2018 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE NOTEBOOK
PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK - MONDAY
AFTER SEVEN-YEAR ABSENCE TONGLET RETURNS TO INDY WINNER’S CIRCLE - LE Tonglet rode like a champion Monday and returned to the prestigious U.S. Nationals winner’s circle in Indianapolis.
The veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle rider, who pilots a Nitro Fish-sponsored Suzuki, upended reigning world champion and defending Indy champ Eddie Krawiec in the finals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Tonglet clocked a 6.864-second lap at 197.10 mph to edge Krawiec’s Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, which came in at 6.884 seconds at 197.02 mph.
“This feels good,” Tonglet said. “This is a long weekend and it is the biggest race of the year and to win it twice is huge.”
This is was Tonglet’s 19th career PSM national event win and his second at the U.S. Nationals. He also won the “Big Go” in 2010 and then went on to capture his lone world championship.
“We’re not only going to follow (the 2010 script), but we are going to do better than we did in 2010 and we’re going to come out victorious once again,” Tonglet said. “In 2010, we didn’t have a sponsor until we met Kenny Koretsky (of Nitro Fish) in the winner’s circle here and we were loading the trailer up and Eddie (Krawiec) and Andrew (Hines) walked down and told us we won double the amount we thought we won and my dad (Gary’s) eyes just got huge. He loved to hear that news and now we know what you get when you win it.”
Tonglet now has three wins this year – Richmond, Va., Sonoma, Calif., and Indy. He competes for White Alligator Racing with his teammate, 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie.
Krawiec was aiming for his third win at Indy as he also was victorious in 2014 and 2017.
Krawiec, who was sporting the special edition Mello Yello wrapped Harley by virtue of being the reigning world champ, will leave Indy and enter the six-race Countdown to the Championship as the points leader. Tonglet is third in the points – behind Krawiec and Hines.
“They (the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team) is labeled the kings,” Tonglet said. “We can outrun them, and we can beat them, we just have to be perfect. They haul butt in qualifying, but on race day anything can happen and usually they kind of slow down as rounds go on and we step up. I have all the faith in the world in Tim (Kulungian, his crew chief) and everybody on the team that our bike is going to be 100 percent when I stage that thing.”
Tonglet claimed victories over Ryan Oehler, Chip Ellis, a third Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider, Steve Johnson and Krawiec Monday.
“That’s not the first time they rolled a third bike out and the same outcome happened the last time they brought it,” Tonglet said. “They can bring as many as they want. We are just going to knock them down, one by one.”
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
MATT SMITH TAKES NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT – Matt Smith saved the best for last.
The two-time world champion clocked a 6.814-second elapsed time at 199.14 mph to take the No. 1 qualifying position at the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Smith, who runs his own team, has Erik Buell Racing body work, which he debuted in Brainerd, Minn., and he was thrilled with his performance Sunday.
“We struggled this weekend a little bit with the clutch in my bike,” said Smith, who is running a Gen2 horsepower. “That’s kind of what bit us second round up there at Brainerd. It bit us in Q2 here (at Indy) and we finally found it in Q4. So, we put our normal tune-up back in it and our normal motor back in it and went to the pole. All in all, we have a fast bike and I think everybody knows that. Long as I do my job and we don’t have any malfunctions, we should be pretty hard to beat (Monday).”
This was Smith’s 29th career No. 1 qualifying spot and his third at Indy as he also was the top qualifier at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2006, and 2008-2009. He also won the U.S. Nationals in 2006.
Smith’s enthusiasm was dampened a little bit as his wife, and teammate, Angie was knocked out of the field in Q5. She wound up in the No. 17 spot in the ladder with a 6.952-second run. Smith came to Indy eighth in the points standings and now will have to wait and see if she can stay in the top in points after race-day Monday.
“Her heart is broke, but we figured up all the points and as it stands right now she is still eighth by three points over Angelle (Sampey),” Matt said. “If Angelle loses first and Hector (Arana) Sr. loses first round she is locked in. I think she will be fine.”
SAMPEY GETS IN FIELD IN Q5 – Angelle Sampey, a three-time world champion Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in 2000-2002, saw her chances of competing in the Countdown to the Championship vanishing with each of the four qualifying sessions at the U.S. Nationals.
Sampey, who arrived at Indy ninth in the points standings, was on the outside looking in at the qualifying ladder on her Team Liberty Buell.
That all changed in the Q5 when she clocked a weekend best 6.940-second run at 195.11 mph to not only get into the 16-bike field but move up to the No. 11 spot. She faces Andrew Hines in round one.
Sampey has won the U.S. Nationals twice in her decorated career in 2001-2002.
“People don’t get this excited when they win the race sometimes,” Sampey said. “I get this excited because I’m qualified. My crew chief Ken Johnson told me before this last run, because I was done, I was devastated, that he ain’t quitting yet and you better not quit yet either. Thank you, Cory Reed, Jim and Annie Whiteley, Larry Morgan and all my team. I love everybody right now. I just can’t believe I get to race (Monday).”
SAVOIE STARTING NO. 14 – During the first three sessions of qualifying at the U.S. Nationals, Jerry Savoie acknowledged he was trying some stuff on his Suzuki.
Unfortunately, his team couldn’t get his bike on track as he qualified No. 14 with a 6.941-second elapsed time at 195.22 mph. As a result, Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, will face the reigning world champ and defending U.S. Nationals champion Eddie Krawiec in round one.
Krawiec is part of the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson team with Andrew Hines and Chip Ellis. Ellis qualified No. 4 (6.831) and Hines was sixth (6.852).
“You win Indy, it gives you a lot of momentum going into the next one (race),” Savoie said. “Now, you’re competing with three Harleys instead of two, that’s another problem. We will just have to see what happens.”
Savoie can draw from past success as he won U.S. Nationals in 2015. LE Tonglet, Savoie’s teammate, qualified No. 5 (6.847) and tangles with No. 12 Ryan Oehler (6.940).
BABY ON WAY FOR ARANA JR. – Hector Arana Jr., and his wife, Nicole are expecting their first child Jan. 13. The couple is waiting to find out the sex of the baby.
“I’m very excited,” Arana Jr. said. “I can’t wait. I just hope the baby is healthy.”
Nicole is the sister to Pro Stock driver Vincent Nobile.
“I’m going to be a first-time uncle,” Vincent said. “I’m excited about it. It’s a great thing. I love Hector to death. He’s a great husband to my sister. I can’t wait to be an uncle. This will also be the first time my parents are going to be grandparents. It’s a good thing for our whole family.”
Arana Jr. qualified No. 2 at 6.817 seconds and clashes with Karen Stoffer in first round. Hector Arana Sr. meets Steve Johnson in first round.
FLYIN’ RYAN STARTING IN No. 12 SPOT – This season Ryan Oehler went all in for NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class and he’s on the cusp of making the Countdown to the Championship.
He came to the U.S. Nationals, 15th in the point standings and he qualified No. 12 and will meet LE Tonglet in round one.
“We’ve just dedicated ourselves to the whole season once we started doing OK at the beginning of the year,” Oehler said. “We worked really hard in the offseason after 2017 to prepare for this year. We came out to the Gators and immediately went No. 9 with an .88 off the trailer pretty much. Of course, once you start to know that you’re competitive, it’s drag racing. You feel that you can go out there and win and the mindset changes from just qualifying and participating to going and thinking you’re going to win it every race. You just want it that much more.”
Oehler is based in Bloomington, Ill., but he has roots in Indiana.
“We’re in Bloomington, Illinois, just two hours west of here but I grew up 50 miles north of here in Lafayette, Ind,” Oehler said. “I’m a Hoosier by blood.”
Although Oehler is living his dream of competing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, it has been a grind.
“It has been an absolutely tough, tough year as far as time goes,” he said. “The hardest thing has been travel, and time management. We build our own Buell engines, moved our entire business at the first of the year from a 6,000-square foot building to an 18,000-square foot building in Bloomington, Ill. Didn’t move very far just moved from a building that we rented to a bigger building that we now own. We had to set up, had to paint the floors, had to put up walls, had to build the machine shop, now we’re still on air lines, water lines, electrical. We just put the second floor on last weekend on top of our machine shop.
So, we’ve been working out of it but it’s been a temporary setup with drop cords and air lines running everywhere. But being able to bring the rig inside, work out of the trailer inside the shop just like you would at the track is big. That makes life a little more wholesome. I’d have to say for us, we need to be at work all the way until the end of the day Thursday and we need to be there Monday morning. So, it’s really hard. Like when we went to Charlotte and Atlanta, the back-to-back races, we came home after each race. Charlotte was first, we went two rounds there, beat (Eddie) Krawiec and that was great, we were all hopped up. Hopped in the truck drove home and made it to work by 8 a.m.”
Oehler works in his family’s business at AirTec Heating & Cooling.
“Now, that we’re 10 races in for Pro Stock Motorcycle, we’ve tested about half a dozen times if not more so that has kept me busy,” Oehler said. “Then I got married on July 7 (to Laura). She does all our graphic design. She also works with us at AirTec in the business. If you want to come out here and just race a few races and try to be competitive, if you’re on your own, the only way to get caught up is to just work that much harder. That’s it. Someone asked me to ride their bike the other day and they’d pay me. I said ‘well I’ve got a window between 1 and 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That’s all I got.’ So, it ain’t in the cards.
Oehler did say he will be back in 2019 in the NHRA ranks.
“We just picked up a sponsor to get us through the rest of this year, Armstrong Air, they’re a heating and cooling manufacturer,” Oehler said. They got behind us and with their help as well as some of the smaller sponsors that we have, the list goes on of a lot of small people that get behind us and every bit helps when we’re trying to do what we’re doing. We’re in for the rest of this season. We’re in for all of next season as far as I can tell right now. Our business is really solid and doing good. We got some help from some new employees back home that have stepped up to run the show while we’re gone. All that has to be figured out if you’re going to be gone and race this kind of schedule.”
Racing was in Oehler’s blood, but he didn’t know if Pro Stock Motorcycle ever would be.
“I got my first dirt bike at 5 years old, and I think I made my first quarter-mile pass about 30 seconds after owning it,” Oehler said. “I had a quarter-mile gravel lane and I immediately started running up and down it. Of course, I was at the race track since I was a baby. My dad (Brad Oehler) raced professional drag bikes. He had a Pro Stock Harley in the 1980s.
Of course, growing up in the hardcore bike shop, watching drag bikes come by day and day and saying, ‘I want to do that.’ Then I started coming to the NHRA races at a pretty young age. I remember seeing Angelle and Antron together and just oogling over that 10-inch tire on the Pro Stock bike. That was the coolest thing to me was looking at the fact that the bike had a 10-inch tire on it and it just looked so, so cool. I said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ And I said it a lot and then I just thought I never could. I just never thought financially it was something I could achieve and little by little we got there.”
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
KRAWIEC STAYS NO. 1 – This weekend, the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is paying tribute to reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec by him donning the Mello Yello colors on his Harley-Davidson.
Moments after the Mello Yello wrapped motorcycle was unveiled, Krawiec celebrated by capturing the provisional No. 1 spot with a 6.825-second elapsed time at 197.02 mph.
No one could go faster than the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle rider in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions.
“I would say by past history, (Sunday morning’s run) should be really, really good,” Krawiec said. “Everybody stepped up in that second session (Saturday) and it wasn’t just because air got better because it didn’t. It was because the wind actually turned directions. We were dealing with a left, right cross earlier in the day and then it pretty much turned to a tail cross and with us motorcycles guys that makes a big difference because we are not trying to fight going down the track.”
Krawiec, the reigning champion at the U.S. Nationals, is upbeat about with what his team can accomplish this weekend.
“I definitely have a good motorcycle under me,” Krawiec said. “My Mello Yello Harley-Davidson is running fast.”
Right behind Krawiec on the qualifying ladder is his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Chip Ellis with a 6.831-second run at 197.48 mph.
A couple of weeks ago Ellis received an unexpected phone call from Andrew Hines.
“Andrew called me and asked what I was doing the next couple of months and my reply was ‘What do you need me to do?’” Ellis said. “Obviously, if Vance & Hines calls you and asked you to ride a Harley-Davidson, the answer is yes. When do I start? Where do I sign up?”
A year ago, Ellis ran a third Harley-Davidson motorcycle for Vance & Hines at the season-ending NHRA Auto Club Finals in November in Pomona, Calif.
“Chip has a great motorcycle under him,” Krawiec said. “He has everything that we have got, plus is what I like to say. He has an R&D bike we’re experimenting and trying to learn from. For sure, it went the right direction there. He’s still getting used to the motorcycle. It was low 60 foot that last round (Q3) and we are going to continue to pick away at it. Who knows? He might be up here (in the media center) talking to you guys. Right now, it is about just making good laps with all three of our motorcycles. We are going to pick away at Andrew’s, we think we learned something there that last session that should help (Sunday).”
Andrew Hines is No. 6 on the qualifying ladder with a 6.866-second run at 195.11 mph.
GLADSTONE HAS CHANGE OF SCENERY – Joey Gladstone is competing with a new Pro Stock Motorcycle team – Team Liberty Racing – beginning this weekend at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.Team Liberty consists of riders Cory Reed and Angelle Sampey. They run Buell-bodied motorcycles with Victory engine power. Gladstone is riding Reed’s motorcycle, while Reed waits for his new bike to be finished.
“It’s awesome,” Gladstone said. “I got a really cool, different motorcycle under me that I’m still learning things about. When you’re out here learning and doing new things and trying new things, it’s a lot of fun. And I’m having a lot of fun. I love this family (the Whiteleys), I love these people, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to do good. We’re going to put our heads together and we’re going to make a statement out here.”
This season Gladstone had been riding for the Suzuki Extended Protection team with Gary Stoffer and Greg Underdahl this season, but then opted to make the switch prior to Indy.
Gladstone arrived at Indy with his new team and 13th in the points. The U.S. Nationals is the last race of the regular season as the top 10 drivers in each Pro class try to qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
“Cory’s waiting for his new bike to be done,” Gladstone said. “The plan was always to come over here for next year, but we figured after a couple certain things happened, we figured why not get a head start on next year and get some testing done. Really, we’re in testing mode right now. On top of that we even went testing for two days before this race at Bowling Green (Ky.).”
At the Bowling Green, Gladstone made test runs on Reed and Sampey’s motorcycles.
“Both went darn near identical ETs,” Gladstone said. “Anybody who’s been to Bowling Green knows it’s slow there. That was Monday and Tuesday. It was 4,000-feet above sea level, 1.09 correction factor, 90 percent humidity and 104 degrees and we went out there and went mid-6.90s all day on both bikes. We’re coming into this race confident. We’re anxious to see what they’ll run with better air.”
Through three Indy qualifying sessions, Gladstone is 10th on the qualifying ladder with a 6.937-second elapsed time at 194.07 mph. Sampey is No. 17 at 6.977 seconds at 193.21 mph. While Gladstone is competing, Reed is in waiting mode for his new motorcycle.
“He’s about three to four weeks from a new bike,” Gladstone said. “At the earliest Maple Grove at the latest the race after Maple Grove, (which is St. Louis, Sept. 21-23).”
Sometimes when a rider joins a new team he also has to adapt to new people, butt he transition is easier for Gladstone because he’s known Reed for a while.
“Cory and I became friends, probably about three years ago at a manufacturer’s cup race, a motorcycle race down in Georgia,” Gladstone said. “This is back when he was riding with George Bryce. I knew George. But I met Cory because we ran each other. We went down the racetrack at the same time on two completely different bikes. We just got to talking and then didn’t see him for another year. We started hanging out my rookie year last year. I got partially through my rookie year and we were at a race track and he asked me ‘where you staying tonight?’ and I said ‘I don’t know probably staying on the trailer floor. My rookie year I was on a shoe-string budget. He said, ‘no man, you can stay with me.’ I said, ‘you sure, you cool with that?’ He said ‘yeah.’ So, I ended up staying with him for the rest of the year when we’d go to a race track. We just continued the friendship on and we hang out and have fun and it’s a good deal.”
ARANA SR. ENJOYING HIS TIME IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Hector Arana Sr. won a Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship in 2009 and fast-forward to 2018 and he’s still enjoying competing in the class.
Arana and his son, Hector Arana Jr., compete on Lucas Oil-sponsored Erik Buell Racing motorcycles.
“This is a special place for us now that we live here in Indiana, so this is our home track,” Arana Sr. said. “It’s great but it also gets hectic because of a lot of family and friends that come and visit us. This is the biggest race there is, the most prestige and to win another trophy and do well here especially with Forrest Lucas and the Lucas Oil Company, that would be awesome.”
Arana Sr. won the U.S. Nationals in 2009, and Hector Jr. captured the prestigious title in 2011.
Arana Sr. arrived in Indy 10th in the point standings, and Hector Jr. is third.
“We’re just going to stay focused on our program,” said Arana Sr. about his team’s approach as he tries to join in the top 10 in the Countdown. “I know that they (Harleys) do step up. We’re never giving up. Never stopping research. When we go back home we tear down and keep looking. We fix what’s wrong and make it better and try to find more horsepower, that’s all we can do.”
Being on the Countdown bubble isn’t something that bothers Arana Sr.
“Right now, I’m not going to worry about it,” Arana Sr. “Let the chips fall where they may. I’m going to give you my best. We have a couple of issues and we’re trying to find those little things on the bike. That’s the hardest thing because it keeps happening and happening and you start getting into your head, which I have, and once you start doing that you start making more mistakes. Put that behind and get working and hopefully we find something.”
Arana Sr. did take a moment to reflect on his son becoming the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle to eclipse the 200-mph barrier.
“The Harleys win a lot of races but you’re still the only 200 mph motorcycle, and no one can take that away,” he said. “We made history. Our name is out there. To do that and to give that to Forrest Lucas, because he wanted it too, and we accomplished that, the biggest milestone ever. My son has gone 200 mph six times already on different tracks. It’s a good problem. It’s now my turn to do it.”
Arana Sr. did disclose to CompetitionPlus.com that Arana Jr., and his wife, Nicole, the sister of Pro Stock driver Vincent Nobile, are expecting in January.
JIMMY UNDERDAHL TALKS ABOUT HIS SEASON – Last year, veteran NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle racer Jimmy Underdahl stepped away from the class to spend time with his family and work.
Underdahl competed in just two events in 2017 at Brainerd, Minn., and the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Underdahl is back competing fulltime this season and he arrived at Indy 11th in the points and had semifinal appearance at Sonoma, Calif.
Underdahl is competing for the Underdahl-Stoffer Pro Stock Motorcycle team with backing from Suzuki Extended Protection.
“The team works pretty good together,” Jimmy said. “Everybody has their individual jobs. I enjoy the rush of racing. That’s what keeps you out here right? I don’t think there’s anything else like it. The only think that I could think of that would be similar to it (the rush of racing) would probably be sky diving. I have not been sky diving, but that is on my bucket list.”
Underdahl and Stoffer merged their PSM teams together to form the Underdahl-Stoffer team. Gary’s wife, Karen Stoffer, who has won eight career NHRA national events, also rides for the team.
Jimmy Underdahl has been competing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class since 2005. His best finish in the points was ninth in 2015. He has two career runner-up finishes and 11 semifinal efforts.
“Next year, I should be back out here full season and we do have another rider, Jianna Salinas, who we are training right now, and she should be ready to go by next season.”
Salinas is the daughter of Top Fuel driver Mike Salinas.
“We have got her like a trainer bike with a smaller engine and she has tested pretty good,” Underdahl said. “She’s progressing very well so you should see her out here next year. After races, we have been testing with her and getting here familiar with everything.”
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
EDDIE KRAWIEC RIDES MELLO YELLO HARLEY –This weekend, the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is paying tribute to reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec by him donning the Mello Yello colors on his Harley-Davidson.
Moments after the Mello Yello wrapped motorcycle was unveiled, Krawiec celebrated by capturing the provisional No. 1 spot with a 6.825-second elapsed time at 197.02 mph.
“I think that is an awesome run off the trailer, especially for the conditions,” Krawiec said. “I made a nice, clean pass and I went straight through there and it didn’t rattle, and it didn’t shake. Overall, it was a very good, clean run. It’s really what you need to do especially rolling into the biggest race of the year an unveiling the Mello Yello motorcycle. It was fitting for me to put it on the pole and for it all to work out in my favor and I’m definitely excited to be flying those Mello Yello colors. This is a home track for us, we are located about a mile away from here. We have a bunch of friends and family here so to that is special.”
It seems like every year late in the season Krawiec and his teammate, Andrew Hines, step up another level as they push for a world championship.
Krawiec, however, describes it a different way.
“I wouldn’t say we find something more,” Krawiec said. “You always have to be prepared is the way I would explain it. Honestly, it is pretty much the same engine that I’ve had in my bike the last few races. As you tune on them, and you get a better handle it doesn’t hurt the fact that we are a mile way from here and we dyno in all this weather and a lot of data is required right here and it gives us an edge I believe coming here.
"When you look at the last race at Brainerd (Minn.) by far we weren’t the fastest in speed and we weren’t the lowest in ET, but when you look at that, you need to consistently make good runs every single lap. It’s about trying not to fall off. We’ve really tried to refine our tune-up over the last year and I think we have got to that position where we run in that area that we need to run every single lap rather than falling off four, five, six hundredths. We do occasionally because we try stuff.
"That’s why we have Chip Ellis out here riding our third bike. That’s merely an R&D effort that’s in tuning and in chassis stuff. We are trying to educate ourselves not for right now, but for 2019 because we need to then and we need to better now. You have to be conscious everything that’s going on and have an understanding and we are always working something new.”
MATT SMITH MAKES BOLD PREDICTION – Matt Smith, a two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ 2007 and 2013, comes to the U.S. Nationals with high expectations as well as for the rest of the year.
Smith pilots the Elite Motorsports Denso Auto Parts Erik Buell Racing motorcycle. Smith debuted the body work at Brainerd, Minn., and qualified No. 1. On Friday at Indy, Smith is the provisional No. 3 qualifier.
“We had a clutch malfunction second round (at Brainerd),” Smith said. “Hopefully, we have that fixed. We didn’t have time to go test, we just went home (to King, N.C.), and worked on some new motors. I had to get Ron’s bike ready and then we worked on getting Angie a Gen 2 motor ready that she is going to debut on Sunday, probably.
This weekend, Smith is competing as is his wife, Angie, who is eight in points in her Buell, and Ron Tonno also is leasing a motorcycle from MSR. Mark Paquette also is using MSR horsepower this weekend.
Matt Smith won the U.S. Nationals in 2006 and wants to add another Wally in 2018.
“We’ve had very good success here and I plan to do the same thing this weekend,” Smith said. “We supposed to debut the EBR body at Denver (July 20-22), and they then pushed it back, but we did get a week before the Brainerd race (Aug. 16-19) and got it on. It was all in primer. We didn’t get to paint it or do anything, but we qualified No. 1 and ran fast and now we have it painted and hopefully it runs just as fast.”
The Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates – Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines – are the riders to beat for the 2018 world championship, and Smith isn’t backing down from the Harleys.
“I might be going out on a limb, but I think we have something for them,” Smith said. “I think we have the bike to beat for these next seven races and honestly I really think that we can three or four of the next seven races. That’s going out on a limb, but I feel that confident the way that bike performed (at Brainerd) and I think the Harley guys know that.”
VETERAN JOHSON REFLECTS ON INDY – Steve Johnson is the true veteran of NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class, debuting in 1987, and according to NHRA records, not missing a national event since 1989.
Johnson is back at the U.S. Nationals and trying to add victory No. 3 at Indy to go along with his 2005 and 2008 wins.
“I’ve tried to take everything I have learned over the last long time and try to apply to a solution that will create a great result,” Johnson said. “We are only here for one reason, and that’s to win.”
Johnson did take a moment to reflect when he left Indy with Wallys.
“The race in 2005, is what people tell me is that’s the most controversial win in the history of the sport, that was very unique and at that point I had only won three races and two of them I didn’t get to go to the winner’s circle,” Johnson said. “Then in 2008, I got the win and got to do the winner’s circle and was really proud and then I won the next race in Charlotte. I had a really great team.”
Back in 2005, a glitch in the timing system at Indy, first gave the victory to his opponent, Matt Smith, in a race that Johnson was confident he’d won. As he turned off the track, he turned to the assembled media and plaintively asked, “I lost?” It was a bitter pill to swallow, but less than 24 hours later, after careful examination of the race video it was apparent to all that Johnson had won by almost a wheel width and he was awarded the win.
Johnson has been racing in Pro Stock Motorcycle for more than three decades and he isn’t ready to leave from the sport.
“It is definitely loving what I do, and I was explaining to a fan (Friday) that people go through life and they learn disciplines and strategies of how to go through life, some more successful than others.
Not to be huge suck up, but the sanctioning body and the infrastructure of drag racing, meaning PR people, all the way to sponsors and the sanctioning body itself have given me tools to be in my eyes, successful at life. Being detailed, being accountable, showing up on time, saving your money, having a goal. All of these things, I feel like I learned through NHRA drag racing. So, to walk away, would almost be like saying I know everything. It’s a little corny, and it is my twist on things. My school programs if I quit and don’t win a championship, I don’t have as strong of legs to stand on when I’m talking the kids about not quitting. They quit on their cellphone, on an ap, a video game, they quit at school. There all kinds of things people quit at and a lot of things make up a brand and I don’t want part of the things that make up my brand as being a quitter.”
As for results this weekend, Johnson remains realistic.
“My expectations are to qualify top half and win first round, that’s fair,” Johnson said. “We tried to test in St. Louis, but it rained out and we were not smart enough to go to a place that didn’t have rain.”
TONGLET EYES CHAMPIONSHIP, KNOWS IT WILL BE TOUGH – LE Tonglet knows what it takes to win an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship and capture the prestigious U.S. Nationals. Both things happened in 2010.
Tonglet is in his second season competing with White Alligator Racing and he arrived at Indy fourth in the points standings.
And, Tonglet knows knocking Vance & Hines Harley Davidson teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines off will not be easy.
“It is tough,” Tonglet said. “They (the Vance & Hines team) always seem to find the extra little bit to put themselves ahead and we just have to be more prepared than they are for the last six (races in the Countdown to the Championship) and we will see what happens. We can win it (the world championship), we just have to have our stuff together and make perfect runs and go four rounds on Sundays. The plan right now is to win the U.S. Nationals.”
Tonglet has competed in all nine PSM races this season – eight with White Alligator Racing. He has two wins this year for WAR at Richmond, Va., and Sonoma, Calif.
“Any time you are with Jerry (Savoie) and these guys, we always have fun no matter if we win or lose and it just makes it that much better,” Tonglet said.
Although Tonglet has had great success in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, he isn’t ready to commit to competing in the class in 2019.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be racing or not,” Tonglet said. “We will see. I have my job (as a fireman in Metairie, La) and my wife, Kayla, is pregnant and her due date is Oct. 29. We are having a boy. We are super pumped. We will see what happens next year with racing.”
Early Friday, Tonglet was sporting a new look with a mustache, which he explained.
“I’ve had it for a couple of weeks and I’m not sure if it is going to be on the rest of the day or not,” he said. “I can’t grow a beard with my job as a fireman because of the air masks seals. So all we can grow is a mustache.”
CLONTZ GLAD TO BE AT INDY – Competing and making it in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class is a tough challenge.
And, it’s one Kelly Clontz has taken head on.
She has competed in all 10 events this season and she will make her debut at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Clontz arrived in Indy 23rd in the points in her Vance & Hines-powered Suzuki.
“I’ve been here but I’ve never raced here,” said Clontz, who resides in Hughesville, Md. “This is exciting. This is what you dream for so to be out here and hang around with these guys, I’m super excited. I think it’s a tough field out here. There’s about 20 bikes that show up to every event and they all have a shot at getting in. I feel like we’re giving it our all and we’re learning a lot and have a lot of support. You always want more than you get but with where we’re at I feel like we’re improving and we’re learning and that’s what a rookie is supposed to do.”
A year ago, Clontz competed at Englishtown (N.J.), Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., and Reading.
Clontz plans on racing in Pro Stock Motorcycle next year, but she’s not sure what her schedule will be.
“Right now, we made a goal for ourselves that we’re going to come out here and run this full season and we have some great sponsors helping us but unless we find a full sponsor for next year we won’t be at all 16,” Clontz said. “We’ll probably be at, at least 10, we hope. But we truly need to find the support financially because it’s been tough for us. We have to work Monday through Friday to pay for racing.”
Clontz said next season she expects to compete on her same motorcycle.
“We don’t have any plans of switching up unless an opportunity comes up and you never know,” Clontz said. “We’re not solely sold on a Suzuki but this is our Suzuki. But if an opportunity comes up and we can work it out then we’re willing to jump ship.”
Prior to moving up to Pro Stock Motorcycle, Clontz gained experience in bracket racing.
“The bike that I rode before was totally different than a Pro Stock. It was my bracket bike,” Clontz said. “I didn’t have wheelie bars, it was small tire. I bracket raced for 15 years so this whole Pro Stock thing (is new). I had auto-shift for 15 years, now I’m learning to shift by hand.”
A transition that is something Clontz has had to adapt to.
“It’s super fast, I’m letting the clutch go, it’s a totally different ballgame,” Clontz said. “So, I feel like we’re doing good with having to switch over and learning. It wasn’t really a dream of mine until about 2015 when I finally let a clutch go for the first time on a Pro Stock Motorcycle. Until that you don’t just say ‘I’m going to run Pro Stock, but yet I actually haven’t run a Pro Stock (Motorcycle). Once we did that we just kind of pushed forward and everything is falling into place. We got the program together a lot faster than we thought we would. But everything just fell into place and we’re dealing with the right people so we have a big support system.
It’s everything I thought it’d be and then some. It’s awesome. You can’t explain to be at this level and just the fans and the support we get from all the race teams. It’s amazing.”
Clontz said her team is going to get some help to make it to some of the remaining Countdown races.
“Matt and Angie (Smith) are going to haul our bike from Dallas for the rest of the year,” Clontz said. “So it’ll be Dallas, Charlotte, Vegas, Pomona. They’ll haul our bike for us and we’ll just fly in to make it easier because we do have to work as much as we can.
RAWLINGS EYES IMPROVEMENT – Since the Gatornationals in 2017, Andrea Rawlings has been realizing her dream of competing in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
However, going up against the best drivers and teams in the world has not been easy for Rawlings on her Suzuki.
“We are fastandieracing and we are running are BPM engine program,” Rawlings said. “It’s the same Suzuki that I was running last year, and we have been doing a lot on our own. This is our fourth race this season. We’ve been to Gainesville, Atlanta, Richmond (Va.) and now Indy. This season has been a struggle. A week after (Richmond) Virginia (June 8-10), I blew it up. Not only did I blow it up, I had it catch on fire during a test run in Orlando (Fla.). We basically had to break it down and build it back up, that’s why it has taken so long to get back.”
At Indy, Rawlings is debuting new horsepower.
“This motor, we have never competed with,” she said. “This weekend, I want to do a really good job. I want to do what I need to do, exactly as I need to do it, so they can get a good handle on their tune-up. That’s ultimately the goal for the next step. You can’t do more unless you do good with what you have got. I’m very excited. We have made a lot of progress so we should be able to make five solid passes, which is a huge step in general for all of us as a team.”
Rawlings said following Indy, she expects to compete at the final six races of the season.