Columbus: Hines hopes to regain winning form

HINES HOPES TO REGAIN WINNING FORM IN COLUMBUS HEBRON, Ohio - Matt Hines looks at the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings and is a little mystified. After all, he is in the No. 5 spot. That's not a position he is familiar with, nor happy to be ...

HINES HOPES TO REGAIN WINNING FORM IN COLUMBUS HEBRON, Ohio - Matt Hines looks at the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings and is a little mystified. After all, he is in the No. 5 spot. That's not a position he is familiar with, nor happy to be in.

Hines, after all, is a three-time Pro Stock champion (1997-'99) and has earned 28 victories in 42 final round appearances during his career. However, the once seemingly unbeatable rider has fell on hard times of late and is currently riding the longest winless streak of his career. The last time he visited winner's circle was in May 2001 at Englishtown, N.J. It's been more than a year since he has enjoyed a victory.

"The class is definitely getting tougher and it has been in the last few years," Hines, the rider of the Vance & Hines Eagle One Suzuki, said. "We have been building a lot of engines for our Vance & Hines customers and they have all been stepping up their programs and putting a lot of pressure on us and everyone else."

Hines has been in the winner's circle in Columbus before and hopes to end his current drought there with a victory at the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing at National Trail Raceway, June 13-16. Larry Dixon, John Force, Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners in their respective categories for the $1.9 million race, the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Hines has earned the No. 1 qualifying position at Columbus three times (1997-'99) and has two wins in three final rounds at the track. The last victory came in 1998.

"I haven't won there in a couple of years and it would be nice to get a victory while we are in Columbus," Hines said. "The conditions can be hot and the track can be a little bumpy at times, so you have to be on your best game while you are competing there. You have to be prepared to win there. If you are not riding your best, you won't be able to get down the track and put up some winning times.

"It's definitely one of the more challenging race tracks that we go to." With the new POWERade sponsorship and increased prize money, Hines said his job of winning races has become more difficult than it used to be.

"I think that when POWERade stepped in as the series sponsor and $50,000 was put up for grabs as the prize money for the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, everyone really started shooting for the top," Hines said. "There were a lot of people who put together solid programs in the offseason and we refined ours to try to put together the best package out there.

"When we got to Gainesville, we took the No. 1 qualifying position because we have a very fast bike. But there is a lot of good competition out there this year and we just need to keep working at it."

While the Pro Stock Motorcycle category seems to bring a number of challenges to any rider, Hines admits he is happy that he is not competing in the Pro Stock category - especially this season. The door slammers' have had nine different winners in the first nine events of the season. Points leader Jim Yates is at the top of the pack, but had yet to earn a victory.

"I think me and Jim Yates have similar programs right now," Hines said. "We are pretty fast during the week, but we just haven't made it happen on Sundays yet. I don't know why that is. But I do know that right now, everything has to go your way to win. Everything has to click. You have to be perfect to win.

"I definitely want to get back into winner's circle as soon as possible. I think we have the bike to do it with too. I just need to cut some good lights on race day and stay as focused as possible. You also have to have a little luck because the motorcycle class is so tough right now. I can't wait for it to all come together."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , John Force