COUNTDOWN TO CHAMPIONSHIP HAS TWO STOPS BEFORE 2007 NHRA POWERADE CHAMPIONS ARE CROWNED Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson Rider Andrew Hines Leads Category MILWAUKEE (Oct. 24, 2007) -- Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Motorsports rider Andrew Hines...
COUNTDOWN TO CHAMPIONSHIP HAS TWO STOPS BEFORE 2007 NHRA POWERADE CHAMPIONS ARE CROWNED
Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson Rider Andrew Hines Leads Category
MILWAUKEE (Oct. 24, 2007) -- Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Motorsports rider Andrew Hines is taking the new NHRA points format all in stride. The three-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion doesn't exactly know what to expect in the last two events of the season, but he is comforted by one fact: none of his competitors do either.
Starting this year, NHRA has developed a playoff format for all professional categories. The top eight competitors in each professional category advanced to the second round starting with the Aug. 29 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. Both Screamin' Eagle factory riders Hines and Eddie Krawiec were in that group of eight.
The eight were cut to four following the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex on Sept. 23.
Hines made the cut. Krawiec didn't. Hines only celebrated for a short time, realizing the championship would now come down to just eight possible rounds of competition -- four in Las Vegas and four in Pomona, Calif.
The first of the final two events starts Friday in Las Vegas. The seventh annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals takes place at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Auto Club Finals in Pomona will be held Nov. 1-4.
Hines is tied with two other racers, older brother and crew chief Matt Hines and Angelle Sampey, as the only riders in NHRA history to win three consecutive titles. If Hines can win the championship this year, he will be the first rider in NHRA history to win four consecutive crowns.
He may also have a leg up on the competition headed to this weekend's race. Not only is Hines the defending series champion, but he won the national event in Las Vegas last year too, beating GT Tonglet in the final round. It was his first Las Vegas victory. Hines also has one No. 1 qualifying position there from 2004.
"It's great to be part of the first Countdown," Hines said. "Leading the points going into the final two events of the season helps too. That's what we were aiming for. The only downside to the Countdown that I can see so far is the added pressure it's put on all of the teams involved. Everyone has just two races to earn the championship and that's a lot of pressure for anyone, no matter what you've done in the past. Our team has been working to find new ways of managing the Countdown, deal with the pressure and prepare for the races."
While Krawiec is disappointed that he didn't make the final four, he will still be anxiously watching as a fan -- and trying to win a trophy while everyone else is watching the four Countdown racers.
"I hate that there was a second cut and I'm disappointed we don't have both Screamin' Eagle bikes in the top four," Krawiec said. "But the season isn't over. It's possible for me to move up as high as fifth place and if I can finish with a fifth place in the final standings I will consider that to be a major accomplishment in my first full season of NHRA racing.
"Some racers who didn't qualify for the top four might want to go into test mode and start using the last two races as a way to prepare for the 2008 season. Not me. I want to win. I want to win a race before the season is over so badly and I know it's going to be tough, but I am going to do whatever I can to make it happen. I don't have anything to lose at this point and I have a lot to gain. It should be a fun couple of races."
Hines knows that if anyone can win a championship, it's the guy riding a bike prepared by the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Motorsports crew.
"Last year we had a 26-point deficit going into Las Vegas and we won the championship," Hines said. "This year we have a 10-point lead and the experience it is going to take to be competitive with all the pressure.
"We're a championship caliber team and that has shown more this year than any other because we struggled so much at the start but were still able to fight our way back. The team has so much experience and they make it easier to get out there and ride the motorcycle. Hopefully the year ends the same way it did last year and we find a way to win another championship."
Hines should be comforted to know that the fans -- Krawiec included -- will be watching every second.
"I think it's pretty exciting," Krawiec said. "Going into the last two races of the season there isn't any team that has a clear advantage. They are going to crown a champion in all four categories at Pomona and it could very well come down to the final round in each category. That's exciting and I can't wait to see what happens."