NHRA Full Throttle Atlanta, May, 2012
story by Tim Hailey, photos courtesy of NHRA
After showing their hand at the Gainesville NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle opener, the Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines team was force-fed a 20 pound sandwich. And you know what? They look good curvy. All that displacement without those unsightly pushrods is a good starting point for the biggest, most focussed team in the sport, and they are 3-for-3 in 2012.
The ET spoiler for the Buells always has been and still is Hector Arana Sr’s Larry Morgan head combo, and he took pole at Atlanta Dragway’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals by 1/1000th of a second over Harley rider Eddie Krawiec’s 6.895.
Defending national champion Krawiec had a walk on Sunday, as first two opponents Michael Phillips and Karen Stoffer redlit. Eddie faced the sudden revival of Shawn Gann in the semi, but Gann’s 7.05 was not gonna do it. That left Michael Ray to stop Krawiec in Ray’s first final.
Now Ray’s having a helluva season for a rental program. His Matt Smith-tuned Uncle Hal’s Buell is hanging in there, and Michael’s kick-ass riding is going rounds. But again, a 7.0 wasn’t gonna do the job, and the stealthy black with orange trim V-Rod waltzed to the Wally.
It was Eddie’s second win of the year and put him back atop the points lead. “Right now we are getting awesome consistency in the first 60 feet from the V-Rods,” said Krawiec. “From qualifying through four rounds today, my bike was running 1.07 and 1.08 except for a 1.09 late today when the track started to get really sticky. That consistent start is so important for us and is one reason why we keep winning rounds. I tried my best to have good race day lights and not leave to much room for anyone to beat me. Nothing really other then keeping after it.”
Eddie gave a special shout-out to Yellow Bullet forum buddies in his post race TV interview. With his eye in a squint, it was hard to tell if Eddie was sincere or baiting the forum crowd. “A lot people from the board came by all weekend telling me how much support I have from them and to kick butt. I meet a bunch of cool people and talked face to face with them.” There it is, sincerity.
Next up for the bikes is Krawiec’s home track, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Englishtown is not just close to home for Krawiec, it was his day job before he was hired by V&H. “All I can say is I really look forward to Englishtown,” finished Eddie. “It should be fun.”
Arana Sr. #1 for Atlanta eliminations
story by Tim Hailey, photos courtesy of the NHRA
Miami born Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Sr. likes the heat, running a session-best 6.919 at 193.68 mph—nearly three hundredths better than the field in Saturday’s final qualifying session for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. The elder of the racing Aranas was already sitting atop the qualifying order. “I really have to give credit to the NHRA and the Safety Safari, they have done an excellent job with this track,” said Hector.
“We have been able to stay consistent, but we still have to learn to tune this bike. It is getting warmer now. So far we are headed on the right trend and we are going to take this data, because it is going to be useful in all the upcoming races. I think this is the beginning of the summer and the heat we are going to be seeing.”
Temperatures topped 90 degrees Saturday, and track temps were over 130, leaving no chance for the rest of the field to knock off Hector’s best pass of 6.894 at 193.82 mph on Friday. “I think she is tapped out,” Arana Sr. said. “I think it is as much as I can get. I am giving it all. We have two bikes, so we are trying different combinations to see what we can learn from it. I need to look at Hector (Arana Jr.’s) data, because he made some drastic changes and we need to learn from it.”
Hector Jr sits third behind Eddie Krawiec
The Lucas Oil Buells were built to be identical, with Arana Sr.’s bike unveiled in the middle of the 2011 season after Arana Jr. got a new Buell to start last season. “When we first got these bikes, our goal was to have them both be the same as possible,” Arana Sr. said. “But for some reason they aren’t identical. I don’t know if it is his style of riding or what is going on, but his is always different than mine. But it is still powerful to run two bikes, because you still learn something every time.”
The pole was the second in a row for Arana Sr., who also was No. 1 in Houston last week. He’s looking for his first victory of the season and first since 2009. “This place over here is special to me,” Arana Sr. said. “They welcomed us to the Coca-Cola banquet this week, and you go over there, you are surrounded by champions, and it is a great feeling. I look around and I want to do this again, but I am grateful that Coca-Cola recognizes us and for what they have done for us and the NHRA.”
Joey Gladstine’s excellent MIRock performance hasn’t followed him to Commerce, where he struggled to get in
Arana Sr. squares off against MIR Pro Street winner Joey Gladstone in the first round of eliminations. Gladstone’s struggled this weekend on one of Matt Smith’s Buells but got into the field Saturday with a run of 7.153 at 184.88 mph.
Like everyone else, GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer was unable to improve her time during Saturday’s final day of qualifying.In the end, Stoffer made runs a tick over seven seconds in both rounds of qualifying, but neither was enough to move her up and out of the No. 7 position, which she secured with a Friday night run of 6.996 at 191.02 mph. “It wasn’t a great qualifying day, but it wasn’t bad either,” said the stoic Stoffer. “We tried something pretty radical on that last hit. But 6.99 twice, back-to-back, we had to try to squeeze more out because when you got those V-motors running low .90s and .80s, we knew we had to do something. We tried a couple of radical things knowing it was probably going to be hotter without too much changing on the top half of the ladder.”
Karen Stoffer leads the inline 4 squad
It was hotter Saturday, as the track reached close to 138 degrees in the final session of the day, something Stoffer knows is going to be the norm going forward. “The way the weather has been, especially last year in the winter, we know this is going to be a tough summer,” Stoffer said. “This is just a precursor of what we are up against so, we are going to try some crazy things to figure it out. But we know at the end of the day, the GEICO Suzuki is going to put down the best pass and hopefully we are going to be the No. 1 Suzuki and that will help us go rounds on Sunday.”
Stoffer is on the top half of the ladder for Sunday’s final eliminations, and was once again the top Suzuki in all four rounds of qualifying. She sits one spot ahead of Suzuki rider LE Tonglet, whose best pass on Saturday was a 7.051 at 188.02 mph, and four ahead of Steve Johnson’s Suzuki. “We are No. 7, but I think we are still No. 1 for the Suzuki program,” Stoffer said. “I know LE (Tonglet) ran a better pass in that last session, but again we were trying some different stuff to squeeze a little bit more out of our’s. All in all we like our bike. Vance & Hines is doing everything they possibly can with what they have. There is no room left on R&D, but they keep scraping and finding us a little more power and a little more power.”
Stoffer will match up against Sovereign/Star’s John Hall, whose top qualifying run of the weekend was a 7.012 at 192.44 mph, in the first round on Sunday.
Arana Sr. tops Day 1 in Atlanta
“The first thing I am going to do is take the V-Rod guys for margaritas tonight,” Hector Arana Sr. quipped after taking provisional No. 1 qualifier after two rounds of Pro Stock Motorcycle for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. “Open bar for them. Maybe we can stay on the pole.” Knowing Harley-Davidson riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines have won the first two races of 2012, Arana Sr. is all about helping the boys celebrate deep into the night.
Gunning for his second consecutive pole after qualifying #1 in last weekend in Houston, Arana Sr. ran a 6.894 at 193.83 mph in Friday’s second session to move around Krawiec.
“I thought this run would look pretty good,” Arana Sr. said. “(Then) when I looked at my numbers at 60 foot, the 330 and all the way to the eighth it was awesome. I don’t know how much improvement I really have until I go and look at the other data.”
Arana Sr. will work on consistency in Saturday’s qualifying sessions, hoping to prepare for Sunday’s eliminations. “First of all, being No. 1 tonight is going to give you an easier time,” Arana Sr. said. “You are going to feel less pressure going into tomorrow. Now I can take my time and play it safe for tomorrow. We are going to pay more attention to the weather, so we can stay consistent on what we are doing and keep repeating the same ET.”
Twenty pounds looks pretty good on Krawiec, who sits second only .001 behind Arana but might have a hard time making a move as Saturday turns a bit hotter. Hector Jr. sits third with a 6.95 well behind Krawiec. “I don’t know what is going on in there,” Hector Sr. said about Jr.’s tune-up. “We are going to figure it out and he is going to climb the ladder.”
Michael Ray and Uncle Hal continue to kick ass against the big money guys, sitting fourth while Hines is fifth on the other Harley. Jerry Savoie is 12th, still stuck in 7.0 land while last week’s MIRock hero Joey Gladstone would love to be able to say that. He’s 22nd and last with a 7.42.
Expect lots of changes in Saturday’s sessions, which are under threat of thunderstorms.