FIRST IN A SERIES
Andrew Hines opened the 2019 season with a victory at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, ending a year-long stretch of leaving drag strips emptyhanded. He dropped from first place only once: the second race of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, when a second-round loss made the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider appear vulnerable in comparison to his season-long record.
That vulnerability is a distant memory. Hines enters the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a 115-point lead over Jerry Savoie, who charged his way up from fifth to become a title contender. Savoie, who won his sole title in 2016, owns a pair of Wallys during the Countdown to the Championship and three of the last six. His teammate, Karen Stoffer, won in St. Louis; the White Alligator Racing team has half the Wallys from the Countdown.
The two riders started in fifth and sixth, though, and enter Pomona in second and fifth, respectively. Hines and Krawiec sit first and third while defending champion (and most recent winner) Matt Smith, sits fourth. The top five in the standings all have a mathematical opportunity to overcome Hines at Auto Club Raceway, but it will take some elbow grease and good fortune to keep him from lifting his sixth world championship trophy.
There are 191 points on the table and Hines will snag at least 48 if he qualifies for the race. That would give Hines the following leads over his competitors before they’ve acquired a single point in Pomona:
Jerry Savoie -163
Eddie Krawiec -164
Matt Smith -165
Karen Stoffer -172
Let’s make this as simple as possible: Hines will become the 2019 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion if he qualifies for the race and wins in the first round. Someone must stop him to keep the world championship trophy out of the Indiana-based Vance & Hines race shop.
The door opens for Savoie (and everyone else) if Hines loses in the first round. If the top five racers earn the minimum qualifying bonus points (not mathematically possible but fine for this hypothetical) here’s what the points will look like:
Jerry Savoie -115
Eddie Krawiec -116
Matt Smith -117
Karren Stoffer -124
Savoie, Krawiec and Smith can all win the championship by winning out while the 120 remaining points would not be enough for Stoffer to outduel Hines for her first title. Here are the scenarios that would bring home titles for each of the five racers still in contention:
Win at least one round of competition
Jerry Savoie, Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith
Eliminate Andrew Hines in the first round and win the race
Earn five more qualifying points than Hines and win the race