In the latest surprising move in an off-season that has been full of them, Karen Stoffer will race aboard one of Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator Racing Pro Stock Motorcycles in the battle for 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.
Stoffer will ride the same WAR Suzuki that carried LE Tonglet to four national event wins and a fourth-place finish in the Countdown to the Championship standings last year. In a related announcement, White Alligator team owner Savoie tentatively plans to race a partial schedule this year. Savoie wants his Tim Kulungian-led team to be able to contend for the championship so Stoffer will compete in all 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle races. In addition to her eight wins, Stoffer has 11-career top ten finishes including a best of fifth in 2012.
“At the end of the 2018 season, we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do, or if I was even going to race PSM at all,” said Stoffer. “I sat down with [husband] Gary, and we discussed our options. Then, we were contacted by Jerry and Tim and they made us an offer that was literally too good to refuse. Over the last few years we’ve all seen what the White Alligator team is capable of; they are a team that wins championships and I’m excited that I now get a chance to be a part of it.”
Since her debut in 1996, Stoffer has never raced anything other than a Suzuki so she anticipates a smooth transition from her own entry to the WAR bike. She does, however, admit that it will be different to have Kulungian as her new crew chief. Stoffer’s husband, Gary, has been her crew chief for each of her 230 NHRA professional events. Gary Stoffer will continue to compete in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class with partner Greg Underdahl. They will field a pair of Suzuki entries for Jimmy Underdahl and promising rookie Jianna Salinas. Karen will continue to play a major role in that team, particularly as a mentor to 21-year old Salinas.
“I’m sure it will be a little odd the first time I pull up to stage and someone other than Gary is guiding me into the staging beams,” Stoffer said. “At the same time, Tim is one of the best in the business, so I’m very excited to be riding a bike that he has prepared. Also, Gary won’t be very far away. In fact, our trailers will be pitted side-by-side this year, so I won’t lose that familiarity. I’m also very excited to be working with Jianna. She has made a lot of progress over last year riding our test bike and gaining her NHRA license. She has a very bright future out here.”
Team owner Savoie (right) shares Stoffer’s enthusiasm for the new partnership.
“I think Karen is a perfect fit for our program,” said Savoie, the 2016 world champ. “She’s very intelligent and goes about her business in a very calm and professional manner. I also believe she’s one of the best riders out there. I think that she’s going to adapt quickly to our bike, and she’ll do very well. I think it’s a good situation for her to be in. In fact, I think this might be one of the best moves we’ve ever made as a team. I get along very well with the Stoffers and this won’t at all affect her ability to work with Jianna Salinas. I’m not sure how many events I’ll be running, but it’s a relief to know the team is in good hands if and when I’m not there.”
Stoffer’s move to the White Alligator team won’t be the only change in her racing program for 2019. She’s also teamed with Stock Eliminator veteran John Calvert to compete in the SAM Tech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. A motorcycle racer since her teenage years, Stoffer got her initiation to four-wheel racing late last year when she drove Calvert’s Cobra Jet Mustang in Las Vegas. She also raced the car in Stock Eliminator at the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by Protect the Harvest in Pomona last month.