Eddie Krawiec’s journey Sunday to his 37th NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle victory and repeat triumph at the Amalie Oil Gatornationals began with a scare and ended with a score.

Nearly pitched off his heavily leaning Harley-Davidson during his first-round race against Mike Berry, Krawiec held on.

Then he held off Berry, Matt Smith, and Joey Gladstone, and finally his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Fla., to claim the class’ first trophy of its 16-race season.

It was his fifth victory here, just as Tony Schumacher’s was in the Top Fuel class. They shared the winners circle with John Force (Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock).

Krawiec, the second-quickest starter, defeated No. 4 qualifier Hines by about 16 inches (.0046 of a second) on the quarter-mile course with a 6.763-second elapsed time at a 199.76-mph speed that matches Angelle Sampey’s mark for the fourth-fastest NHRA Pro Stock Bike pass ever.

Hines ran a 6.802, 197.10 against Krawiec after knocking out Sampey, Scotty Pollacheck, and Steve Johnson.

“My Harley-Davidson this weekend has been really fast,” Krawiec, who twice flirted seriously with the class’ elusive 200-mph milestone. “We just haven’t been able to harness that power and get it sorted out. As the year goes on, we’re going to get better. We did a lot of R&D over the winter on our tune-up side. Andrew spent a lot of time in the dyno room, tweaking the tune-up. It’s showing that it’s going to be the right way.”

He said he was pleased with the way his recent testing results translated to competition. As for hitting the 200-mph plateau, Krawiec didn’t rule out the possibility that this tune-up soon might become strong enough to keep the 200-mph record from being dependent on natural factors, such as tailwinds and ideal temperatures. He said before this weekend he wouldn’t say that but after he has seen the potential in the tune-up, he has changed his mind.

“If we could have gotten hold of that track Saturday morning, we wouldn’t be talking about it. You’d be saying, ‘Wow – what a monster run!’ We just need to continue to refine it [the tune-up].” He said his bike is cooperating easier, “but Andrew’s bike kind of gives us the finger every once in awhile. But that bike’s coming around.”    

Krawiec will hang onto his No. 1 ranking in the standings at least until the Pro Stock Motorcycle class reappears on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the April 28-30 Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte. In the meantime, the rest of the series will travel to the March 31-April 2 Denso Spark Plugs Nationals at Las Vegas and the April 21-23 SpringNationals at Baytown, Texas.  

“One you win one or two races, you kind of solidify your spot in the Countdown,” he said after guaranteeing a ninth straight season with at least one victory.

Krawiec said his first-round wrestling match with his motorcycle Sunday was “horrible” and “ugly” and “one you’re not proud to make.” He said he was concerned the front tire would slip out from underneath him and that he had to keep sticking his leg out to balance it when he couldn’t get the bike to return to its upright position. He said, “These bikes tend to do that once in a while. It’s a scary deal but you have to stay with it. If you roll off the throttle, the bike will stand up and at that point, it might dart left or right and then you’ve got a real problem.”

He said, “If we make it run straight, it will go a 6.75 or .76.” And that’s what it did, after an axle change. Krawiec clocked 6.76s in his semifinal and final rounds.

In the final, their 19th against each other, Krawiec trailed Hines as late as the 1,000-foot mark as they approached the 1,320-foot finish line.

So Krawiec more than once demonstrated the art of turning something scary into something successful. His sleight of hand or leg or whatever it took ultimately paid off Sunday.