Andrew Hines remembers begging his father, Byron, to take him to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for as long as he can remember. Nearly three decades later, the five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion gets just as excited for the world’s biggest drag race.
Competing as the defending race winner in Pro Stock Motorcycle and with the team’s new Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod making its first appearance at the Big Go, there’s even more for Hines to be thrilled about at this weekend’s 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The victory in 2016 at the prestigious race also marks Hines’ last win, which has him aiming for a repeat win more than ever.
“I grew up knowing how special this race was from an early age,” Hines said. “I always remember my dad talking about and hearing about the stories, and Indy was the place to go. It will be my 15th time racing there consecutively and the ones that stand out are winning in 2016 and 2012. It’s always good coming out here and to have the biggest race in our backyard, it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be broadcast on FOX and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of finals on both FOX and FS1 on Monday, Sept. 4. Drag racing’s grandest event is the 12th of 18 events in Pro Stock Motorcycle and the final race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season, with the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship to follow.
Since debuting the new Street Rod in June, Hines and longtime teammate Eddie Krawiec have been busy working out the kinks. Krawiec won in Denver and Hines, who is sixth in points, had his best showing on the new bike at the most recent race in Brainerd, advancing to the semifinals. That’s a good sign for Hines, who hopes to be at his best at Indy and beyond.
“I’m confident in what we’ve done the last few weeks,” said Hines, who has 47 career wins. “We’ve got good power and fast bikes, we’re just still in the learning process of getting them to 60-foot. Once we get that figured out, I think we’ll make our competitors turn some heads. I’m hoping that happens this weekend. That would be a good start heading into the Countdown. They’ve been fast and that’s a good confidence-booster, knowing the tuneup and horsepower are good.”
There is definitely work to be done in a loaded Pro Stock Motorcycle class that will have 22 standout riders competing for a prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win. LE Tonglet, who has five victories this season, and teammate and defending world champ Jerry Savoie, who has two wins in 2017, are at the top along with Krawiec, but Hines believes it is just a matter of time before he breaks through for the first time this year. Doing it at the world’s biggest drag race would only make that first breakthrough this year even sweeter.
“Right now, it’s still so early with these bikes,” Hines said. “We’ve probably only made 40 runs on them. It’s like you get to see them grow up. Right now, we’re just passing the infancy stage. Everybody pitches in around the shop and we all feel that buildup as the process moves along. It’s all been a true team effort on everyone’s part and we feel really solid heading to Indy. It’s the biggest race of the year and we’re going to keep trying to move forward.”
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 4. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Sept. 2 with rounds at 3:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Sept. 3 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:40 p.m.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 3 on FS1 at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. EST. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 4 starting at 11 a.m. EST, continuing live on FOX at 1 p.m. EST.
Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.