Karen Stoffer has made thousands of runs on a Pro Stock Motorcycle including the two quickest passes in the history of the class but her Friday night run at zMax Dragway was one of her most memorable, for nearly all the wrong reasons.
Stoffer was on her way to what should have been another 6.7-second elapsed time when disaster nearly struck. At half-track, the front fairing of her Suzuki TL-1000 worked itself loose severely upsetting the aerodynamics of the bike. Without warning the front end came off the ground and the bike pitched sideways. Somehow, Stoffer managed to avoid disaster, bringing the front end down and setting the bike stopped safely. She even managed to avoid hitting the timing blocks in the center of the track.
“I had no warning at all. Nothing,” Stoffer recalled. “One moment we were trucking on through there and the next, the front end is in the air. and I can feel it going sideways.
“I didn’t fully grasp what happened until I saw the video later on,” Stoffer said. “I could see that I was still tucked in and really, it was just luck that I didn’t hit a cone [block] because that almost certainly would have thrown me off the bike. I just happened to have an angel on my shoulder. That’s really all I can say about it.”
Returning to their pit area, crew chief Tim Kulungian and the rest of the White Alligator team quickly went to work, assessing the cause and repairing the damage, which was minimal. They ultimately determined that one of the Dzus fasteners that attaches the body to the frame had somehow worked its way loose. As soon as the air got between the body and the frame, it severely upset the aerodynamics of the bike.
Stoffer has been riding Pro Stock Motorcycles for more than a quarter of a century and she’s universally respected by her peers for both her on-track performance and her off-track professionalism. She’s mentored a number of up-and-coming young riders including Jianna Salinas. To that end, she’s happy to share any details with the rest of the class.
“I can say for sure that theses bikes are definitely much different to ride now that they’re running over 200 mph on most runs,” Stoffer said. “Things happen very quickly. If you know me you know that I’m big on safety and as a team, we do whatever we can to prevent failures. Unfortunately, parts do fail from time to time.
“The good news is that we’ve already had racers come up to us and see what happened and said they’re going to double-check their fasteners and maybe add some extra tape to make sure they don’t have a similar problem.”
Stoffer has also made it known that this will be her final season as a full-time pro on the Camping World NHRA Series tour. She plans to keep her license active and would certainly be receptive to an occasional race here and there but the 2022 season will almost certainly be her final chance to win the Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship.
“We’ve had our share of drama in the first three races, but I still love this bike and I’m still having fun,” said Stoffer. “I’ve never felt that I had to win so many races or win a championship in order to define a career. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every minute of it.”