With the completion of the recent Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, Pro Stock Motorcycle riders have run just three events this season and that means there are just five more opportunities for them to earn points this season. Not since the 1976 season have so few events determined a season champion. Although we’re not quite to the halfway point, it is worth taking the time to reflect on the season to date and look ahead to what might be on the horizon with 20 elimination rounds remaining.
It’s also worth remembering that in past seasons, the U.S. Nationals was always the gateway to the Countdown to the Championship with a points reset that brought everyone back into a tighter pack, but with no Countdown this season, those hard-earned points lead stay with the front runners.
|Indy 1||Ryan Oehler||Indy 3||Angelle Sampey|
|Indy 4||Scotty Pollacheck|
|Event||Leader||2nd place||Lead||1st to 10th|
|Indy 1||Ryan Oehler||Matt Smith||14||83|
|Indy 3||Ryan Oehler||Angelle Sampey||4||108|
|Indy 4||Scotty Pollacheck||Andrew Hines||25||114|
- The word of the day in Pro Stock Motorcycle is parity. There have been three different winners in the first three races including first-time winners Ryan Oehler and Scotty Pollacheck as well as Angelle Sampey, who hadn’t won a race since 2016. That’s not all, dating back to last season, there have been eight different winners in the last eight races and that’s never happened in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
- To suggest that Scotty Pollacheck’s Indy win was a long time coming would be a huge understatement. Pollacheck went to 12 final rounds including six at Four-Wide races before finally cashing in. Pollacheck didn’t just win Indy; he dominated with a solid No. 1 qualifying effort, his first 200-mph pass, and a runner-up in the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle.
- Where’s Eddie? As strange as it’s been to have eight different winners in the last eight races, it's equally as peculiar to see four-time world champion Eddie Krawiec winless since the 2018 Brainerd race. Krawiec has run extremely well at times, but luck has not been on his side. So far this season, he’s got a 5-3 record on race day and he’s qualified either first or second at each one.
- Hector Arana Sr., a staple of the class since the early 1990s, has not ridden this season although he insists he’s not retired. Arana has been visible as a crew chief for son, Hector Jr., who is currently No. 7 in the standings on his Lucas Oil EBR.
- Karen Stoffer and Jianna Salinas, who each won a race last season, have elected to sit out the current season. Both are expected to return in 2021.
- Steve Johnson suffered a potentially crippling blow early in the season when his longtime crewman Ervin “Jock” Allen was sidelined due to a prolonged bout with the COVID-19 virus. It’s likely not a coincidence that Allen returned for the U.S. Nationals and Johnson made his best run of the season with a 6.79 and a semifinal finish.
- The first three races of the season are comprised of 45 side-by-side races. Thus far, seven of those rounds have been decided via foul starts.
- Its impact has yet to be felt, but the new Suzuki four-valve engine combination recently made its debut at Indy in Chris Bostick’s bike. Eventually, this should be a game-changer with Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator team and Cory Reed’s two-bike effort expected to make the jump in time for the 2021 season.
- Angelle Sampey’s win at the Indy 3 event was her first since 2016 and her first aboard a Harley-Davidson. It came just days after the three-time champion celebrated her 50th birthday. Sampey now has 43 career victories since her first victory in Reading in 1996.
- Matt Smith had low E.T. and top speed at the first two Indy races and his team bike, ridden by Scotty Pollacheck, set those marks at the U.S. Nationals.
Biggest surprise: Who could have predicted that Chris Bostick would have reached the final round at Indy III? Bostick returned to the sport last year after a long layoff and borrowed a bike from the Stoffer/Underdahl team for the second Indy race. He made the most of it with wins over Angie Smith, Oehler, and Krawiec.
Most likely to break into the top 10: Jerry Savoie. Quite frankly, there is no reason for the former world champion to be winless through the first three races. Expect a big comeback.
Probable championship finish: 1. Andrew Hines 2. Scotty Pollacheck; 3. Matt Smith. Hines certainly has the experience to get things done with six previous titles to his credit. On the other hand, Pollacheck and Smith would appear to have the two best bikes in the class right now. Smith has been a tad inconsistent, but he can also make a monster run when need be.
Darkhorse contender: Angelle Sampey. She looked great during her recent win at the Indy III race and needs to somehow find a way to recapture that magic down the stretch. It would take a lot of work and some good luck, but a fourth championship is not completely unrealistic.
Monday: Pro Mod
Tuesday: Top Fuel Harley