Matt Smith expressed his displeasure with the new Harley-Davidson FXDR bodywork multiple times in multiple forums during and following the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil. The 2018 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion said, among other things, the FXDR does not closely resemble the production motorcycle it represents.
Andrew Hines, one of three riders on the Harley-Davidson-backed team, won in Denver. That did nothing, obviously, to assuage the concerns of Smith, who also feels the Vance & Hines team has an unfair advantage because of its new bodywork. Smith rides the Denso Spark Plugs EBR. He builds his own engines and is one of a handful of EBR riders.
"NHRA has their guidelines and you have to follow all of them," said Krawiec. "There is no compromising that. If you look at the fuel tank, you'll see that it's pretty much identical to stock. It has a stock bezel on the fuel cap.
"The tail section is kind of an odd ball thing because you have to make it work for your tire. NHRA has a rule because they pretty much want it to cover your tire, that's a safety thing. You have to do it proportionally, though, because otherwise it looks pretty odd. For us, we decided to widen it, which obviously changes the whole flatness and the structure of it. When you look at ours and you see the bodylines of the two bikes you'll see that the drag bike is a little bit longer because it needs to cover that rear tire. That's just the way it is, we have no choice but to cover the rear tire."
That's not different for any bike in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. The fairing on the FXDR also became a point of contention, but there is room for leniency in the NHRA rules there, too, said Krawiec.
"There is a little bit of leniancy, and there always has been, with NHRA with the front fairing," said Krawiec. The drag bike doesn't have the windshield like the OE bike, but you have to be able to see out of it. You can go up to 25 percent larger on the drag bike. They understand there's an aero thing out here and everyone has an aero package out here at this point. It's an ongoing thing out here to try to make all of the bikes at least close to the OE bikes."
That was true with the Harley-Davidson Street Rod, as well. The FXDR has a noticeabley larger fairing (a fun drag racing word for windscreen), but that doesn't mean it's against the rules, he said. Much of the consternation surrounding the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team seems to be focused on its, understandably, tight relationship with its factory partner.
"The truth is that we're the only team with an active manufacturer in the category," said Krawiec. "That allows us to make changes unlike the others because we have an existing motorcycle company that is still in business and still moving forward. They want us to run what they sell. They came to us and said they got two years of exposure with the Street Rod and they wanted to move on to something else and that's great for the sport. That's what we need."
Krawiec knows his competitors have, and will again, disagree with the best way to bring more factory backing into the sport. Smith said the inability for other manufacturers to be on the midway has prevented him from bringing them to his multi-bike team.
“You get more representation by having your motorcycle in the back of a trailer,” said Krawiec. “Now, it does not allow you to have your entire pit area be a sales showroom, but if that's what they think is going to allow them to sell motorcycles, they're truly wrong. What's going to allow them to sell motorcycles is their brand being out here on the track.”
Krawiec’s final point, in all of this, is that if his competitors are worrying about his Vance & Hines team, they’re not worrying about their own programs. He might be right. Regardless of who’s talking about who or worrying about what, the Harley-Davidson team has been the one to beat in 2019. There are two more races to go before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship and the targets are firmly on Hines’, Krawiec’s and Angelle Sampey’s backs.