It has been a far different start to the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season than it was a year ago for Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer.
The class veteran put together two early-season wins in 2015, including a victory at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s 10th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
This season has been a different story, as Stoffer has just two round wins through the first four Pro Stock Motorcycle races. But after making a number of changes to her Stoffer Enterprises Suzuki and returning to the site of her second victory from 2015, Stoffer hopes it all adds up to building momentum for the most important time of the season, the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
“I’m hoping we’ve gotten through all of the issues and we come into Norwalk and show we have a bike on an upward trend the rest of the year,” said Stoffer, who is currently eighth in PSM points. “It’s really tight and all of these positions (in the points standings) can swap out. It’s a challenging season, but we’re trying to change things up and we really want to start peaking at the right time. You always have to try different things and we’re working on it real hard.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) joined Stoffer in the Winner’s Circle at the track that sits just west of Cleveland. For the first time, the race will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. It is the fifth of 16 races for the Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors and Stoffer hopes it marks the turning point in her season.
Winning in Norwalk a year ago gave Stoffer her eighth career win, knocking off three-time world champion Angelle Sampey in what was just the third all-female final round in NHRA history at the time. Stoffer and Sampey, who won in Englishtown this season to claim her first victory since 2007, met for the first time in a Pro Stock Motorcycle final round in 2002, and Stoffer was thrilled to do it again, this time at a track and event that creates an exciting race atmosphere.
“We had both struggled in qualifying, but we were both able to pull it together and meet in the final,” Stoffer said. “(Norwalk) gives us a great venue and to be able to put on a great show is what we strive for. It’s a phenomenal track and the Bader family puts on a fantastic show.”
Stoffer left Norwalk with her second win and was second in points a year ago, but struggled down the stretch, advancing past the second round just once and finishing seventh overall in points. The multitude of changes her team, led by crew chief and husband Gary Stoffer, have made are centered on improving that and Karen Stoffer said it boils down to one key aspect.
“We have to improve our 60-foot times,” Stoffer said. “We usually run pretty good on the top end, but we have to improve off the starting line. We have to get that first part better.”
That has led to significant trial and error on Stoffer’s Suzuki. The team struggled out of the gates, failing to qualify at the opener in Gainesville, but Stoffer showed a glimpse of what could be coming in Atlanta, advancing to the semifinals. A first-round loss at the most recent event in Englishtown was frustrating considering the progress they had made, but Stoffer has stayed positive thanks to the work the team has put in.
“We’ve been spending a lot of times focusing on the little things,” Stoffer said. “We’ve been trying some out of the box things to improve our 60-foot times and we have to keep continuing to try to make improvements and get better. We’re coming into the real hot part of the year and it’s not a very comfortable place usually for Suzukis, so it’s going to be an even greater challenge.”
But Stoffer is up for it, even if it means competing against a deep and talented field in Norwalk. Three-time world champion and 2011 Norwalk winner Eddie Krawiec currently has a grip on the class points lead with two wins and three finals appearances. Others in the two-wheeled category hoping to race to the winner’s circle include reigning world champion Andrew Hines, who has four Norwalk wins, Sampey, Hector Arana, two-time champ and two-time event winner Matt Smith, Jerry Savoie, veteran rider Steve Johnson, Chip Ellis, Scotty Pollacheck and Hector Arana Jr.
“We’ve got a new gameplan for Norwalk and it will be a good test for us,” said Stoffer, who with a victory this weekend would become the sixth different female driver to win a race this season, an NHRA record.
“It’s a fine line you have to walk at this point in the season,” she continued. “You can’t be complacent or you’ll fall behind in this class, and you have to try new things. But you also can’t make too many mistakes because the Countdown is coming up. You have to put together a good strategy.”
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 how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:45 p.m. on Friday, June 24 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 25, at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 26.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park at (419) 668-5555. Tickets also are available online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 10th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 12th 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 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, Norwalk, Ohio. The track is located at 1300 State Route 18, half way between Cleveland and Toledo; just an hour and a half north of Columbus. The Ohio Turnpike is less than 10 minutes away.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 853 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, June 23-26
Thursday, June 23- LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, June 24- LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4:15 and 7 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7:45p.m.
SATURDAY, June 15- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 16 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, June 24, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, June 25, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 26, FS1 will televise two-and-a-half hours of live finals coverage at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 26, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at midnight (ET) / 9 p.m. (PT).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, Karen Stoffer, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Andrew Hines, 4, PSM; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jack Beckman, 2, FC; Larry Dixon, 2, TF; Mike Neff, 2, FC; Vincent Nobile, 2, PS; Matt Smith, 2, PSM.
Top Fuel – 3.731 sec. by Doug Kalitta, July ’15; 332.51 mph by Larry Dixon, July ’15.
Funny Car – 4.000 sec. and 322.96 mph by Matt Hagan, July ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.523 sec. and 212.63 mph by Erica Enders, July ’14.
PS Motorcycle – 6.844 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, July ’14; 196.93 mph by Hector Arana, July ’14.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, 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., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (419) 668-5555 or purchase online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 926; 2. Antron Brown, 873; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, 754; 5. Tony Schumacher, 675; 6. Shawn Langdon, 595; 7. J.R. Todd, 562; 8. Clay Millican, 540; 9. Richie Crampton, 535; 10. Leah Pritchett, 412.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 841; 2. Jack Beckman, 786; 3. Courtney Force, 741; 4. Matt Hagan, 710; 5. Del Worsham, 701; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 691; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 675; 8. Robert Hight, 643; 9. John Force, 615; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 588.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 1,263; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,170; 3. Bo Butner, 758; 4. Allen Johnson, 668; 5. Drew Skillman, 625; 6. Vincent Nobile, 535; 7. Chris McGaha, 524; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 496; 9. Shane Gray, 458; 10. Alex Laughlin, 445.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 436; 2. Jerry Savoie, 310; 3. Angelle Sampey, 297; 4. Andrew Hines, 290; 5. Chip Ellis, 269; 6. Hector Arana, 239; 7. LE Tonglet, 196; 8. Karen Stoffer, 150; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 149; 10. Steve Johnson, 147.