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HINES CONTINUES PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE DOMINANCE JOLIET, Ill. -- Four Pro Stock Motorcycle races into the 1998 season and Matt Hines' expectations have been realized. His opponents haven't been so lucky: their worst fears have come to...

HINES CONTINUES PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE DOMINANCE

JOLIET, Ill. -- Four Pro Stock Motorcycle races into the 1998 season and Matt Hines' expectations have been realized. His opponents haven't been so lucky: their worst fears have come to life as a product of his success.

Hines has been tough on his Eagle One Suzuki GSXR. He's 18-1, and still hungry for more.

Hines has earned NHRA national event victories at the Mac Tools Gatornationals, the FRAM Nationals and the Pennzoil Nationals at Dinwiddie, Va. He also scored a cool $10,000 by winning the Winston Invitational at Rockingham, N.C., NHRA's non-points All-Star race.

After being a little unsure at the start of the season of how he would follow his impressive performance of one year ago where he earned eight of 12 national event wins, Hines has quickly proved that he hasn't missed a step.

"I wasn't quite sure what to expect after the first race but now that we've got some seat time on the bike I'm feeling pretty confident," said the 26-year-old defending Winston champion. "Everything has just come together for us and we've been knocking out rounds left and right."

He'll try to knock out a few more winning rounds at the inaugural FRAM Route 66 Nationals, May 28-31 at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway. The $1.5 million race is the ninth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

In addition to his impressive winning spree, Hines has qualified No. 1 at each event this season, established national performance records for elapsed time (7.245 seconds) and speed (188.67 mph), and set low elapsed time and speed at each event. Needless to say, his confidence level is soaring.

"You just go out there in the first round and you're already thinking about the second round," Hines said. "When you get to the semi-finals, you're looking ahead to the final. Then you can't wait to get to the winner's circle. You have to have that kind of mentality if you're going to be successful. The more you win, the more confidence you gain. You just begin to feel unstoppable."

What strategy would he use if he had to race himself?

"If I felt like I didn't have the bike to win with, I'd try to put together a perfect run," Hines said. "I'd need to cut a good light and make the bike run as smooth as it could down the track. If you don't win, you don't win. At least you had a chance. If you gamble and come up with a red-light, you don't even give yourself a chance."

Hines says one of the crucial stops on the circuit this season will be at Route 66 Raceway. A brand new track means everyone is equal. There will be no run log for teams to turn to when they work to set up their bikes. Hines says you have to go into a race at a new track with an open mind.

"You really have to be ready for the conditions at the starting line and the top end of the track," Hines said. "There's probably not going to be a lot of rubber on the track surface so you need to focus on the setup to compensate for the traction."

If he wins, he'll feel even better about winning his second straight Winston championship.

"The one thing I've learned in the last couple of years is that anything can happen in drag racing," he said. "I could blow up all of my motors in qualifying and not even make the race. If it's going to happen I'll need to have some good luck, too."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines