The Pro Stock Motorcycle class hasn’t competed at an NHRA event since Sonoma more than a month ago, but the extended break has apparently done nothing to cool off red-hot Andrew Hines. The winner of seven of the first nine events of the season as well as the special Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle, Hines kept the heat on his opponents by leading qualifying on the opening day of the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Hines, who lives in the Indianapolis suburb of Avon, rode his new Harley-Davidson FXDR entry to a 6.864 to get a leg up on the top qualifying spot and pad his already stout points total by an additional four markers.
Hines has been almost unstoppable this year with just two losses in 31 rounds, but he’s also done a masterful job of qualifying. Hines was the top qualifier this year in Gainesville and Richmond and has not been seeded lower than fourth at any event this year. In his role on the Harley-Davidson team, Hines is not just a rider, but he also develops parts, and helps tune the team’s three bikes at the track which provides an additional measure of satisfaction whenever he’s able to outperform his rivals.
“Coming off our test session here a week ago, I had an idea of what I thought we could run, and it ran exactly what we expected,” Hines said. “that’s a really comforting feeling when you’ve got a bike that does what you expect it to do and responds to the changes you make. We haven’t raced since Sonoma so it’s also nice to pick up where we left off.
“Our shop [Vance & Hines] is only two miles up the road so it was great to do this in front of all our friend and employees and to see them waving at us when we came back up the return road. That was a good run, and it’s always good to put one on the board early so you don’t get behind the curve. Now, we’ve got data to tune from for the rest of the weekend. I’ve had so much success on Sunday’s this year I want to make sure it parlays to a Monday. I’ve won here a couple of times, but really haven’t had too much success otherwise. I’d like to change that this weekend.”
During Friday’s lone session, Hines was able to edge reigning champ Matt Smith, the rider who is likely his biggest rival for the Mello Yello championship. Smith, the 2006 U.S. Nationals winner, rode his Denso EBR to a 6.874. Smith has set the early mark for top speed of the event at over 197-mph. Another former Indy winner, Jerry Savoie, put his White Alligator Racing Suzuki into the No. 3 spot with a 6.898 while second-year rider Ryan Oehler also got a qualifying bonus point thanks to his 6.901.
Hines Harley teammates, Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey, ended the day in the No. 6 and No. 7 riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, where there are 20 riders competing for just 16 starting spots.