Q&A with Andrew Hines, Screamin' Eagle Racing He is the son of Byron Hines. He is the brother of Matt Hines. At just 23 years of age, he's already his own story. Andrew Hines is the current and defending two-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro...
Q&A with Andrew Hines, Screamin' Eagle Racing
He is the son of Byron Hines. He is the brother of Matt Hines. At just 23 years of age, he's already his own story. Andrew Hines is the current and defending two-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. He's searching for his first victory of the season but sits in second place, waiting to strike at any moment. The rider of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod is mature beyond his years. He's the first to tell you, however, that you can learn a lot from observation. The success stories written by his father and brother span multiple decades, so there was plenty to see growing up in Southern California before the team and family moved to Trinidad, Colo. Andrew Hines -- graduate of Trinidad High School -- will compete this weekend at his former home track as the 27th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals kicks off at Bandimere Speedway on Friday. Hines has five career victories in 12 final round appearances, including two this season. But none of the victories have come at the track where he learned to ride. Not yet anyway. Hines also has 18 No. 1 qualifying positions, two of which have come in Colorado. In this Q&A session Hines talks about what he wants most out of the weekend, what the pressure is like being a two-time champion trying to defend his title and why he would have made a great marketing executive had this professional motorcycle career not worked out.
Q: What makes you tick as a person?
HINES: The competition and daily struggles in trying to do everything to the best of my ability. I want more success in racing and I want a long, happy career.
Q: What makes you tick as a rider?
HINES: The adrenaline rush created by the V-Rod. When you feel the bike going top speed and see a win light come on, that's pretty much the best feeling ever.
Q: Why did you choose a career in racing?
HINES: It was in the family. I grew up around it and I watched my dad and brother and enjoyed what they were doing when they were racing and even when they were back at the shop, working on the bikes. I fell into it, but love it now that I am doing it. There really isn't anything I would rather do than drag race, whether it's my personal car at home in Indianapolis or bikes at the track. I'm very happy racing.
Q: Who encouraged you to start a racing career?
HINES: My dad. He gave me the opportunity; he gave me the money to buy a chassis but told me that if I wanted to race, I had to build it. He opened the door and I kicked it open. It took me about eight months to build the bike, with Matt and Dad's help. They basically helped me figure out what I had to do and in what order. But when I was finished, that's the bike I took to the track. That's the first bike I rode and from the very beginning, I had to rely on my mechanical ability first before I could get to the race track.
Q: Did you have role models growing up?
HINES: My brother. Watching the success he had and the way he handled things when I was growing up really made an impression. He set a good example and laid some good groundwork for me to follow.
Q: What did your brother do better than you when he was still racing? What do you do better than him?
HINES: We never got to race in the same era so that is really hard to say. He raced during a time when there were just a few bikes that were extremely competitive. I think now there are more than a dozen that are competitive and capable of winning every weekend. I learned all my riding techniques from him. I'm still not as advanced as a tuner as he is, but I'm working on that. I can give pretty good input on what the bike is doing during a run but he has really excelled in area of tuning the bikes.
Q: What is the best thing about growing up in Trinidad?
HINES: Being able to take off on a motorcycle whenever I wanted, being able to go out and ride trails and mess around in the dirt. We could take off and go four-wheeling after school and just have fun for a few hours. It was great being able to go out in the middle of nowhere and ride around, I never had that freedom in Southern California and don't have that here in Indianapolis. I have not been on a dirt bike since I left Colorado. But I really like Indianapolis. It has a more laid back feeling than California, but it has more to offer than Colorado. I'm lucky I've been able to live in three great, diverse places.
Q: How important is the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson sponsorship deal to the Vance & Hines Motorsports program?
HINES: It's huge because they treat us so well and we just want to give them race wins and championships in return. They deserve that. They are the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the United States and the oldest in drag racing and for them to back us shows they want to help support our team and NHRA. They are helping to grow the sport and they are a great organization to work for. I think both parties feel lucky we have such a good working relationship. It's very flattering to know Harley-Davidson wants to work with you.
Q: What does the Screamin' Eagle team do better than any other team out there?
HINES: We overcome adversity well. We know that when there is a challenge in front of us, we know how to work through it. My dad is probably the best when it comes to knowing what has to happen to get the team back on top. Whenever something happens that affects the bike badly, we can work through it.
Last year we were more consistent from run to run, but this year the competition is a little tougher. We have to gain some more power and regain our consistency from run-to-run.
Q: What would you be doing for a living if you weren't a professional racer?
HINES: Probably something toward the marketing aspect of a company. I think if I wasn't so involved with Vance & Hines Motorsports, I would have pursued a career in marketing or advertising. I feel like I have somewhat of a creative mind and I try to apply myself to that type of work whenever possible.
Q: What are your career goals and how can you ensure they will be accomplished?
HINES: I don't know if I have one set goal for my career because right now I just try to go out and win every weekend. If I can do that, the great career statistics will follow. I would like to be in this sport as long as I can while maintaining a competitive edge and having fun. I live race to race and hope for the best for a long time.
Q: What do you do well as a rider?
HINES: I can hit my shift points. In this sport if you want to go fast, you have to be consistent shifting from gear to gear. I've learned what it feels like it is not running right. I can listen to the bike and take it down the track a little further. I think I've done well learning on- track awareness too and can make adjustments quickly.
Q: What is your weakness as a rider?
HINES: My mental focus is something I work on every day, I still concentrate too much on what's going on in the other lane before I pop the clutch. Once I have popped the clutch, everything is great. But I'm still trying to focus only on what it is going to take to win that round and nothing else.
Q: Why is it so tough to win NHRA races right now?
HINES: The level of competition is really high. Everyone out there has a shot at winning the race, whether they qualify first or 16th. People have won from the bottom half of the field and that didn't happen a few years ago. Just because you qualify in the top half of the field doesn't guarantee you a first round win. The Pro Stock Motorcycle class has become so tight from the No. 1 through No. 16 bikes. You can't count anyone out right now.
Q: Did you dream about winning a championship in just your second season with Harley-Davidson? Why was the team able to accomplish that goal so quickly?
HINES: Before I went out and raced seven events (rookie season of 2002) on a Suzuki, I couldn't understand why I wasn't winning rounds. I was running the same stuff my brother did but I didn't have the experience that everyone else had. That offseason I was offered the Screamin' Eagle HD ride and I had no idea what I was jumping into. The bike had not qualified and that was the No. 1 goal and if we qualified, everyone was going to be happy. Luckily that happened, but at the time I thought a championship was entirely out of the question for a while and I never even thought about it. Not until a few races into the 2004 season did it sink in that I could actually have a shot. I won the first race, then won another and it became a real possibility.
The best thing and the thing I will never forget is the meeting my dad had with the team at the end of the 2003 season. He told us we needed to win a championship for Harley-Davidson. I thought he was crazy at the time. Then we went to work and did all the right things to make it happen.
Q: If you could win any race, your dream race, what race would it be and who would you face in the final?
HINES: That's easy, it would be the World Finals in Pomona (Calif.). It's in Southern California where I was born and we have a lot of family still out there. Most of my family is out there actually. Every year they go to the races and I always think of Matt's first win in Denver when we had about 30 or 40 people in winner's circle because all of our friends and family had come to the race. I have not had that hometown win yet. It would also be great to win the final event of the season and be able to have that win motivate you all winter long.
Q: What is it like trying to defend your titles and battle for a third championship?
HINES: I feel like there isn't as much pressure on me as last season. Defending the first championship was pretty stressful. Last year we won the championship with an ultra competitive group of riders on a level playing field. There doesn't seem to be as much pressure this season from the outside, but that doesn't mean we aren't trying just as hard or want it any less. I really want this team to earn a third championship and that's something I could not even dreamed about a few years ago. As long as we compete as well as we can and as long as we put up a fight for the title, I will be happy.
Q: What are the advantages of having a two-bike team with GT Tonglet as your teammate?
HINES: We get double the data and at the same time, could have double the possibility for more round wins. Coolest part is that you can sweep the No. 1 and 2 qualifying positions every now and then. It's great to see two Harleys running up front.
GT is my best friend and that just makes this more fun. We're also close in weight and build and that keeps the data close and we can test each other's equipment. GT knows how to get the bike down the track every time. He's got a good head on his shoulders.