Stoffer claims the first point lead of her career after an improbable win from the No. 16 spot.
March Madness is the season for upsets.
GEICO-sponsored Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Karen Stoffer caught a little of that aforementioned madness and engineered one of the greatest underdog wins the class has ever seen at the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals from Gainesville, Fla, March 16 -18.
Stoffer qualified in the No. 16 spot in what proved to be the quickest field in the history of the class with a respectable run of 7.03. The undesirable starting position meant, in the opening round of eliminations, Stoffer would have the daunting task of taking on No. 1 qualifier and three-time class champion Angelle Sampey, who posted a new record of 6.91 in qualifying.
“Angelle is one of the best and the way she was running we knew we needed a six second run to have a chance,” Stoffer said. “Gary (Stoffer, crew chief) racked his brain all night and figured out the right tune-up. We knew our Vance and Hines motor had the power to run the number, we just needed to find out how to put it to the track.”
On Sunday both Stoffer and her motorcycle performed magnificently. Stoffer cut a near-perfect .004 reaction time and ran a 6.98 to defeat Sampey’s .119 light and quicker 6.96.
Stoffer capitalized on the momentum and went on to outrun No. 9 qualifier Shawn Gann in round No. 2 with a 7.02 to Gann’s 7.04 and prevailed in the two subsequent rounds on holeshot victories, defeating No. 13 Steve Johnson in the semis with a .018/7.08 to Johnson’s .046/7.06 and No. 6 Matt Smith in the final with a .053/7.07 to Smith’s .100/7.06
“We did our usual David and Goliath win,” said Stoffer, who has won two events from the No. 15 spot. “We struggled in qualifying but we didn’t give up. This year will be as difficult as ever with all the new teams but it goes to show that if you can qualify, you have a chance to win.”
The event victory was the fourth of Stoffer’s career and gives the GEICO Suzuki its first ever lead in the POWERade Point Series. Stoffer became only the second Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in over 15 years to win from the No. 16 spot and the first to do so since Blaine Hale accomplished the rare feat in 2003.
“This is a very special victory for us,” Stoffer said. “This is Doug and Debbie’s (Johnson, team owners) home track. We were able to do it front of a lot of friends and sponsors. It was great to have Suzuki Extended Protection and Chris from Speed Dawg here. This is a great way to kick off the new Karen Stoffer clothing line Speed Dawg will be releasing soon.”