The two races of the western swing for the NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock Motorcycle class provided little help for the Sovereign-Star Racing teammates as they tried to gain ground in the points standings before heading into the last race of the regular season at the end of August.
Sovereign-Star Racing drivers Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck have been in the top 6 in overall season points for the past five races, after Ray took home the team’s first win at Englishtown, N.J. For the two races of the NHRA western swing, the teammates were expecting to ride their momentum after claiming two NHRA national event wins, three other final round appearances, two No. 1 qualifying positions, two low ETs for the event, and a new track speed record for the Sovereign-Star Racing team so far this season.
However, the Denver and Sonoma races of the western swing seemed to throw this experienced team off their game during the past two weeks on the road. With a full month ahead to prepare for the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., the last race of the regular season, the Sovereign-Star Racing team is confident that they will regain their previous performance success before heading into the NHRA Countdown to the Championship in September.
“After two rough races in a row, third and sixth (place in the points) is still amazing to me with one race to go before the Countdown (to the Championship). We have new parts on the way already that should be here in time for Indy. We’re going to focus on getting more power so that the engines are a little more forgiving in case the drivers aren’t perfect. That way, if they make a couple of mistakes, we will still have enough power to win a few rounds at Indy,” Star Racing owner George Bryce said.
At the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, Calif., this past weekend, Ray qualified at No. 3 with his 6.841-second ET, and Pollacheck made it into the show during the final qualifying session at the No. 15 spot. After struggling to post competitive numbers on Friday, Pollacheck’s crew swapped out his engine for the Saturday sessions, getting him into the show during the fourth round of qualifying after a throttle position sensor malfunctioned during the third session.
“What was difficult for us during that fourth session was that it was only the second run on that motor and it didn’t make it down the track the first run because of a sensor problem. So, we had very little tuning data to work with for that engine. We were hoping we had everything right to make it fast enough to get in the show for Sunday,” Pollacheck said.
During Sunday eliminations, Pollacheck posted his best ET of the weekend during round one against No. 2 qualifier Hector Arana Jr. However, Pollacheck’s 6.854/193 mph pass was just .0005-seconds shy of beating Arana Jr.’s 6.842/194 at the finish line. After this photo finish showing the bikes only two inches apart at the finish line, Arana advanced to eventually win the event.
“Scotty picked up nine hundredths from qualifying to first round, which we were hoping would surprise Hector Jr. If Scotty had had one of his normally good lights, he would have outrun Hector and everyone would have been shocked. He needed a .04 (second) light and he would have won by a bike length, but he just didn’t have it. Plus, that’s the best Hector Jr. went all day,” Bryce said.
“I think about the only good thing from that round was that the bike ran good again; it finally went fast at this race. I definitely have to thank (crew member) Chuck (Kennedy) for keeping after it to find what was wrong and make me feel confident that the bike was fast for Sunday. That was definitely a big relief to see that we at least got our motorcycle back, but it was definitely a heart breaker to lose that close with such a tiny margin like that,” Pollacheck said.
No. 3 qualifier Ray was up against No. 14 Katie Sullivan during round one eliminations. After posting competitive numbers all weekend, Ray’s clutch hand got the better of him as Sullivan took the win with a 6.871 ET over Ray’s 7.635 pass.
“I just didn’t get the clutch lever out; instead of firing it out of my hand, I kind of stepped it out and it bit me. Several things happened and, unfortunately, one of them was human error so we’re hoping to take that factor out of the equation in the future,” Ray said.
There is one more race left in the regular season before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship begins in September with the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.
In the Pro Stock Motorcycle overall points standings, No. 3 Ray has held steady within the top 4 in points for the past six races, claiming the No. 2 position for three straight races. No. 6 Pollacheck has remained within the top 6 competitors all year, also holding the No. 2 position for three straight races earlier in the season.
“You definitely want to give yourself the best position possible entering the Countdown. Unfortunately, at the past two races we haven’t been able to get those round wins because I haven’t done a great job driving. We’ve still shown that we can be competitive even though we’re a little snake bitten right now. But we’ll bounce right back. We’re in good shape and will just take it as it comes at Indy,” Ray said.
The Sovereign-Star Racing teammates will get another opportunity to improve their points standings at the U.S. Nationals before the 2013 NHRA Countdown to the Championship begins. The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Aug. 28 – Sept. 2.
The 2013 Sovereign-Star Racing Team is a partnership between Georgia-based Star Racing and the Hungarian-based Sovereign Racing Team, the 2011 UEM European Pro Stock Bike Championship Team, owned by sugar distributor Jenõ Rujp.
The Sovereign-Star Racing Team would like to thank the following sponsors: Sovereign, Star Racing, Americus Motorsports Complex, S&S Cycle, Daytona Sensors, Worldwide Bearings, CP Pistons, Cometic Gaskets, Quality Tire, and Uncle Hal Gottspeed Racing.
- Star Racing Online:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/StarRacingGA
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarRacingGA
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/StarRacing6X
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Star Racing Fast Facts:
· Based in Americus, Georgia
· Six-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Championships
· 80 NHRA national event wins with 10 different riders
· Owned by George & Jackie Bryce
Sovereign Racing Team Fast Facts:
· Based in Budapest, Hungary
· 2011 European Motorcycle Union (UEM) Championship Team with rider Jesper Thiel
· Owned by Jeno Rujp
Scotty Pollacheck Fast Facts:
· From: Medford, Oregon
· Job: Owns “Quality Tire” store
· Years in drag racing: 27
Michael Ray Fast Facts:
· From: New Braunfels, Texas
· Job: Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Salesman
· Years in drag racing: 11