The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals, is one of the tracks closer to home for Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Karen Stoffer, a Minden, Nev., resident. Despite the proximity and her affinity for the facility, it’s a track she’s never been able to solve, something she hopes to finally change this weekend.
Stoffer is searching for her first victory since 2015 on her Stoffer Enterprises Suzuki and her first ever victory in Las Vegas, which plays host to the penultimate event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Stoffer currently sits eighth in Pro Stock Motorcycle points and is aiming to head into the off-season with ample momentum.
“I love the track and facility, so hopefully this is a year of change,” said Stoffer, who has eight career wins. “Unfortunately, it’s never been a good race for us, so hopefully we can put those things behind us. It’s one we haven’t been able to master and we’re trying really hard to do that this year. We still have a little bit left to find with our performance, but if we can find it hopefully we can equate that to a great ending to the season.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 29. It is the fifth of six playoff races during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
In these last two races, Stoffer still has goals in mind for herself and teammate Scotty Pollacheck. It might not be catching points leader Eddie Krawiec, who is 176 points ahead of fifth-place Pollacheck, but there is plenty the tandem can accomplish. Stoffer, Pollacheck and Jim Underdahl teamed up this season, and Stoffer has enjoyed the process. Pollacheck is on track for his best-ever finish in the class, while Stoffer has an opportunity to end her year on a good note.
“I think for us it’s been a good year and we’re continuing to find that e.t. that we’ve been missing the last couple years,” Stoffer said. “We can’t climb much higher in the points, but if we can help Scotty a little bit and find our e.t., I would consider it a good season. That will help us going into next year. I think we’ve made a turnaround and we’re improving race after race. We’re optimistic going into this race.”
Stoffer removed the fuel injection from the bike and went back to carburetors, and, after the initial adjustment, she has made steady improvement, advancing to a pair of semifinals and qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship for the eighth time in her career. Getting a late-season win in Vegas won’t be an easy task, as a total of 26 riders will be competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle this weekend, but that only adds to the excitement for the class veteran.
“It’s great to see all the riders coming out and doing well, and doing it with good teams,” Stoffer said. “It shows how thriving this class and sport is. I’ve always been an advocate of giving people the opportunity to come out and it’s great seeing all these people. There’s so many riders out there and I think it’s going to be very challenging (in Vegas). But if we can find the little bit left performance-wise on the bike, I think we can have a good weekend.”
Defending Top Fuel event winner Torrence has his sights on his first world championship. The eight-time 2017 winner leads Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta by 57 and 76 points, respectively.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps is trying to track down his second straight world title, but holds a slim 24-points lead against Robert Hight, who won the most recent event.
Greg Anderson is after a fifth world title in Pro Stock, and will likely have to hold off a KB Racing teammate to do it. Bo Butner is 15 points back, while reigning champ Jason Line is 30 points out.
The NHRA Toyota Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, watch the spectacular Muy Caliente Racing jet dragsters sponsored by Lucas Oil, along with the eye lighting Black Pearl Jet Funny Car from Douthit Motorsports. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444 or 702-644-4444. Tickets also are available online at www.lvms.com. 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.