Brainerd Pro Bike notebook

CHAMPION AUTO STORES NATIONALS PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE NOTEBOOK *The chase: Perhaps no one knows the challenges and frustration associated with chasing the big three of the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle category -- Dave Schultz, John ...

CHAMPION AUTO STORES NATIONALS PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE NOTEBOOK *The chase: Perhaps no one knows the challenges and frustration associated with chasing the big three of the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle category -- Dave Schultz, John Myers and Matt Hines -- better than John Smith. Smith has finished in the top five of the NHRA Winston point standings every year since 1992, but behind Schultz and Myers. Hines finished ahead of Smith last season en route to sharing the NHRA Winston Rookie of the Year Award. "It's frustrating, for sure," Smith said. "It's like somebody dangling a carrot in front of you, and right when you get near it, they pull it away. "We just have to keep working. The bike, the motor, the rider, you just keep tweaking until you find it." Smith has recorded three victories since 1993 and is the only rider besides six-time NHRA Winston champion Schultz and three-time NHRA Winston champion Myers to finish in the top five every year since 1992. *Watch out, Matt: The performance gap between NHRA Winston points leader Matt Hines and the rest of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field may be narrowing, if recent results are any indication. Hines has dominated the circuit since late April, winning four of the last five races. John Smith was the only other rider to win during that streak, capturing the Sears Craftsman Nationals near St. Louis in late June. Hines recorded low elapsed time and was No. 1 qualifier at four consecutive races from late April until late June on the Vance & Hines Suzuki. But the rest of the field, especially Dave Schultz, made strides toward Hines at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in mid-July at Denver. Schultz was No. 1 qualifier and recorded the low elapsed time of the event with the new engine configuration in his Sunoco Suzuki. Hines won the event when Schultz fouled in the final, leaving the starting line too early. "I think he better not relax," Smith said of Hines. "Dave is the defending Winston champion, and the lead is not going to be an easy thing for Matt to hang on to. If they falter, Dave can catch up in a hurry." Hines, a second-year rider, leads second-place John Myers by 152 points and Schultz by 210. *Sweet home Minnesota: While John Smith tries to treat the Champion Auto Stores Nationals like any other event, he knows that a victory at Brainerd International Raceway would be special. "It would be neat to win at my home track," said Smith, from Champlin, Minn. But the quest for that elusive first victory at Brainerd comes with extra pressure. Plenty of family and friends visiting Smith's pit area consume quite a bit of his time. "It gets a little more hectic, but when it comes time to race, you're not thinking about your neighbor in the stands," Smith said. "It's great that there is so much support from your family. There is a bit more pressure, but not when you're racing." Smith has handled the pressure well at this event, winning at least one round every year since 1992. Smith's best finish at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals came in 1995, when he was runner-up to three-time NHRA Winston champion John Myers. *Two-wheeled hotbed: Minnesota may be known as the land of lakes and cold winters, but it's also a hotbed of elite NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors and teams. Three prominent competitors hail from the Minneapolis area: John Smith, his brother C.J. Smith and Greg Underdahl. Rick Ward, 1995 U.S. Nationals champion, quit racing after last season to concentrate on his business, Ward Performance, one of the top builders of Pro Stock Motorcycle engines. John Smith's crew chief, Dave Harlander, and team owner, John Noard, are acknowledged as among the best in the business. Noard and Harlander also are based in the Minneapolis area. "It certainly helps with Rick building motors in your back yard," Smith said. "I think having a guy like John Noard around is pretty instrumental, too. But other than that, it's probably just coincidence." *Speedy Reaves: Stephanie Reaves became the first woman in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle history to record the top speed at a national event with her speed of 174.89 mph on the Air Born Coatings Suzuki at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals last month at Denver. Reaves has climbed to ninth in the NHRA Winston point standings in her second year as an NHRA pro. Fellow second-year pro Angelle Seeling is fifth, the first time in NHRA history that two women have resided in the top 10 of the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle standings. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 and continues at 6 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Aug. 16. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Aug. 17. Federal- Mogul competition starts at noon Aug. 14. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Champion Auto Stores Nationals. Call Brainerd International Raceway at (612) 475-1500. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Champion Auto Stores Nationals at 4 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 17. ESPN also will show two hours of live, Friday-evening qualifying at 6:30 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 15. -30-

7/29/97-BM5-117

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Stephanie Reaves , Greg Underdahl