Pro Stock classes.
Hines, who has 55 career wins, has eight final-round appearances in 2019, putting him on an ideal path heading into the playoffs. But the work isn’t done, especially as the talented rider will try to ward off challenges from teammates Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey, M. Smith, Indy winner Savoie, defending event winner Arana Jr., Ryan Oehler, Karen Stoffer, Angie Smith and Hector Arana Sr. Hines, though, isn’t thinking too far ahead, an approach that’s served him well this year.
“I’m just trying to be focused on the next run,” Hines said. “You can’t control 3-4 runs from now, you just have to stay focused on the next run. That’s where I’ve struggled in the past, but it’s worked out well. I’m just looking to win the next round. I’ve taken that aspect from Eddie, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off. It’s helped make me more consistent, so we’ll look to keep that going.”
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello 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. Maple Grove Raceway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello 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. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their victories.
As always, fans can 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 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 as a DJ plays hit music.
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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:45 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.
Television coverage includes Friday Nitro Live from 7-8:30 pm ET on FS1 on Friday, Sept. 13, as well as live coverage on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 2-5 p.m. ET on FS1.