A year after winning a championship, most racers would love to reminisce and remember. Not Andrew Hines.
First and foremost, November 17, 2019, the day that he clinched his sixth NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle crown, will be remembered as the most stressful day of Hines’ career, possibly his entire life. The agony of a round one loss was followed by an impending feeling of doom, yet Hines ultimately held on to clinch title No. 6 following one of the most unlikely finishes in the sport’s history.
It’s also worth noting that Hines isn’t typically the kind of guy who spends a lot of time looking backwards. Tasked by the Vance & Hines team as a rider, developer, machinist, and tuner, he’s got a lot of his plate and he’s generally got his eyes on the next prize weather it’s a race win, new trick part, or some other technological advancement.
“The way that championship went down last year was a situation that I never thought I’d be in,” said Hines, who entered the Auto Club NHRA Finals needing only to win one round of eliminations in order to clinch the title. “When I red-lighted to Jianna [Salinas, eventual race winner] I was convinced that I’d thrown away the championship and let the whole team down. Then, to have the cards fall the way they did and win the championship was pretty astonishing. I’ve never seen anything like that in any class. I think the Pro Stock Motorcycle class set a new precedent for craziness.”
Hines celebrated after winning the title, but not for long. He was quickly back to work at the Vance & Hines team headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind., preparing for the 2020 season. His off-season to-do list included building a new bike for teammate Angelle Sampey, fulfilling customer orders, and finishing development of the new four-valve Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle head that was recently approved by the NHRA Tech Dept. A week before the scheduled start of the Pro Stock Motorcycle season at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the Vance & Hines team went testing at Orlando Speed World and were encouraged by their progress, particularly with regards to Sampey’s new FXDR entry.
“We needed a new show bike anyway, so it made sense to build a new bike for Angelle, if nothing else for her to have the same chassis that Eddie and I have,” said Hines. “Angelle made a lot of progress last year, but we couldn’t get the same performance out of her bike that I had. We also struggled to add enough weight to her bike because it wasn’t built for a 115-poind rider. Her new bike was built where we could put the weight where it needs to go. She had a 1.03 sixty-foot time which is the best of her career so that was really encouraging. As for Eddie and I, we tested some fuel injection stuff and it went well. We had a major cross wind, so it wasn’t conducive to big numbers, but he still ran 198.70 mph. If we had a tailwind, I think we could have run 201.”
The Vance & Hines team was prepared for their 2020 debut in Gainesville, but obviously those plans have been put on hold. Returning to Brownsburg, Hines and his crew remain busy. They are continuing to make work on their three HD Pro Stock Motorcycle and also have a number of other projects underway.
“Oh, it’s sort of business as usual here,” said Hines. “Our shop is still open but obviously we’re taking precautions to make sure all of our employees stay safe. We’re checking everyone’s temperature when they enter the building and making sure the facility stays clean. We’re not a business that is open to the public so that helps us.
“For starters, we now have some extra time to go over our bikes and fine-tune a few things,” Hines said. “We took Angelle’s bike compleely apart to address a few things. We were going to do that in the pits in Gainesville but now we can do it in our shop. I’m also looking to re-book our travel whenever the schedule is set, and coming up with a game plan for when we can get back on the dyno and dad [Byron] is in the porting room working on the next evolution in cylinder heads. Our Harley-Davidson Flat Track team is also on hiatus so they’re here working as well. We just started a customer program for flat track bikes so we’re trying to get our customers lined up and get them on the shelf and ready to go. Finally, we have a lot of cylinder heads and special services that we preform for customers in other series like Super Bike and Supercross and we’ve been backlogged so we now have a bit of time to catch-up.”
Continued development of the new four-valve Suzuki cylinder head, approved for competition in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class late last year by the NHRA Technical Dept., is also on the front-burner at Vance & Hines. The team is hoping to have an engine built and tested by mid-season.
“It looks to be about a three-month process,” said Hines. “You have to remember that everything above the cylinder is new and that includes valves and valve-seats; things that we need to rely on a secondary supplier for. I do think that it will ultimately be a better design and the bikes will be quicker. And more importantly, the Suzukis should need to add weight which will hopefully allow a heavier rider to come in and be competitive.”
Homelife is also somewhat different for Hines these days. His wife, Tanya, works for a major airline so he’s seen firsthand the disruption in travel. School is also out, at least temporarily, for son, Declan, 9, who is home with his younger sister, Gigi, 3.
“Declan is home for a month, at least, and he’s got these E-learning days, so he spends more time on a computer than I do,” said Hines. “He also takes Tae Kwon Do classes and they’ve moved to an online instruction. I have a wife that works in the airline industry and a sister in the medical field so I like to think I’m somewhat informed on what’s happening out there. I’m also fortunate that my parents live next door so I have a solid support system to get through this tough time.”
When racing does resume, hopefully in the very near future, Hines says he’ll be as hungry as ever to chase another title, potentially the seventh of his career. He’s also anxious to add his name to the short list of riders who have officially cracked the 200-mph mark in NHRA so far, that list only includes Hector Arana Jr., Matt Smith, and Kraweic. Hines wants nothing more than to be the next member of the Denso Spark Plugs 200-mph Club.
“I think that I would have done it in Gainesville,” Hines said. “Of course, it all depends on weather. You can’t just change the tune-up and make it happen. We need Mother Nature to cooperate in order to get there. Still, between testing and official runs, I’ve probably made close to 20 passes over 199 including a 199.94 run so we’re so close. Ultimately, my goal is to see most of the class running over 200. That would be great for the fans and it would help all of us.
“Once this current [Corona Virus] deal is past us, we’re going to be ready to get after another championship. I don’t expect us to test. We’ll just show up ready to go. The first run of the year you are always a little concerned about rust but we made some runs in testing so I’m sure well all be okay. Once your helmet goes on and the engine fires, you remember what to do.”