After winning the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in late March, reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Andrew Hines seemed to have picked right up where he left off a year ago.
His season, though, has seen a sudden change and not in the way Hines wanted. He is nowhere near panicking, but Hines is on the verge of making major changes to his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson heading to this weekend’s Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by General Tire at Route 66 Raceway.
“I’m confident with what we’ve done but I can’t say what’s going to happen until we get to the track,” Hines said. “But it’s definitely outside the box.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will again be televised nationally on ESPN2, including live coverage of final eliminations.
Racing on the second weekend of a back-to-back stretch, Hines won’t have a chance to test the changes until he arrives at Route 66 Raceway. But heading into the sixth of 16 races in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle season, Hines felt the changes were necessary.
In the past three events, Hines has a first-round loss and a second-round defeat last weekend in Norwalk, dropping him to third in points. It’s hardly gloom and doom for the four-time world champion but it’s alarming enough that Hines doesn’t want it to become a habit heading into a key point of the season.
“This season has definitely been subpar,” Hines said. “We got the Four-Wide win and got that win early and that had everyone pumped up. But we’ve been struggling since then. I wish I could put my finger on it but it’s been tough. We’re trying all kinds of different stuff but haven’t been able to solve it yet.
“Hopefully once we get it figured out we’ll be able to turn some heads. We’ve done some good stuff at the shop and I feel more comfortable going to Chicago this week. We’ve made some drastic changes on the dyno.”
But with the season becoming far busier, a chance to fully test the changes won’t come until after Chicago, meaning the first qualifying session at Route 66 Raceway will also serve as the first test session.
That will make qualifying extremely important for Hines this weekend, especially going against a talented field led by points leader and teammate Eddie Krawiec. Hector Arana Jr. won a season ago in Chicago and remains in the top five, while Karen Stoffer jumped all the way to second by winning in Norwalk, her second victory of 2015.
Others to watch include Hector Arana Sr., who has one victory this season, Jerry Savoie, Jim Underdahl, Angelle Sampey, Matt Smith and his wife Angie Smith. But Hines’ chief concern is getting better performance out of a motorcycle he knows can do better than it has over the past three races.
“We’re not getting worse, but we’re not getting any better right now,” Hines said. “The class has definitely stepped up. The Aranas have been fast and they still are, but we should be capable of going fast as well. It’s been frustrating not seeing the win lights but I know everyone at the shop is working hard to get this figured out as soon as possible.”
The timing of the issues couldn’t have been much worse but Hines and his team are no strangers to hard work. They put in ample time in making thorough changes before the 2014 season and it paid off with a fourth championship, which gives Hines confidence these current changes will also pay off.
With two wins at Route 66 Raceway, Hines has a chance to become the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider at the facility as well.
“I’ve always enjoyed going there,” Hines said. “Route 66 is one of my favorites and one of the original stadiums of drag racing. All-around, it’s a good event and I definitely enjoy racing there.”
In Top Fuel, points leader Brown, who advanced to the final round in Norwalk, is eager for a repeat win in Chicago. Defending world champion Tony Schumacher leads active Top Fuel drivers with four career victories at this event, including in 2013, while other stars include Larry Dixon, who has three wins at the track, 2014 runner-up Doug Kalitta, who won last weekend in Norwalk, Richie Crampton, Brittany Force, Spencer Massey, Leah Pritchett, Steve Torrence, Clay Millican and J.R. Todd.
Hagan, the defending Funny Car world champ and current points leader, is after his third consecutive win at the Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals and fourth overall. Ron Capps is currently second in points, while Del Worsham, a three-time Chicago winner, is among a group of talented standouts that also features Tommy Johnson Jr., Tony Pedregon, a four-time event winner, Alexis DeJoria, John Force, a 16-time champ and three-time event winner, Courtney Force, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon, three-time season winner Jack Beckman, and Tim Wilkerson.
In Pro Stock, Nobile raced to his sole victory of the 2014 season at Chicago. The Summit Racing Equipment team of Greg Anderson, who won last weekend in Norwalk to take over the points lead, and Jason Line have both been strong all year, while reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has four victories in 2015. Other Pro Stock drivers expected to compete for the win include Allen Johnson, Phoenix winner Rodger Brogdon, V. Gaines, Shane Gray, Chris McGaha, Larry Morgan and two-time runner-up Drew Skillman.
The race also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, including the exciting JEGS All-Stars event on Saturday where the best NHRA sportsman racers from each of NHRA’s seven divisions battle for bonus money and bragging rights.
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, July 10, with sessions at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 11, at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 12.
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LUCAS OIL ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS presented by General Tire FACT SHEET
WHAT: 18th annual Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by General Tire, the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. 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: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of the I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 632 feet above sea level; Track direction is west to east.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, July 9-12
THURSDAY, July 9 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.
FRIDAY, July 10 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 11 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m.
JEGS ALL-STARS ELIMINATION ROUNDS at 12:45, 3, and 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 12 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 11, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 12, ESPN2 will televise three hours of live eliminations coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Saturday, July 11, 11 – 11:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2/Transponder 18C
Sunday, July 12, 6:30 – 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2/ Transponder 18C
(4020 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2014 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Vincent Nobile, Pro Stock, Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Jeg Coughlin, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Whit Bazemore, 3, FC; John Force, 3, FC; Matt Hagan, 3, FC; Del Worsham, 3, FC; Kurt Johnson, 3, PS; Jason Line, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.737 sec. by Morgan Lucas, June ’13; 328.22 mph by Doug Kalitta, June ’13.
Funny Car – 3.988 sec. by Ron Capps, June ’13; 322.50 mph by Courtney Force, June ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.542 sec. and 210.64 mph by Mike Edwards, June ’13.
PS Motorcycle – 6.858 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, June ’14; 195.68 mph by Michael Phillips, June ’10.
Top Fuel – 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.51 mph by Larry Dixon, June ’15, Norwalk, Ohio.
Funny Car – 3.965 sec. by John Force, Feb. ’14, Pomona, Calif.; 325.06 mph by Courtney Force, May ’15, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., April ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (888) 629-RACE (7223) or purchase online at www.route66raceway.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 925; 2. Tony Schumacher, 905; 3. Doug Kalitta, 791; 4. Richie Crampton, 764; 5. Larry Dixon, 754; 6. Spencer Massey, 730; 7. Shawn Langdon, 674; 8. Brittany Force, 641; 9. J.R. Todd, 597; 10. Clay Millican, 583.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 932; 2. Ron Capps, 812; 3. Jack Beckman, 782; 4. Del Worsham, 781; 5. John Force, 748; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 680; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 657; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 642; 9. Robert Hight, 633; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 626.
Pro Stock: 1. Greg Anderson, 1,065; 2. Erica Enders, 1,005; 3. Jason Line, 900; 4. Chris McGaha, 831; 5. Drew Skillman, 666; 6. Larry Morgan, 629; 7. Allen Johnson, 622; 8. Shane Gray, 615; 9. Vincent Nobile, 597; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 580.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 375; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 322; 3. Andrew Hines, 320; 4. Hector Arana, 291; 5. Karen Stoffer, 270; 6. Jim Underdahl, 258; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 239; 8. Jerry Savoie, 236; 9. LE Tonglet, 230; 10. Angelle Sampey, 224.