hree-time NHRA champion Angelle Sampey led final qualifying at the season-opening Gatornationals with a record pass of 6.911, surpassing her previous record of 6.939. But it was No. 16 qualifier Karen Stoffer, who held the bump spot at 7.03, who captured the Cinderella victory.
With the S&S Buells getting quicker each year and off-season rule changes allowing the Suzuki’s more displacement than ever, it was pretty obvious 2007 would see some record performances in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class. But did anybody expect the onslaught of record annihilation at the very first race, the Gatornationals, from Gainesville, Fla. March 16-18?
By the conclusion of final qualifying on Saturday, a day providing ideal atmospheric conditions with a corrected altitude of less than 50-feet, US Army-backed Suzuki rider Angelle Sampey recorded a new class record with a jaw-dropping blast of 6.91 at 191 mph.
“Now, that’s a nice way to kick things off,” said the three-time NHRA POWERade world champion. “Of course, we’re not going to settle for that performance. We want to gain additional momentum for race day. It’s all about the trophies.”
Geico-sponsored Karen Stoffer, who held the sports quickest ever bump spot at 7.03, pulled off the upset of the day when she defeated Sampey in the opening round on a holeshot with a near perfect .004 light and a 6.98 to Sampey’s .119 and 6.96.
Stoffer then outran Shawn Gann in round No. 2 and ousted Steve Johnson and Matt Smith on holeshots in the subsequent rounds to gain the first POWERade Points lead of her career. She 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. For Stoffer it marked the fourth win of her career.
“This is so awesome I just can’t believe it happened,” Stoffer said. “We like a challenge but we sure don’t plan to barely qualify before we try to win a race. It all worked out and I’m thrilled. I absolutely love this track and to win in the home state of our team owners Doug and Debbie Johnson is special.
“We’re in our final year with the current Geico Motorcycle contract and to start off with a win and get them in the points lead is huge. Me and the Gecko are going out drinking tonight – POWERade, of course.”
On Saturday Craig Treble, Antron Brown, and Chip Ellis all ran under the previous class record of 6.939, set by Sampey last season in Reading, Pa. and a staggering total of 11 riders reached the six-second zone.
Also Treble, Chris Rivas, Ed Krawiec, Paul Gast, and Geno Scali all recorded their first ever official NHRA six-second runs. GT Tonglet became the first rider to ever run 7.04 and not make the field. Just to put the category’s progress in perspective, less than five years ago Sampey help the class record at 7.04 – a run that wouldn’t make the field today.