Ask Andrew Hines if he believes he’s still a contender for the 2020 Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle title and watch his eyes roll. As much as anyone, Hines knows that championships are never over until they are officially over. That’s a lesson he learned last year at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona when he lost in round one on a rare red-light, and then somehow managed to win the title after each of the leading contenders fell by the wayside. As rookie Jianna Salinas left Pomona with theevent title, Hines celebrated what was easily the most unlikely and most nerve-wracking of his six NHRA world championships.
Having overcome what were surely incredibly odds last season, Hines doesn’t think much of the 59-points deficit he currently faces to incoming leader Matt Smith. With two races remaining in the season, Hines is aware that he’s very much in control of his own destiny.
“It won’t be easy, but we’re still in it,” said Hines, who is pursuing his seventh title and the 11th for the factory Harley-Davidson team. “Next week in Las Vegas, we’re racing for points-and-a-half so that changes everything. That’s not to say we can have a bad race here [in Houston]. We’ve got to make up some ground here and then see what happens. As long as someone other than Matt Smith or [second-ranked] Scotty Pollacheck wins this race we’ll be in it.”
There have only been six Pro Stock Motorcycle events in this COVID-shortened 2020 season and the only member of the Vance & Hines team that has a win is three-time champion Angelle Sampey. Hines went to a pair of final rounds in Indianapolis and Gainesville and finished as a runner-up in both of them. He lost to Scotty Pollacheck at the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals and then lost the Gainesville final to Matt Smith.
Hines’ mission hasn’t gotten much easier since his arrival at Houston Raceway Park. With cool temperatures and overcast skies, it’s going to be a challenge to manage the extra horsepower produced by the sea-level conditions. Hines finished the first qualifying session as the No. 4 ranked rider in the field after a 6.881 best.
“We had similar conditions in St. Louis but it’s very tricky,” said Hines. “You don’t have the sort of track temperature we’re used to so if you try to get too much wheel speed, it will just knock the tire loose and spin all the way down. We’ve also been fighting with a clutch issue. We burned up a clutch pack a few races ago and sometimes they’re temperamental and it takes a little while to get a handle on it.
“We’ve got the power to run with the Smith bikes; well maybe not the top speed, but we can match E.T. with them,” Hines said. “The bottom line is I don’t think we’re out of it. I’d love to win this race and even if I don’t, I’m okay as long as the two bikes ahead of me don’t win.”