It what was easily the most bizarre day in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, Andrew Hines survived a rare round one loss to claim the NHRA Mello Yello championship. The second-generation racer is now in exclusive company with six world titles, a feat achieved by only nine other NHRA racers, pro or sportsman. Hines also ties Hall of Fame rider Dave Schultz with his sixth championship.
In one of the season’s most shocking upsets, Hines red-lighted in his opening round match-up against rookie Jianna Salinas, and he believed his shot at the title was over since rivals Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie were still in contention for the title. Hines had Salinas covered by more than a tenth in qualifying but rolled backwards at the start, drawing a red-light. It was just the second time this season he’s failed to advance past the opening round of eliminations. Hines’ loss opened the door for several other contenders, most notably low Smith and Savoie, who each needed to win the race in order to clinch the title.
Salinas proved to be Hines’ best friend as she went on to beat Smith in the semifinals and cap off an unlikely first victory when the rookie rider stopped Savoie in the final. Smith lost when the engine in his Denso EBR expired at half-track, while Savoie never got off the starting line when his White Alligator Suzuki also developed a mechanical issue that prevented him from making the run.
“This is a day that will live in fear for me for I don’t know how long,” said a stunned Hines. “In the first round, I pulled a maneuver that I’ve done too many times in the past when I rolled backward out of the beams. I can’t thank my team enough for supporting me all day long. My Harley-Davidson team, that’s what they do best. I was so disappointed in what I did today, but we persevered all year to get those Mello Yello points and win the championship. I love my guys, and I love everything about this.”
Hines’ title drive caps off what has easily been the best season of his long career and it also qualifies as one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. After suffering through a winless 2018, Hines has rebounded in style with eight wins and ten final round appearances in the first 15 events of the season. He has been the point leader in all but one event and has not been ranked lower than second at any point in the season.
Hines kicked off 2019 with a win at the traditional season-opener in Gainesville, and then reached a milestone when he became the first Pro Stock Motorcycle racer to win 50 national events at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Hines went on to earn wins in Atlanta, Richmond, Norwalk, Denver, Sonoma, and the fall Charlotte event.
Hines’ sixth championship is also the tenth title for the Vance & Hines team and the Harley-Davidson brand in the last 16 seasons. In addition to Hines’ six titles, teammate Eddie Krawiec has four NHRA championships in his career. Hines older brother, Matt, is a three-time champion and team co-owner Terry Vance is also a multi-time class champion in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel Motorcycle classes.