Courtesy of Cycle News
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson’s Andrew Hines is the most successful rider in the history of the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class, so enduring a winless 2018 season did not sit well with him. Hines quickly did something about it with a convincing win at the Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Florida, March 15-17. The Gainesville event is not just the traditional season opener for NHRA’s two-wheel racers, but the 2019 edition was the 50th anniversary of the historic event, giving it an added significance that was not lost on Hines.
“You always want to win the first race of the year but this one was special,” Hines said. “I’ve been fortunate to win a few of these milestone races and this [trophy] is a nice addition to that collection. When you add that I haven’t won a race in more than a year that makes this win extra-special. It will help keep me motivated throughout the year.”
The combination of a new racing surface and cool spring weather helped produce quick elapsed times in Gainesville, but no one was quicker than Hines who qualified on the pole with a 6.720, breaking his own six-year old national record of 6.726-seconds, set under an old rules package that allowed four-valve engine technology. Hines maintained that lead all the way to the final round, where he defeated his Vance & Hines teammate, Eddie Krawiec. Hines was ahead by a fender at the finish line, winning with a 6.752 elapsed time to Krawiec’s 6.762. He also defeated Cory Reed, White Alligator Suzuki’s Jerry Savoie, and Lucas Oil EBR’s Hector Arana Jr. on his way to a 49th Pro Stock Motorcycle title.
“The motorcycle I had this weekend was phenomenal,” Hines said. “It was tracking straight down the track and it responded to all of the changes. That made it so much easier to focus on going out there and racing, cutting good lights and not really worrying about what could happen the very next run. This chassis was built in our shop in Indy by Mike Mullaney and he did an amazing job. It feels so much more smooth than the bike I rode last year. For the last couple of years, it seemed like Eddie was always quicker than me by a little bit and now I think we’ve closed that gap. ”
The only thing that Hines did not accomplish in Gainesville was to run his long-awaited first 200-mph speed. He came tantalizingly close in qualifying with a 199.94 mph run and topped 199 on three of his four runs on race day. There is one spot open in the Denso Spark Plugs 200-mph club that recognizes the first four riders to accomplished the feat.
“I tried almost everything I could, but it just wasn’t there for me this weekend,” Hines said. “I mean I had a tune-up that could have probably run 201 but we just couldn’t put it all together. That doesn’t sit too well with me but we can get it soon, hopefully next month in Charlotte.”
Prior to his loss in the final, Kraiwec had been the undisputed king of Gainesville with six wins at the season-opener including three-straight from 2016-‘18. Krawiec qualified number two behind Hines and rode to the final with wins against Scotty Pollacheck, Jimmy Underdahl, and Joey Gladstone. His Gainesville win streak ended at 15 rounds with his loss to Hines.
“Sometimes that happens,” Kraiwec said. “Andrew’s new bike is really quick and we just had a great race in the final round. I made some pretty good runs this weekend as well so we’ve got a lot to be happy about. I think Andrew and I are going to have a pretty good year.”
The Screamin’ Eagle Harley team added a third rider this season, when Angelle Sampey joined them. Once bitter rivals, Hines and Krawiec were happy to have the three-time world champion on board. Sampey was able to make a handful of test runs on the Harley Street Rod before coming to Gainesville and appeared solid in her debut with a 6.814 in qualifying that was good for the number six spot in the field. Sampey is currently signed for the first four events of the season with a possibility that she’ll get to run a full season given her early results.
While Hines left Gainesville with the elapsed time record, current NHRA Champ Matt Smith re-set his own speed record with a 201.76-mph run on his Denso EBR. Smith’s shot to win the race ended when his bike lost oil pressure prior to his quarterfinal race against Joey Gladstone.
The next NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle event will be the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 5-7. That event will feature the four-wide format that is unique to the tracks in Las Vegas and Charlotte.
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Photography by: Matt Polito