Hines hopes to double down in Las Vegas with bigger prize in mind
Friday, October 19, 2012
by Kelly Wade
To win his fourth NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, Andrew Hines, left, will have to take it away from teammate Eddie Krawiec.
Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Andrew Hines is in the final stretch of a banner year as the tour heads to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals. The three-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion has emerged as the winner in five of the nine final rounds in which he has competed in this season, three times he has been the No. 1 qualifier, and overall, he has amassed a spectacular 41 eliminations round-wins, only missing the win light on eight occasions.
Hines could, quite possibly, cap the year with the ultimate trophy — if only he can dethrone the one guy who has held the top spot nearly all season long: his Screamin' Eagle teammate Eddie Krawiec.
Krawiec, the 2008 series titlist and current class points leader, stands just 17 markers ahead of Hines with two full races to go, and the upcoming event in Las Vegas will bring double the fun as Hines and Krawiec square off in the fourth round of qualifying when the weather-delayed Reading final is scheduled for completion.
For Hines, who set the e.t. record at a stunning 6.728 on his way to the final at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals in Reading two weeks ago, The Strip is the ideal setting to make up ground. The Indiana-based drag racer has more wins than any other NHRA rider at the pristine facility in the desert with victories scored in 2006, 2007, and 2009, and in 2011, Hines raced to the final round, where he was stopped by Krawiec.
"I get a little boost of confidence going to Vegas," said Hines, who is tuned by his brother, 1997 to 1999 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Hines. "I'm not much of a gambler, but I like seeing the cool sights and all Vegas has to offer. As far as racing, it's an awesome facility. The track has a great atmosphere and a great starting line, and that place has been very good to me over the years. Hopefully, my motorcycle will run as well there this year as it has in the past.
"When we found out that we wouldn't run the final in Reading, I was a little disappointed because the performance for both motorcycles was so good. But as a rider, I think that is ultimately going to benefit me. I hate riding in cold weather, and I'd rather be sitting there when it's hot and nasty with sweat dripping in my eyes. I tend to focus a little bit better that way, and I react better off the starting line than when it's really cold."
The venue switch could also work to Hines' benefit in the grander pictures as he pursues the championship; the odds of Krawiec grabbing the national record — and a 20-point bonus — are slim to none at the Las Vegas facility, whereas the conditions were prime for record-breaking runs in Reading.
It's been a jaw-droppingly fantastic run for the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidsons beginning with the fall Las Vegas event last season. Only one final round has been devoid of their presence since last year's event.
"The Harleys and the Hectors" have been the talk of the two-wheel class all season long, with top qualifying spots typically shared between the foursome of Hines and Krawiec and Lucas Oil Buell campaigners Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. (respectively third and fourth in the standings), but in the winner's circle, it's been all Harley all the time barring the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex, where Michael Ray took the trophy aboard his Viper Motorcycle Co. Buell.
"This is something we never expected," said Hines, whose father, Byron Hines, along with Terry Vance, founded the legendary Vance & Hines Motorsports. "What has transpired over the last calendar year is amazing, and it's just a credit to how well-prepared our team is. We strive to go out there and make sure our equipment is perfect. You see that with our qualifying runs and during eliminations — very rarely do we have to abort a pass or experience mechanical failures. There is just a lot of preparation that goes into each and every event."
Counting the delayed Reading final that will be run in Las Vegas, the two Harley riders have appeared together in six finals in 2012, with Krawiec winning four.
The synergy and success of the team could be, in part, a credit to the natural meshing of personalities. Hines and Krawiec, friends since 2004 and Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates since 2007, work side by side in the Brownsburg, Ind.-based shop, live in the same neighborhood, and often bring their families together during downtime. Off the racetrack, they're buddies, but on the track, they are the fiercest of competitors.
"We have a great working relationship, and there is really no animosity," said Hines. "But obviously, we both want to have the fastest motorcycle, qualify the best, and do the best on race day. Ultimately, it's a team effort to do the best we can for our sponsors, and we always want to see each other do our best and put both V-Rods in the final round. But you have to have a little chip on your shoulder when it comes to your teammate. When it comes down to that last round on Sunday, you always want the hardware coming back to your half of the team."
With the championship decision just a handful of weeks away, Hines is after every point up for grabs. The 2010 race for the title is still fresh in the youthful rider's mind when he saw the championship slip through his fingers by just two points and land in the hands of then-rookie LE Tonglet. This year, Hines surged ahead of Krawiec and into the No. 1 position after winning the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Houston, but he fell back to second when Krawiec won in Atlanta at the next event.
"There is a sense of frustration," admitted Hines. "But that's the problem you run into when you have such a great teammate, and he's riding an awesome motorcycle. It's hard to get those points. I've been a tick behind in performance, but luckily, we're starting to figure that out with my motorcycle. I know we have a great team, and we expect to go out there and win. Our motorcycles are so evenly matched from 60 feet [to the finish line], it's going to come down to who leaves the starting line better in Vegas and how quick you get to that first clock.
"As for the season, I'm a big stat guy, and I know a lot about the history of drag racing. The only rider to have more than three championships is Dave Schultz — he has six. I've been chasing [my] fourth and been really close twice, but unfortunately, it's come down to mistakes on my part. This is a very mental sport, but I've been doing a lot better these last couple of years, and I feel that this is the best shot I've had in a long time. Hopefully, No. 4 is on its way and we can take it from there."
Tickets are available for the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals. Please call The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 800-644-4444 or log on to www.lvms.com.