Even though Karen Stoffer didn’t win the recent Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, she accomplished something that no other NHRA Pro had ever done with four-straight .00 reaction times during eliminations. Stoffer’s quick reflexes were responsible for holeshot wins against point leaders Eddie Krawiec and Hector Arana Jr. She also left first against Matt Smith in the final, but was powerless to stop the reigning champ, who easily covered her 6.88 to a 6.90. Despite the final result, Stoffer remains satisfied that she did almost all she could to put her Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki into the winner’s circle.
“That was the first time in my career I’ve had four lights like that and it’s interesting that we didn’t change the [clutch lever] all day,” said Stoffer, who has now been in 21 final rounds and has eight wins in her career. “I try to give the team consistency and Gary [Stoffer, husband] and Tim [Kulungian, crew chief] have collaborated to help make our team more competitive. Tim has made adjustments based on the info that Gary has provided and it’s made a difference in my riding. I generally don’t get involved as far as changing my routine. I try to be as consistent as possible getting the clutch out and just let them do their deal.”
Stoffer has taken several steps forward in her first season with Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator team. In addition to her runner-up finish in Chicago, she’s also been the low qualifier in Charlotte and enters the Norwalk event ranked No. 5 in the class, the highest ranked Suzuki rider in the field.
“I feel very comfortable over here but I still don’t think we’ve reached out potential,” Stoffer said. “I’ve made a few mistakes as a rider and we’re still trying to refine our combination. I’d like to think our best days are ahead of us. It’s great to go up there and cut .00 lights but at the end of the day we didn’t get the Wally and that’s disappointing. In fact, we not only didn’t get the Wally but I got absolutely pummeled by Matt Smith in the final. That’s the only way I can describe it. I did all I could do and it’s a bummer to do you absolute best and still get pummeled. The truth is that we had a few breaks in Chicago. Eddie [Krawiec] bogged otherwise we might not have beaten him, either.”
Arriving in Norwalk, Stoffer is returning to the site of her most recent national event victory. She won the 2015 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals when Angelle Sampey fouled in the final.
“We’re capable of winning this race or just about any other one,” Stoffer said. “We just need to bring all the elements together at the same time. I just need to keep doing my job. I know everyone wants to talk about my lights in Chicago but when I won Gainesville in 2007, I won three of four rounds on holeshots. It’s just a matter of trying to do your best and lift the team up.”