Stoffer red-lights away winning combination against championship rival Hines
BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 21) -- Karen Stoffer and her crew chief/husband Gary had the GEICO Suzuki GSXR primed for a big upset Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway, but a rare red-light foul start by Stoffer ruined her chance to show-up three-time class champion Andrew Hines in the first round of the 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
"Ultimately, I let the team down once they gave me a good bike," Stoffer said. "All weekend, we haven't had the bike. We've been changing things around. It's my job to ride what they give me, and they gave me a good bike in Round 1.
"I think after dinner tonight when everybody has absorbed this, they'll all feel better. Right now, it just sucks. The whole goal was not to lose first round, and this is twice now. Bottom line, we shouldn't be losing first round ever. But we set ourselves up for it, qualifying No. 14. We had a challenge going in, we had a champion in Andrew, and I guess it kind of got to me that we had to win that race, thinking we were the underdog."
After a challenging two days of qualifying, Stoffer's two-wheeled rocket came to life Sunday, running by far it's best pass of the weekend in Round 1 by covering the quarter-mile in 6.906 seconds at 193.93 mph. The pass was more than enough to best Hines' 6.925 at 192.25 mph.
Unfortunately for everyone on the GEICO Pro Stock Motorcycle team, Stoffer had jumped the Christmas Tree by -.013 seconds, an immediate disqualification.
"It's not about points anymore," Stoffer said. "We're probably not going to be No. 1 (at the start of the Countdown), but we can't even think about that right now. The main focus has to be getting our engine program back.
"The good thing is we have a gameplan now. We know we have a good motor. We've got five (qualifying) hits in Indy, so we'll do a little testing there. But we'll stop the testing early enough to be able to get a tune-up underneath us so we can run the bike and win the race."
Next on the schedule is the 57th annual Mac Tool U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, which runs from Sept. 2-6 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.