This race was a bucket list win for Karen Stoffer. She grew up racing in NHRA's Division 7 and running at Sonoma Raceway. Always a threat and a consummate Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, the crowd, and the competition were equally wowed when her second-round qualifying times revealed crew chief Tim Kulungian was back in the horsepower business.
“Tim Kulungian found the power we needed to give me the win,” said Stoffer. “Going through the rounds today, I kept my head down and felt pretty confident Tim gave me the bike we needed.”
In the first qualifying session, Stofer ran a 6.808 that put her in the fourth position behind Andrew Hines, Matt Smith, and Angie Smith. It put Stoffer one notch ahead of team owner Jerry Savoie, it was a subtle success that came amidst Matt Smith's 203-mph run that hinted Matt Smith Racing bikes were the machines to watch in Sonoma.
In the second session of qualifying on Saturday morning, Stoffer improved, but not enough to overcome the times of Matt Smith Racing, Vance & Hines, and Steve Johnson's superior runs.
That all changed in the third session when Stoffer belted out a 6.750-second run and knocked everybody into her dust, save for Angie Smith, who secured her very first number one qualifier with a 6.736-second pass. There was no hiding the White Alligator Racing team’s performance after that.
On race day, all eyes were on Angie Smith's bike, with expectations that she too might have a record speedrun in her. So when Stoffer cut a .001- second light against Scott Bottorff, racing moved from a battle of brutality to one of starting line of finesse.
Joey Gladstone cut a better light in the second round than Stoffer, but he didn't have enough motorcycle to stay ahead of the WAR Suzuki. Round three paired Stoffer against team owner Jerry Savoie, who had a mechanical issue that led to a scramble on the starting line.
Track announcer Alan Reinhart pointed out that Stoffer would wait until the fuel ran out of her bike if need be to give her teammate time to resolve the issue. They addressed the problem, but the bike wasn't fixed because it didn't make it past the 100-foot mark under its own power.
Stoffer matched up against Vance & Hines' only surviving racer still left in the ladder in the final round. Stoffer left with a slightly quicker light and a slightly quicker e.t. that kept Hines within inches of her the entire time. Her margin of victory was slim, but enough to allow her to hoist her tenth Wally.
Stoffer dedicated her win to the Seipel family, saying her first experience at Sonoma involved bracket racing in the late ’80s or ’90s when Georgia Seipel connected with her right away. Stoffer said, “While the name of this track has changed a lot, and you can call it Sonoma, Sears Point, or Infineon—to me it will always be Seipel.