LATE SEASON CHARGE VAULTS HINES INTO PRO STOCK BIKE POINTS LEAD MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Following two seasons of Pro Stock Motorcycle domination, Matt Hines found himself in an unfamiliar position early on in the 1999 campaign: fourth place.
LATE SEASON CHARGE VAULTS HINES INTO PRO STOCK BIKE POINTS LEAD MILLINGTON, Tenn. -
Following two seasons of Pro Stock Motorcycle domination, Matt Hines found himself in an unfamiliar position early on in the 1999 campaign: fourth place. After debuting a brand new Vance & Hines-tuned Eagle One Suzuki to open the season, Hines fell victim to several new season miscues, finally reaching the ultimate boiling point after a first round loss at Englishtown, N.J. sent him reeling to his lowest NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series points position since his rookie season in 1996. Meanwhile, rival Angelle Seeling was off and running on her Team Winston Suzuki, claiming top qualifying honors, winning races and building a big points lead. Antron Brown also entered the championship contending arena - making the battle a three-way fight. Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., has rebounded since losing to Larry Cook in the first round in New Jersey on that fateful day in May and three victories and one national record later, is back out front. Following his convincing victory recently at Pennsylvania's Maple Grove Raceway, where he lowered the national elapsed time mark for bikes to 7.188 seconds, Hines is certain all the bugs are worked out of his Suzuki. Hines hopes to continue the momentum with a winning performance at the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Oct. 7-10 at Memphis Motorsports Park. Hines finished runner-up to Seeling last year at the $1.7 million race, the 19th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "We struggled in the early part of the season and (Angelle) took advantage of that by going out and winning races and qualifying No. 1," Hines said. "As the season progressed, we started running better but we were still making mistakes in eliminations. When we won at Indy, I think that gave us the momentum we needed for the remainder of the season." Hines earned a 20-point bonus for setting the national record, a run that had been anticipated by many in the Pro Stock Motorcycle community since late in 1998. Hines said conditions were optimum at Reading and he was happy to be the first bike racer to record an elapsed time in the teens. "There was a lot of pressure trying to get the record," Hines said. "We have been working on our engine program and made a few adjustments before that pass and it responded. Luckily I made a good run." Hines has certainly hit his stride, and that could be bad news for the rest of the competitors in the two-wheel category. However, he knows that in order to win the championship he'll need to remain focused and stay one step ahead of Seeling at all times. "If we can keep running like we've been at the last two races, making sure we have the best bike, it'll put a little more pressure on her and that will help," Hines said. "Beginning with Indy, I knew what I had to do to get back into the lead, and that was to beat Angelle. I know I'll need to do it a few more times to win the championship." If Hines can win the championship, he would become the first Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor to earn three straight NHRA Winston championships. "I want to end the year at that podium on stage at the awards ceremony," Hines said. "If I make it, it would be a hard fought win for sure."