SCREAMIN' EAGLE V-ROD TEAM OVERCAME CHALLENGES TO EARN THIRD CONSECUTIVE NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP MILWAUKEE (Nov. 20, 2006) -- Byron Hines is a legendary tuner and championship-winning team owner. He's been involved with motorcycle racing since he...
SCREAMIN' EAGLE V-ROD TEAM OVERCAME CHALLENGES TO EARN THIRD CONSECUTIVE NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP
MILWAUKEE (Nov. 20, 2006) -- Byron Hines is a legendary tuner and championship-winning team owner. He's been involved with motorcycle racing since he teamed up with Terry Vance to form a racing program following his tour of duty in Vietnam in the 1970s.
When asked what accomplishment he is most proud of this season -- just after his youngest son rode his Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod to his third consecutive NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship -- he didn't hesitate to put the spotlight elsewhere.
"From the guys who work on the bikes at the track to all of the people we have back at the shop, we have tremendous depth on this team," Hines said. "Having that depth, great technology and Harley-Davidson on our side makes you want to keep your head down and work. This team has so much experience now that when something does challenge us, we don't freak out. We keep our focus and just keep working until we find a solution."
Andrew Hines, 23, just wrapped up his third consecutive title following the NHRA POWERade season finale in Pomona, Calif., Nov. 12. The youngest of three Hines children, Andrew Hines was just following in his brother's footsteps. Matt Hines was the first rider in NHRA history to earn three consecutive titles (1997-'99).
Just talking about his sons makes the usually ultra-focused father crack a smile -- even if only for a few seconds.
"Never in a thousand years did I think this would happen," Byron Hines said. "But Matt is a big reason why Andrew is the champion again. He brings so much knowledge and experience to the team and that has helped in some key situations that come up every once in a while. He has helped Andrew become a better rider and he was a big motivation to me this year too. He was probably one of the biggest reasons why we spent so much time testing and working on the dyno.
"There were times when Andrew carried the team too. There were a couple of times when the bike was struggling and Andrew did a great job as a rider and helped us maintain our point position while we worked out the kinks in the setup. He's so young and he's still learning but I think this championship will temper him well. He's going to have a new perspective on how your psyche works under pressure and he's going to be a better rider for it."
Hines earned three wins in five final round appearances this season along with two No. 1 qualifying awards. Hines qualified in the top three of the 16-bike field at 11 of the 15 national events. He also recorded a career-best pass -- a 6.950-second run at the Reading, Pa., event.
"This team gets better every year," Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said. "They overcame some challenges that put the team uncharacteristically behind-the-ball to start the season and they didn't stop working until they had a winning combination on the V-Rods. This group works well under pressure and the way the team has managed to stay competitive for three seasons really speaks to the talent of the people working on this program."
Hines has eight career victories in 15 final rounds. He has earned the top qualifying position 19 times in his young career. He still has a way to go when it comes to catching up to his big brother in those stats. Matt Hines earned 30 wins in 47 final rounds along with 41 No. 1 qualifiers. Angelle Sampey is the only other rider in NHRA history to win three consecutive titles (2000-'02).
"Watching Matt race was a great way to spend my childhood," Hines said. "I was just some punk younger brother stressing everyone out in the pits at the race track. I never wrenched on his bike the way he does mine. But being able to follow in his footsteps means a lot to me. I have great people who have encouraged me throughout my young career and I'm really lucky that way. To be only the third rider in NHRA history to win three consecutive championships is just incredible."
Hines started the season in third place after a semifinal finish at the season opener in Gainesville, Fla. With runner-up finishes in Houston and Atlanta to aid him, Hines stayed in the top three throughout the first half of the season.
"There were some major rules changes over the offseason that gave the Suzuki teams a bit of an advantage and they came out and won the first four races of the season," Byron Hines said. "The Suzukis were dominating the competition and we all thought we were going to be in for a long, difficult season. Andrew rode so consistently that he kept us in second place. He kept us in the hunt while we found our feet again and got a competitive combination back.
"For a while there, it didn't look good for our team. Our team stumbled a bit at the beginning but we came back and that's pretty cool."
Andrew Hines took over the points lead for the first time this season at the summer event in Denver. Not only was it his first victory of 2006, but also his first win at his former home track. A Southern California native, Hines went to high school in Trinidad, Colo., when his family's Vance & Hines Motorsports shop was located there. The team moved to Indianapolis nearly two years ago, but Bandimere Speedway will always be a special place for Hines. His first event as a professional rider was in Denver in 2002.
"When Matt won his first event at Bandimere in 1996 I remember riding the bike from top end to winner's circle," Hines said. "We had about 30 or 40 people in winner's circle celebrating with us that weekend because all of our friends and co-workers from the Trinidad shop came out. It was just a great feeling for our entire team.
"This year it was just as special for the team. It put us in the points lead and it personally felt great for me to win at Bandimere. I have wanted to cross that off my list since I started racing."
Hines held the category points lead following six of 15 events this season -- including four of the final five events of the season -- losing it briefly following the Reading race. With just two races left in the season, Hines was 27 points behind Antron Brown and the U.S. Army Suzuki team.
A victory over teammate GT Tonglet in the final round of the next event helped Hines jump back into the lead.
"In 2004 and 2005 we had enough of a points lead that we were racing to protect the lead in the final two races of the season," Byron Hines said. "This year we were in attack mode because we had to get points back and I think that not only helped Andrew, but the entire team. We started to think aggressively about doing anything we could to take the win instead of being cautious and protecting the lead.
"I think being in the points lead can sometimes force you to over think your decisions and this year we took advantage of being in a different position going into the final two events of the season and it paid off."
Hines didn't relinquish the lead once he took it back after the win in Las Vegas -- something that made the older brother proud.
"I wasn't sure what to expect of Andrew when he decided to go racing in 2002," Matt Hines said. "When I learned that there were going to be two V-Rod bikes in 2003 and Andrew was going to ride the second one, I think I was a little surprised. What he has done in a short amount of time is amazing.
"He had all the tools to be a great rider and I think my dad and his knowledge of winning races and championships really helped him learn a lot in a short amount of time."
The younger brother couldn't agree more when it comes to admitting he was short on experience when he made his first pass on a Screamin' Eagle V-Rod in 2003.
"My team took a punk rider without any experience and they made me a three-time champion," Hines said. "I have no doubt that I have the best team in the business. I'm surrounded by people who have incredible knowledge and a willingness to teach."
Paluso said everyone had to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
"When we started this program our goal was to first qualify for a race, then win a race and then start aiming for a championship," Paluso said. "The plan was really to keep moving in that direction. The second championship was icing on the cake for the team but the third title is a real tribute to how they can continually improve and find ways to be competitive in a very tough Pro Stock Motorcycle field."
Hines said the sheer numbers of what the team has been able to accomplish still makes his shake his head in near disbelief.
"The program has come so far. The idea of a program was on a sheet of paper in 2001 and now we have three championships," Hines said. "The first and second championships were great but I think the third is just above and beyond incredible for everyone at Harley-Davidson, everyone at the shop and the team. My brother wanted to tune the bike that would tie his record of three consecutive titles and he did that.
"Dave Schultz is one of the greatest riders in the history of the sport and he won six titles in his career," Andrew Hines said. "But he didn't win three in a row. My brother did and now I have and it's all because of our dad. The man has done some amazing things in his career and has contributed amazing things to the sport of motorcycle racing. I'm so proud to be part of his team."