Hines gunning for sixth Pro Stock Motorcycle title

In the world of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competition, Pro Stock Motorcycle probably gets the least amount of press, recognition and definitely less money.

Hines gunning for sixth Pro Stock Motorcycle title
Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines
Pro Stock Bike winner Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines, Drew Skillman, Del Worsham, Brittany Force
Andrew Hines
Pro Stock Bike winner Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines
Pro Stock Bike winner Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines
2015 Pro Stock Bike champion Andrew Hines

It’s also the youngest of the professional categories and, while Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock each race 24 times during a season the runs from February through much of November, Pro Stock Motorcycle (PSM) has 16 races, starting at the third contest of the year, the Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. in March of each year.

That doesn’t mean PSM is any less competitive than its three brethren, nor does it mean there’s less combativeness between competitors, all thinking the other guy gets a better break. No, PSM is a tense and terse battleground - and for the Countdown to the Championship, it races at the same six venues allocated to the other pro classes.

The players in Pro Stock Motorcycle

There are four primary motorcycle manufacturers vested in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class: the long-lived Suzuki’s TL1000 and GSXR; Erik Buell’s XB12R, Victory’s Gunner and the Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Only two of these manufacturer’s motorcycles are available to anyone that want to buy and race; only Matt and Angie Smith race the Victory motorcycle and the Vance & Hines duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are the sole riders able to climb on a Screamin’ Eagle H-D V-Rod.

That presents a bit of acrimony within the class. Star Motorcycle’s George Bryce has been emphatic about wanting to race a V-Rod and wanting NHRA to open the series in order to allow him and riders Angelle Sampey and Cory Reed that ability to race against Hines and Krawiec in similar equipment. Currently campaigning Buell motorcycles, Bryce has been talking about NHRA’s exclusivity all summer, to little avail.

Still, his rider Sampey, a three-time champion in PSM, earned the top spot in qualifying for the just-completed Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the 62nd version held at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis. Sampey set track records of 6.812 seconds at 197.02mph, giving her both halves of the record. Sampey only lasted through the second round when she left before the Christmas Tree finished its trip to green lights, fouling out by .015 seconds to teammate Reed, who left .013 after the green, an excellent reaction time.

Reed would fall in the semi-finals to Hector Arana Jr - for the same reason as Sampey one lap before - but his early departure was a heart-breaking .001 seconds too soon. That early departure gave the win to Arana Jr., who met five-time champion Andrew Hines in the final round, where he, too, red-lit the light, fouling an 'enormous' .033 seconds too early, thereby giving an automatic win light to Hines.

A year to remember

A five-time winner thus far in the PSM season, Hines customarily tests parts for his team to use in the six-race Countdown, usually handing a few wins to Krawiec in the process. The fact that he’s won so often this year shows just how hard his team works to stay ahead of the Buells, Suzukis and Victory bikes. “This year everything has worked in our favor,” Hines admits. “Years past I’ve been up and down on performance but this year it’s been a lot better.

“We’ve been making smarter changes, figuring out what our motorcycles need in different types of weather.” In 2015 it took a lot longer for Hines to get his rhythm right as the class, along with all others switched to mandated Sunoco fuel. “This year we’ve had a lot more notes to fall back on from last season; everything has been good,” he said. An early-season victory in the difficult Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway was an anomaly, but Hines also copped back-to-back wins at Joliet and Denver, the latter always a difficult race due to the altitude.

A fourth win at Brainerd two weeks before Indy and then the Big Go victory brought Hines to the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, where he’s hoping to begin another master class on earning titles, the pending championship being his sixth. The champ’s confidence level is high, thanks to his momentum and the consistent results he’s getting from his Harley-Davidson V-Rod. “The last two years, notably 2014, I was less confident because I’d been racing for 10 years - or eight years since I won my last championship. I’d gone in the Countdown battle with a couple of people years prior and made major mistakes along the way,” Hines admits.

“It was always in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to go back and make those mistakes, but luckily, I’ve been able to learn from those mistakes. My riding has been fairly decent; my performance level has been higher this year. I haven’t had any red lights the last couple of years and I’m knocking on my desk right now because it’s made out of wood,” Hines laughed. He’s been working hard on not making mistakes, which can often lead to a conservative pass. Hines has focused on staging and “keeping it as shallow as I can to get the most ET (elapsed time) as possible. My lights have excelled because of that,” as he’s remained focused on failing to red-light.

Another important part of preparation has been Hines’ focus on physical conditioning in the past couple of years, which has helped him on the motorcycle. “I feel good about this year. I’m getting back into better physical condition than I have been in years past. Been doing a lot more running, keeping my stamina up, which helps on Sundays when you’re going rounds.”

A family tradition

This season marks Hines’ 15th in the sport that has been marked by brother Matt’s three championships and by father Bryon Hines and Terry Vance’s technical advances to the sport of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle. “I was 19 years old when I started, was happy to go out there and race every weekend, have fun, ride a motorcycle that goes 200 mph in under seven seconds. I would look at some of the stats those guys (like Dave Schultz, whom he’s chasing for his sixth title) and think ‘Wow, that’s a lot of wins.

“I’ve had an awesome team the entire time that’s given me the capability to go out there and perform and have a flawless motorcycle every time. There’s probably a handful of times in my 15 years where I haven’t either made it all the way to the finish line or maybe less than three or four times I’ve had to push the motorcycle off the starting line. We’re talking about a couple thousand runs in that time-frame. To have a team that’s that resilient, to always give their best effort, make sure everything is flawless, that’s how you get to achievements like this. You’ve got to have a great team behind you.”

Yes, the Vance & Hines team is impeccable in their preparation, thanks to the leadership conveyed by Matt and Andrew Hines, the second generation, but Hines also has one of the toughest competitors as his teammate, Eddie Krawiec. “It’s probably made it harder on the rest of the class because we try to push each other so much harder - we each want to have the faster bike in the pit area. We work on that every single day here at the shop to make sure our motorcycles are going to be as prepared, as identical as possible,” leaving it up to the riders to get the job done.

“We push each other every single day to be better. We keep each other in check on Sundays and through qualifying, making sure we’re making the right calls, analyzing and preparing for each weekend. A lot of our race wins,” Hines states, “happen because of the preparation that happens here at the shop. We may get to the track and look like we’re not working hard. That’s because everything happened here at Vance and Hines.”

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