2019 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PSM NOTEBOOK
PSM’S SAVIOE WINS INDY FOR SECOND TIME - Just when it seemed Andrew Hines was unstoppable on his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, Jerry Savoie did the improbable Monday.
Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion who is racing a limited schedule this year, captured the prestigious U.S. Nationals title when Hines recorded a red-light start. Savoie clocked a 6.851-second ET at 195.25 for good measure.
“When I dropped the clutch, I saw the redlight come on and I knew we had him covered,” Savoie said. “He was a little nervous. He has a lot of pressure on him. He’s won almost every race this year. I’m real surprised they didn’t run the numbers I thought they were going to run this weekend because this is their home track and they test here all the time. When Andrew throws up a redlight, you better thank God for it because it is not very often that happens.”
This was Savoie’s 10th career national event win and first since the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte in the spring of 2018. Savoie now has two U.S, Nationals victories on his resume, the first one coming in 2015 when he beat Chip Ellis in the finals.
“We came out victorious this weekend,” Savoie said. “At my age, I will be 61 in February, my days are coming. I only planned on being out here two or three years and I’ve been out here eight years. I know my time is coming and I didn’t know if I would ever win another one at my age. It is tough. All you armchair quarterbacks out that have their opinions and if you think this so easy come and get you some. I pray that you come and get you some because it is not easy.”
Savoie, who rides a Suzuki with Vance & Hines power and runs his own White Alligator Racing team, had only competed in six of the nine races this season before the U.S. Nationals.
“Suzukis have been struggling, and thanks to Vance & Hines, they have been working on a couple of combinations and it paid off,” Savoie said. “Tim (Kulungian, Savoie’s crew chief) found a sweet spot and I held my composure all day and we were able to maintain some good runs. The Harley guys, you can’t take away from them. They are not always the fastest, but they are the most consistent. People beat them up on the internet, but you have to give them props; those guys are good.”
The Cut Off, La., alligator farmer who came to Indy 10th in the season points standings now will run for another world championship.
“Somebody asked me if I made the top 10 if I was going to make all the races (in the Countdown),” Savoie said. “Let me tell you something people don’t know about me. I have a big heart and care about other people. For me to bump some people out of the top 10 and not compete for a championship would be dirty. I would never do that to anyone. I’m going to make all the (six Countdown) races and we are going to go for it and see what happens.”
Savoie qualified No. 8 with a 6.885-second lap, but his crew chief Tim Kulungian found something. Hines clocked identical 6.847-second runs in first and second round and was 6.864 seconds in the semis and then had a 6.851-second ET in the finals.
Savoie ousted Ryan Oehler, Joey Gladstone, Eddie Krawiec, Hines’ teammate, and then Hines in the finals. Hines has won seven national events this season and was runner-up once.
“We have some mechanical malfunctions and broke a (transmission) and we had to swap engines and when you swap engines in Q5, you’re looking for a tune-up all over again,” Savoie said. “Tim was able to do good in first round and from there we just kept going. It was a blessing, and everything worked out.”
Hines has been phenomenal since the debut of the FXDR body for the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team at the Mile-High Nationals July 19 in Denver.
Hines had a 14-0 record in elimination rounds with the FXDR body – four wins in Denver, three in the Mickey Thompson Bike Battle (in Sonoma, Calif., July 27), three more at the Sonoma Nationals (July 28) and three more at Indy before he handed Savoie the win with his redlight.
Savoie mentioned to Competition Plus earlier in the weekend he may step away from riding in 2020, but now he’s not so sure.
“I’m a guy who has goals in life and once I accomplish them, I’m fulfilled and my life is very much fulfilled,” Savoie said. “I have a lot of stuff going on. I have cattle and alligators and a deer ranch, and I have to sacrifice some things to be out here. I have a great group of people back home and when you have that you’re able to do the things you do. I’m a very spur of the moment kind of guy. I could quit today. I don’t plan on it. Next year we have some things cooking and we will see what happens.”
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK -
INDY HAS PRESENTED CHALLENGE FOR MATT SMITH – Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Matt Smith knows how to win world championships and races – including the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Smith qualified No. 2 with a 6.820-second ET at 197.25 mph for Monday’s race.
“I think we have a good shot at (winning) Monday,” Smith said.
Despite Smith’s strong effort in the five sessions of qualifying, it didn’t come with some hard work and nervous moments about the track surface – beginning before Q1.
“They (NHRA) kind of messed us up because they have been about 25 percent all year long and we got a text message in the staging lanes prior to our first pass (in Q1) and they said they were going 100 percent,” Smith said. “It kind of screwed the whole clutch set up that we had figured out from testing. I got it close and got it right (Saturday in Q3). We are still struggling with Angie (Smith’s, his wife’s bike). We will make adjustments if they will let us know what they are going to spray.
"They have been spraying it this year 75/25. Last year it was like 80/20. The year before it was 90/10. So, they’ve been decreasing it because they don’t want the fuelers to go as fast. I think they went 100 percent because this is Indy and it is their track and they wanted everybody to go fast. It changes our set up, especially when they don’t tell us that.”
Smith said he’s talked to NHRA about the track spraying.
“We asked them, look you need to give at least an hour a head of what you’re going to do, so we have time to adjust stuff.”
Smith said the tight spray changed things immediately for him.
“When they spray that tight it was more like a radial prep track and you need to raise the leave and put more timing in it through low gear and get the bike moving. Ours bogged. We didn’t have any power in it, and it didn’t go anywhere.”
SAVOIE POSSIBLY STEPPING AWAY AS PSM RIDER – Jerry Savoie doesn’t have anything to prove in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
Savioe, driving for his White Alligator Racing team, won NHRA’s Mello Yello Series 2016 PSM world championship.
In the 2019 season, Savoie reduced his schedule, but he did field a second motorcycle with Karen Stoffer, an eight-time NHRA national event winner. Both are riding Suzukis.
Although Savoie has only competed in six of the nine PSM races he arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis 10th in the points standings – 32 points in front of 11th-place Scotty Pollacheck.
Savoie's season-best race was at Atlanta May 5 when he made it to the final round before getting upended by Andrew Hines. Stoffer, meanwhile, is fifth in the points standings highlighted by her runner-up finish in Chicago June 2, losing to Matt Smith in the finals.
“We’re hoping to have a great weekend (in Indy) to get Karen and I into the Countdown,” Savoie said. “The intention (this season) was to have three bikes and I really didn’t know if I’d be in the Countdown or not. I don’t think it would be a fair shake for me to be in the Countdown without racing. It wouldn’t be fair to not give someone else that opportunity.”
Savoie said his White Alligator Racing team will be competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but he likely will not be riding.
“I’ve got too many things that I’m trying to complete,” said Savoie about why he would step away from riding. I have so much going on, I need to take a year off.”
Savoie said the plan is for him to have a two-bike team in 2020, excluding him as a rider.
Savoie is an alligator farmer in Cut Off, La., and he also is managing a around 800 head of cattle.
“I’ll be 61 in February, so my reflexes are starting to slow down,” Savoie said. “We’ll see. We’ve got some other changes being made. NHRA is working on some stuff with Suzukis and what not so who knows, that might encourage me to come back.”
Savoie qualified No. 8 with a 6.885-second run. Stoffer qualified No. 7 with a 6.880-second ET at 195.11 mph
POLLACHECK AIMS TO GET IN COUNTDOWN – When veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Scotty Pollacheck arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis 11th in the point standings.
This weekend, Pollacheck has one last chance to make the top 10 in the point standings as Indy is the last race in the regular season before the six-race Countdown to the Championship begins.
Pollacheck was 32 points behind 10th place Jerry Savoie and 50 points behind Angelle Sampey. Pollacheck has a chance to make up ground since the increased amount of points via the points-and-a-half system in play at Indy.
“That’s our goal this weekend (to get in the Countdown),” Pollacheck said. “We definitely want to make the Top 10 (in points) Monday for sure.”
Pollacheck qualified No. 11 with a 6.924-second lap at 193.96 mph.
MIKE SALINAS TALKS ABOUT HIS DAUGHTER’S PSM PROGRESS – When Jianna Salinas made her Pro Stock Motorcycle debut this season, there was plenty for her to learn.
Salinas has competed in seven of the nine PSM events this season, and she has one round win, defeating Hector Arana Sr. in the first round in Chicago June 2.
Salinas arrived at the U.S. Nationals 16th in the points and her father, Top Fuel racer Mike Salinas knows it is going to take time for his daughter to become an elite rider in the PSM class. Jianna failed to qualify for Indy.
“She has a lot to learn,” Mike said. “She’s going to get better at it with every lap. She just needs more seat time. Every time she goes out, she’s finding little things that she’s not really happy with, so she is critiquing them and making them better and better. It is all positive.”
Mike isn’t setting any goals that he expects Jianna to meet this season.
“If she qualifies or doesn’t qualify, that’s not our focus,” Mike said. “Basically, everything a test session until she tells me she is ready to go. When she is then we will take it to another level.”
Mike said Jianna will be competing in the PSM class in 2020.
“I’m going to try and get my (Pro Stock Motorcycle) license in Vegas (this fall),” Mike said. “That way I will have the (Pro Stock Motorcycle) license. I need to get the license so I can beat her. I will run (a Pro Stock Motorcycle) next year, and I’m going be practicing in the offseason.”
At Indy Sunday, Mike tried something else knew when he sat on a nitro Harley.
“I’ve never been on a nitro Harley, but you have to be half nuts to do this stuff,” Mike said. “As you get older, you want to try everything.”
RAWLINGS RIDING LEARNING CURVE – Andie Rawlings knows firsthand how hard is to compete in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
She keeps persevering and this season she claimed a first-round win over Andrew Hines in Chicago June 2.
This weekend is making her third appearance at the U.S. Nationals in Indy and she failed to qualify, unfortunately.
“We love the track,” Rawlings said about Lucas Oil Raceway. “The track has always been good to us. So, we’re ready to let it rip. There’s plenty of shut down so let's go do it. We made some changes. We’re ready to hit the six-second club and finally take that step forward.”
Rawlings tested Aug. 12-14 at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adel and in Orlando, Fla., making 12 laps, before coming to Indy.
Unfortunately, Rawlings came up short in making the 16-bike field.
JOEY GLADSTONE, REED MOTORSPORTS TRYING TO GET UP TO SPEED – A year ago, joined Liberty Motorsports the Pro Stock team that consisted of Cory Reed and Angelle Sampey.
Now, a year later things have been hectic. Gladstone and Reed are together, and the two-bike team is now called Reed Motorsports.
Despite the craziness of the season, Gladstone and Reed qualified No. 16 and No. 13 for the U.S. Nationals.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Gladstone said about being with Reed. “I get to work every day with my best buddy and make progress and you know build motors, make horsepower. It's fun. It's awesome. We assemble all of our motors in house. It’s a combination of all of us. We all chip in and help build them and work together and that's what it's all about.”
The Reed Motorsports team is now based out of Ashland, Va.
“We moved there over the summer,” Gladstone said. “Cory and I moving our families up to Richmond it’s been a busy summer and it isn’t going to stop. It's been a been a pretty long summer as far as like a lot of hard work. I had to move out of my house down in Florida and we put an offer in on a house in Richmond and that's going through. I’m living in my camper behind the shop.”
The move to Virginia made more sense for Reed Motorsports.
“Cecil (Towner, the team’s tuner) had a good idea to just move up to Virginia and we can all work together every day. That’s what we decided to do,” Gladstone said.
Reed Motorsports drivers – Reed and Gladstone – sat out the race in Chicago May 30-June 2 to regroup with their S&S V-Twins.
“We just didn't have enough parts when our engine program traded hands,” Gladstone said. “We just didn't have the parts or the time. We were running Larry Morgan (power). We started doing it ourselves. We’re calling them the S&S Gen2 Motor.
The Gen2’s were based off a Victory. When Matt Smith got the Victory deal, he worked with S&S and designed this motor. They're really an all Billet platform. So, it's hard to shave space off of anything but the Gen1 stuff when it first came out, I noticed a lot of people don't use them anymore, but they had a knife and fork connecting rod design just like the original Buell that it's based off of. This Victory is a side by side connecting rod motor. You can see the cylinders are offset a little bit.”
Gladstone has a realistic approach to Indy and then the final six races of the season.
“We just want to run with the big dogs,” he said. “We don’t really care about points right now. We just want to go kick some a**. That's all we want to go fast and kick a**. If we make the Top 10, this weekend that would be nice, but we're not overly concerned about it. If we don't make the Top 10, we probably won't do all the races. Probably won’t do Pomona. There's no point. We'd rather go testing.”
As for 2020, there Reed Motorsports has some ambitious plans, according to Gladstone.
“We want more (than two bikes), we want four of them,” Gladstone said. “Our goal is to is to do rental programs, teach people how to ride and give people a good honest chance at doing good at races but we're still getting our stuff together with our motor program. We're building up more and more complete motors. Everything just takes time as far as getting crankshafts in and cylinder heads and stuff like that. But when we took over the motor program, we didn't have that many parts.
We have another chassis right now from last year that we just need to wire it up and clean it up and put a motor in it. But like I said, we got to have the motors to do it and we're doing it. We're in the process of building more and more. But if you have four bikes out here you need at least eight motors. Same thing with three bikes at least six motors, but we're getting there.”
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - SATURDAY
ANGELLE SAMPEY NO. 1 ON QUALIFYING LADDER – There’s little Angelle Sampey hasn’t done in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
She has won world championships – 2000-2002 - and collected 42 national event wins.
Sampey had never competed on a Harley-Davidson – until this season – when she joined the vaunted Vance & Hines team.
And said acknowledged it has been a learning curve for her. Sampey arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis ninth in the points. Sampey’s Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates – Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are first and second in season points.
Sampey received a much-needed boost when she rocketed up to the qualifying ladder with a 6.816-second elapsed time at 195.53 mph.
“I’ve been focusing real hard on being still on the motorcycle and keeping my shoulders still and leaving better because I can get the beginning of the run to start right, then the middle and the end will come along the way they are supposed. I’m trying really hard to do that and I’ve done a better job of that.”
If Sampey holds the No. 1 qualifying spot it will be here 50th career No. 1 qualifying position.
“That would be fantastic (to get No. 50), especially with the Harley-Davidson team,” Sampey said. “I’m trying so hard to make them happy being that gave me this opportunity and put me on this motorcycle. I feel like I haven’t come even close to doing that with the way I have been performing. If I could have a great outing this weekend, whether it is winning or just a No. 1 qualifier it would be something to give me the confidence to know that at least I’m giving something back to them and figures crossed that they will let me do this again next year.”
Sampey said there has also been changes to her motorcycle to try and get her up to par with Hines’ and Krawiec’s Harleys.
“Andrew took everything he could, including his engine out of his motorcycle and put it onto the mine,” Sampey said. “Then, he took everything off of mine and put it on his because he said he wanted to be able to feel and hear and see and do everything he can to see why mine was a little bit behind his and Eddie’s. The reason he had to do that is that I’m still overwhelmed with driving the motorcycle that I haven’t got to the point where I need to be to being able to explain to him what I’m feeling so he can know what to change. Now that he has everything on his bike and he can feel it himself and he’s figuring it out as you can see because he’s right behind me. I’m really loving the parts he put on my motorcycle and I hope he lets me keep them, but I’m sure he won’t.”
Hines is third on the qualifying ladder 6.823-second ET at 195,87 mph. Krawiec is fifth at 6.878 second at 194.72 mph.
“I knew it was going straight and that was all that mattered to me,” Sampey said. “I started screaming in my helmet, ‘I went straight. I went straight. I went straight. I was so excited I was waving at the TV camera. I didn’t even know that it was a great ET. So, when (NHRA’s) Lewis Bloom had a poker face at the end of the track and called me over and handed the time slip to me I got so excited. I knew it was a good run. I knew it was better than what I had done, but I didn’t know it was going to be good enough for No. 1.”
After a season of struggling adjusting to driving a Harley, Sampey was relieved with the numbers she put on the scoreboard Saturday evening.
“It’s still early, of course I have to race on Monday,” Sampey said. “It doesn’t matter what spot you go in at, you have to win. It was definitely confidence boost I needed because I have been struggling mentally and somewhat physically on the motorcycle. I’m so little and the motorcycle takes so much more strength than I have or even more weight than I have. We were making jokes that I actually gained a few pounds from the last race to this one and they took a couple of pounds off the bike and I did a better job. All day long they’ve been trying to feed me cookies and very fattening things. I told them that if this keeps working then the next race I will have gained several pounds.”
Sampey said driving a Harley-Davidson is a lot harder than it looks.
“It is the most difficult thing I have ever done,” she said. “I thought for sure that I was going to step onto this motorcycle and change the world because it was a Harley-Davidson. I thought all I needed was to be on a Harley-Davidson. It has definitely shown me how good Andrew and Eddie are because it is the toughest motorcycle to drive out of everyone I have ever ridden and I have ridden all of them. Thumbs up, hats off to Andrew and Eddie because they made it look easy and it is not. It is just a heavy motorcycle, the torque is so different. It pulls from the bottom to the top of the gear and if you don’t get it right from the very beginning, you’re struggling at the top end. I’m learning that it is an awesome motorcycle. It has awesome power, but you have to absolutely be a good driver. I have the best two ahead of me to watch, especially Andrew he just seems to be flawless.”
HINES ADRESSES HARLEY-DAVIDSON FOR SALE TO OTHERS RUMORS – In the drag racing scene, people have been talking about how Harley-Davidson motorcycles might be available for all Pro Stock Motorcycle racers soon.
As it stands now, only Vance & Hines riders – Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey - are the competitors who can campaign Harleys.
“I don’t know who started that rumor,” said Hines when asked by Competition Plus about Harleys being available for other competitors. “People want it, there’s no denying that. I want to sell them. It’s not my decision. I don’t have the power they have. That bar and shield (Harley-Davidson) they protect that with a lot of respect, and they've built that company 115 years strong. It is what it is. We're pushing that way. I can't say it's going to happen. I can't say that it's not going to happen.”
In on-track news, Hines has been phenomenal since the debut of the FXDR body for the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team at the Mile-High Nationals July 19 in Denver. Hines has a 11-0 record in elimination rounds with the FXDR body – four wins in Denver, three in the Mickey Thompson Bike Battle (in Sonoma, Calif., July 27) and three more at the Sonoma Nationals (July 28).
“It's been good,” Hines said. “Unfortunately, that body's not as good as people cracked it up to be. It’s narrowly competitive to what we had with the street rod. What we're seeing is maybe a quarter-mile an hour better. It's not like two or three like an EBR would be if we changed into one of those things. it's just kind of built to fit the motorcycle.
The biggest thing we look forward to is fit and finish. We don't have anything like duct tape on the bike. We’ve got nice fasteners on everywhere. All the caps are nice and tight. 1/16-inch foam on the air box everywhere. Just sealed up nice. Probably better air box pressure than we had before. It's an efficient motorcycle for our package. It’s built for our frame, built for our seating position. Got frame rails as tight as I could get it just where our frame rails are. It looks cool. I think it looks like one of the best motorcycles out there. I’m biased because but I helped design the thing and I race for Harley-Davidson, but we get a lot of compliments from racers and fans alike. It's been really cool and a long arduous process. Our side, NHRA’s side, Harley’s side with all the back-and-forth meetings and were able to get it done. We wanted to have it out earlier in the year, but it just got prolonged and we were forced to change a few things along the way and it is what it is, but it's cool and hasn't lost a round yet. So, we're going to try and continue on."
Hines has 55 career national event wins since he made his PSM debut at the Mile-High Nationals in 2002.
SPECIAL WEEKEND FOR ARANAS – Once again, this season Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. have proved to be championship contenders.
Arana Jr. arrived in Indy, fourth in the season points, on the strength of one win at Las Vegas in the spring. Arana Sr. Arana Sr. is eighth in the points.
“This is our hometown race, and the first race I ever won (in 2011),” Arana Jr. said. “It’s the U.S. Nationals, the Big Go. This is also the first race that my daughter (Sofia) has come to. She is old enough and all our family is here and it is exciting. I have to put on a good show for her.”
Arana Jr.’s wife, Nicole, the sister of Pro Stock racer Vincent Nobile.
“It feels so good having Sofia out here, it feels awesome,” Arana Sr. said about his granddaughter. “I was playing with here and she was giggling and everything. It is special.”
Arana Jr., in his Lucas Oil-sponsored Erik Buell Racing motorcycle is No. 4 on the qualifying sheet after three sessions with a 6.846-second ET at 195,70 mph. Hector Sr. is No. 11 at 6.926 seconds at 194.97 mph.
“We’ve been prepping motors and getting lined up so come the Countdown we are ready to go,” Arana Jr. said. “We’re in pretty good shape and we are looking forward to good Countdown. Any race win gives the team great momentum, so it is always good to win.”
The six-race Countdown to the Championship begins Sept. 12-15 at the Mopar Express Lane Nationals presented by Pennzoil in Reading, Pa.
Arana Sr., who won a U.S. Nationals title in 2009, is well-versed on Indy.
“It is a special race,” Arana Sr. said. “It’s honor to have won this prestigious race. I want to do it again.”
OEHLER TALKS ABOUT HIS ROLLER-COASTER SEASON – This season, Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Ryan Oehler has showed great progress. He arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis seventh in the point standings.
However, Oehler has been riding a roller-coaster of emotions this season. Back at the Sonoma (Calif.) Nationals July 26-28, he parted ways with his crew chief Alex Tutt.
“Crew chief was just a title for him at that point,” Oehler said of Tutt. “I've been the crew chief since I started this project in 2007. We worked well together, he’s a H*ll of a crew guy. We did a lot of late nights and worked our a**** off and he just had other goals personally that this was probably getting in the way of so he decided to leave us kind of in a lurch which was kind of a bummer.”
The progress Oehler has made in 2019 can be seen in the standings.
“We we're 13th last year when it all settled and we were fifth for most of the season and then we had a little bit of bad luck,” Oehler said. “We're sitting seventh and I think we can maintain or advance. I guarantee in the last month, we've worked harder than any team out here. There's just no way that anybody could have outperformed what we did.”
In midst of trying to improve, Oehler’s team experienced some crazy things.
“We tested two weeks ago in South Georgia for two days,” Oehler said. “First, I was testing a new bike and the second run on the new bike, no brakes. I drove off the end of the track, rolled it. It was 100 degrees outside. We'd already worked four or five 20-hour days in a row. We drove straight to South Georgia. We got there, just me and Jared Gaskins, so Jared's been my main crew guy. Andie Rawlings (fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle racer) is his mom.”
The motorcycle Oehler was testing in Georgia was one he had plans for.
“We were shaking it down for a lease bike and a test bike,” Oehler said. “The second run on it (Aug. 13), it was 7.02 at 192 and the rear brake broke and the front brakes bled to nothing and I just went off into the bunker at about 70 mph probably and I made it almost all the way through and then it rolled (at around 20 mph).”
Oehler was uninjured in the wreck and motorcycle is fixable.
“I had a bruise here and of course I was stiff,” Oehler said. “I was plowing a groove in the sand. The bike was covered in sand. We still got sand on stuff.”
The on-track drama resurfaced for Oehler while testing at Indy.
“We continued testing (On Aug. 14) and then we went to Indy and we tested on (Aug. 21), then (Aug. 28) we spent all day at Dragway 42 in (West Salem) Ohio and made five hits,” Oehler said. “Just that a nutshell of two guys going to South Georgia and spending two days there, working our a** off. We left South Georgia, it was 100 degrees, the track was 145 degrees and we went 6.95 at 196 (mph). It was great. Then we came home, and we got that settled. We went to Indy. First run off the trailer at Indy (in testing), of course in between that the motor is out, motor is in, on the Dyno, off the Dyno, and we don't just get to park them. 6.92 at 196 was the first pass at Indy. At shutdown all of a sudden, I hear this weird noise, my front end collapsed. My freaking spring in the front fork shot out of the fork about six to eight inches and the front end collapsed. I just rode it out. It was OK.
We took the front end off the other fork tube fell out the bottom. One fork tube was broke at the bottom, one broke at the top. Don't know why. I put a brand-new front end on it that day, made four more runs and didn't have any great success, but we kept making passes and learning. We go home. Go through all the engines again and then brought in a guy named Scott Cousimano who's helping me with some tuning and he flew in from Los Angeles. He got off the plane, got in the bus and we drove to Dragway 42 and we worked our a**** and made five runs.”
Now, Oehler is focused on trying to get into the Countdown to the Championship.
“What they (the top teams) have right now that I don’t have is the consistency and to make the changes that make them go quicker the next run and I'm still struggling on what way do I g. And how do I make this bike move?” Oehler said. “Hopefully that's what Scott can help me with. At some point when you finally feel like you've really tried this, and you really tried that and you're blaming the clutch and you realize it may not even be the clutch. I need another set of eyes that are experienced that can maybe shed some light and maybe advanced the program quicker. I can learn all this on my own and you're an idiot to do that. You either want to go to school and learn from people who know what they're doing or you just say, ‘I don't need that, I'm going to learn on my own,’ and then 20 years later you wish you would have went to school.”
Oehler said joining forces with Cousimano came word of mouth.
“I did not know Scott, but other people have been trying to help me keep steering people our way because they want to see us advance,” Oehler said. “So, we get a lot of people who are coming to the table that see our potential, know that we're doing extremely well. They know that we have a lot of potential and I think our greatest attribute of the team is our engine program. I called my dad (Brad) after one of the races and I said, ‘man, I wish I could ride and tune a bike as well as you can build an engine.’ Because his abilities just outperform us hands down.”
Ryan said his team’s engine program is moving forward.
“We’re finally getting our own cam grinds that we wanted,” Ryan said. “We’re finally working with a couple different cam grinders. Our new engine Dyno test cell is halfway done. You can't do anything without an engine Dyno. If you get on a chassis Dyno and think that you're going to do something that's going to change the world, you’re nuts. Chassis Dynos are great for tuning. They're great for knowing that I'm going to show up at this track and go A to B. It’s going to shift all the gears and the things going to run right. It’s not going to puke and oil isn’t going to spray everywhere. It's a good test device that you need to use but to develop more horsepower, it's done in a lab and it doesn't have a bike attached to it. We have one engine Dyno cell that we had used previously that basically is outdated, so we've started to advance to a new cell.”
No matter what happens this season, Oehler has big plans for the 2020 season.
“We're going to end up probably having multiple bikes and we're going to be a powerhouse supplier of horsepower as well as having lease opportunities for some individuals,” Ryan said. “We’re going to be running only Buells. I'm going to need a bigger trailer. They said that I couldn't fit two bikes in the trailer. I got two bikes in the trailer. Now, to get a third bike in there. I said I can do that too. But you're stacking stuff all the way to the ceiling. You have to unload everything and then you can start to work. Over Kill Motorsports has been my sponsor for this whole year. Their motor coach, golf cart, trailer. The company is out of South Georgia and they're putting together a trailer for me now. So, they're working with me on that.”
KELLY CLONTZ EXPERIENCING INDY FOR SECOND TIME – Competing in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock Motorcycle class is not easy.
Kelly Clontz all too well about how competitive the class is. Clontz keeps making progress in the class and this year she arrived in Indy 14th in the point standings.
“Last year we didn't qualify (for Indy) in my first race there,” Clontz said. “The experience was awesome. This is race 10 of the season, for us I think so Indy would have been 10th last year. It’s just coming in here and do what we do and hope it’s the best job that we can put out there.”
Clontz is upbeat about how her team has performed this year with her riding a Suzuki with a Vance & Hines engine.
“The season is going pretty good,” she said. “We actually have qualified nine of nine times this year. Last year we qualified four of 16. We're already nine in and we’ve qualified all nine so we’re looking to make that 10 of 10 this weekend.”
Clontz has simple goals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“We just want some clean solid runs and of course we want to get in the field and be here on Monday and just hoping to get a round win or two here,” Clontz said.
Clontz said her team will be back out competing in 2020.
“That’s the plan (to run full-time),” Clontz said. “If all the cards fall the way they’re looking to we’ll be out here again full-time racing.”
Prior to joining the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, Clontz was racing a motorcycle at the bracket level.
“It’s definitely everything we knew it would be,” Clontz said. “It’s a tough deal out here a lot of these guys and gals have been doing it for a really long time. For us to jump from going some 7.70s to trying to go some 6.80s at least, it's definitely an eye-opening experience and you have to get as near perfect as you possibly can and that's tough and some people don't see how tough that is.”
FRIDAY - PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
MATT SMITH FIRED UP FOR INDY – Matt Smith is a savvy Pro Stock Motorcycle racer and a star in the class.
Smith has won PSM world titles in 2007, 2013 and 2018 and he also has a U.S. Nationals victory on his resume from 2013.
The King, N.C., rider is back at the U.S. Nationals this weekend and will try to add another line on his impressive career resume.
“We’ve always run good here and I think we’ll run really good here this weekend,” Smith said.
Smith was strong Friday in Q1 with a 6.874-second elapsed time at 197.02 mph to put himself second on the ladder.
Smith arrived at Indy third in points in his Erik Buell Racing motorcycle but said it has been a daunting task competing against the vaunted Vance & Hines Harley Davidson team of Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey. Hines and Krawiec are No. 1 and No. 2 in the points chase and Sampey, in her first year with the Vance & Hines team, is ninth in points.
“This is NHRA and they always get their way of helping the Harleys out,” Smith said. “That’s the team that doesn't need all the help. They have got all the money out here and to get all the help too of whatever they want, whenever they want if they get behind. It’s pretty sad for our sport. But we'll still keep trucking, me and the wife (Angie) in our little shop. Not the big shop that’s 35 employees and takes 35 minutes for a shop tour. We’ll I keep plugging away and keep wearing them boys out.”
Hines, a five-time world champion, (2004-2006, 2014-15) has had a stellar-year in 2019, already winning a career-season best seven races this year and he has appeared in eight finals in nine races.
Since the debut of the FXDR body for the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver July 19-21, Hines has a 11-0 record in elimination rounds.
“It’s a good rivalry,” said Smith of the competition between him and Hines. “I just wish it was on a level playing ground. That's the whole key to this class. I have nothing against Eddie, I have nothing against Andrew, I have nothing against Angelle. It’s Harley Davidson themselves. And then the fact of team Vance & Hines. They dictate our class and what rules gets taken to certain people and it's really unfair for the whole class because if you look at their deal, they control the way the Suzukis run. They control the way the Harleys run, and nobody can get Harleys. Nobody can buy them. Nobody can build one. So, they have 60% to 65% of the class in the palm of their hands to dictate how they run. And the reason we run well is because we control our own destiny with the Buells.
But the problem is, they control what NHRA throws down to us. They don't allow us this, they don’t allow us that. Just like they took the belly pan away from us in Sonoma. Just stupid stuff when they get everything. Those guys over there, they wouldn’t have the 50 plus wins, 40 plus wins, whatever they’ve got over there, if they didn't have Harley-Davidson. If they were on a Suzuki or they were on a V-Twin, a Buell besides Harley, and abiding by the same rules as what everybody else has, they wouldn't even be in the 30s (with career) wins.”
The biggest issue Smith had with the belly pan issue was when NHRA decided to enforce a rule change.
“I haven’t seen that much of a difference with it,” Smith said. “It was just a lot more work on us and just the timing of it. It’s just funny how we have our Mickey Thompson battle out there (in Sonoma, Calif., July 26-28) and out of eight contestants, five were EBRs that had to change the belly pan, and there were three Harleys in it. The way NHRA wrote the rules, it was like, if you don't change this by Sonoma you don’t get to run. We’re not going to let you run. They wanted a 3-bike shootout. We kind of spoiled that, but they still won the deal (Hines was the champion of the Mickey Thompson Bike Battle). Angie and I lost in the semifinals. Her bike wouldn’t start and mine had an issue going on that it wouldn’t stay running.”
Since Sonoma, Smith’s team has been plenty busy.
“We tested three different times and have done a lot of Dyno work with brand-new motors,” Smith said.
Smith said the test sessions were one day in Mooresville (N.C.) and two days in Richmond.
“We liked the results,” Smith said. The red bike showed very, very promising results. If it shows what it showed in testing, can't nobody touch us. We’ll be ahead of everybody.”
Angie Smith enters Indy – the final race of the regular season – before the top 10 drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle – compete in the six-race Countdown to The Championship – sixth in points. Scotty Pollacheck, a teammate to the Smiths, is 11th in points.
Angie was eighth on the qualifying ladder with a 6.928-second run at 195.11 mph. Pollacheck was ninth at 6.973 seconds at 193.21 mph.
“I think the main things is, I’m locked in (the Countdown), we want to try to keep Angie in which shouldn’t be a problem,” Matt said. “As long as she qualifies, I think she’ll be in with no problem. The goal is to try to get Scotty in. He's had a very good bike all year long. He’s just been struggling coming back over from a Suzuki to the V-Twin. He started turning the corner in Norwalk. And we he made good strides in Denver, Norwalk and Sonoma. We just have to keep those results going to have a shot of getting him in.”
Smith knows once he’s in the Countdown the true rivalry will begin with the Vance & Hines team as they all chase that prestigious world championship.
“Well, they can win all the races they want in the regular season. Those last six are what count and we're going to show them what we got these last seven because we're going to pull out all the stops Indy. I want to win Indy this year,” Matt said.
ANDREW HINES CONTINUES DREAM SEASON IN Q1 – Andrew Hines has had an amazing season aboard his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
Hines has won a career-season best seven races and he was runner-up in another in nine races on the schedule.
Hines' success continued Friday night in Q1 at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He’s atop the qualifying list with a 6.864-second run at 194.63 mph.
“That was a good run right off the truck,” Hines said. “We tested out here (in Indy) about a week-and-a-half ago and that run was pretty much just a continuation of exactly where we left off in testing, we went 87 on the last run there. It worked out really well, especially since we had so many guys from Vance & Hines here. Our shop is just down the road. It was cool to see them in the stands. It was a fantastic day to start off the U.S. Nationals.”
Hines has two No. 1 qualifying positions this year at Gainesville (Fla.) and Richmond (Va.).
“It is just the consistency right now,” Hines said. “We have to make sure getting the right amount of horsepower, the right amount of traction out of the bike every single run. I have had good runs here in the past where I’ve been able to be near the top of the qualifying sheet every run down the race track through qualifying and it just hasn’t parlayed into great Sundays here. Obviously, my track record this year has been phenomenal. It has been a surreal year. I can’t think of anything I would want to change. We are just going to try and continue on the success we have had with the Harley-Davidson team and move that into Monday.”
Hines’ teammates – Eddie Krawiec (6.907 seconds) and Angelle Sampey (6.917 seconds) are No. 6 and No. 7 on the qualifying ladder.
VETERAN STEVE JOHNSON RETURN TO PSM CLASS AT INDY – Steve Johnson has pretty much seen and done it all in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
Johnson has competed in 432 national events and he has six wins on his resume, including two at Indy in 2005 and 2008.
This year, however, has been a struggle for Johnson as he has only gone to six of the nine races this season and he failed to qualify at the PSM season opener, the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Johnson’s last event on the PSM Tour was in Chicago May 30.
“We never wanted to stop racing but we had broken engines and resource issues,” said Johnson about what kept his team away from the track. “We never stopped working. We're back together and we got some parts and going to come race Indy. We ran Q1 in Chicago and we broke the engine and then just struggled since.”
Missing races helped Johnson put things in perspective.
“I never intended to miss any race, just circumstances just kept unfolding,” Johnson said. “Resources are a powerful thing when you look around and you see 10 people on a team and everything brand-new. That's one end of the resources and then there's the resources that are sitting at home and watching TV with a broken engine. But the reason it’s not the last thing in life. I have a buddy who is in the hospital and had to get his appendix out. I don't think that's crazy serious, but it just puts a light on everything.
We certainly didn't come to just try to qualify. We want we want to win. But I do have a new appreciation for everybody that works out here. Just the work that it takes. Despite what some people think, we've been labeled a hobbyist. So, we went by the hobby shop and they didn't have our motorcycle ready. We had to work on ours. We wanted to get a new one, but they didn't have one. We had to work on ours.”
Johnson said racing at the U.S. Nationals is special for him.
“I won Indy in 2005 and 2008,” Johnson said. “Things were so different back then though. It’s a special race. It’s fun to come back and say hi to everybody.”
Johnson had trouble in Q1 Friday, slowing to 7.780 seconds.
Johnson is optimistic he will compete at the remaining six races following Indy.
“If everything goes right,” said Johnson about the key to finishing the race season. “And, we’re going to work hard on sponsorship. We have stickers and sponsors, but we want to work on getting back into our tractor trailer because you have got to have a bigger team. I'm used to a bigger team.”
Despite his struggles this season, Johnson has no plans on retiring from the sport.
“It brings a smile to my face and gives me a great platform to talk to young people about skilled trades and personal branding,” Johnson said.
SAVIOE TALKS COUNTDOWN, HIS FUTURE – Jerry Savioe didn’t enter the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock Motorcycle season focusing on winning a world championship.
Savoie entered this season planning to run a limited schedule. He has competed in six of the nine PSM national events this season and comes to Indy 10th in the season point standings. His teammate, Karen Stoffer, is fifth in the point standings.
Savoie and Stoffer compete for Savoie’s White Alligator Racing team, which based out of Cut Off, La. Savoie and Stoffer campaign Suzukis.
“We’re hoping to have a great weekend to get (us both) into the Countdown,” Savoie said.
Savoie was No. 3 in the qualifying ladder after Q1 with a 6.898-second elapsed time at 193.85 mph. Stoffer was fifth at 6.904 second at 193.68 mph.
The 10 finishers in the PSM point standings following Indy, will vie for the world championship in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
“The intention was to have three bikes and really didn’t know if I’d be in the Countdown or not,” Savoie said. “I don’t think it would be a fair shake for me to be in the Countdown without racing. It wouldn’t be fair to not give someone else that opportunity.”
Savoie doesn’t have any definite plans for 2020, and he’s not sure if he will compete at all.
“I’ve got too many things that I’m trying to complete before that (racing in 2020),” Savoie said. “I’m really busy working on a couple of deals right now. We’ll see. I needed to take a year off.”
Savoie said if he doesn’t drive in 2020, his team still will be competing in the NHRA ranks with two motorcycles.
In Cut Off, Savoie has an alligator farm and around 800 head of cattle.
“I’ll be 61 in February, so my reflexes are starting to slow down,” Savoie said. “We’ll see. We’ve got some other changes being made. The NHRA is working on some stuff with Suzukis and what not so who knows, that might encourage me to come back.”
WELCOME BACK CHRIS BOSTICK – The last time Chris Bostick was at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indy it was 2004 and he was competing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle Class.
“I beat Michael Phillips in the first round, beat Angelle (Sampey) in the second round and Antron (Brown) and I had the exact same reaction time and the exact 60-foot time, and I blew an engine and he went on to win the event,” Bostick said. “That was the last time I was at Indy. I raced one more Pro Stock Motorcycle event (in 2005) in Gainesville (Fla.) and I retired and went to work in the automobile industry. I owned automobile dealerships in Nashville, Tenn. I recently retired, sold my three Kia dealerships in December of this past year and I decided I was going to come racing again.”
Bostick said he made his NHRA debut 20 years ago at Lucas Oil Raceway in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. He competed in the class until Gainesville 2005.
Bostick had a respectable 7.143 seconds, which was 14th quickest.
“I had to obviously go get my license re-instated and I went to Brainerd (Minn.) to do that,” Bostick said. “Greg Underdahl and Gary Stoffer have a bike they rented me (a Suzuki). They are helping with this bike. This is a bike I’m renting from them for the weekend. I own the motor that is in it and George Babor is my crew chief. George and I go way back. He was my crew chief 20 years ago.”
After not competing in the PSM class for 15 years no one could blame Bostick for having butterflies, but he was staying calm.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’m in the same shape I was 15 years ago and mentally I’m just as sharp. God’s got it. He’s in control and I’m just his vessel, so as long as I do the right things and watch the tree, leave on time, push the button when the light comes on, it should be good. I have an engine that’s not the latest, greatest Vance & Hines motor, but it is a Vance & Hines motor,” Bostick said.
“I’m probably 10 horsepower less than the other Suzukis out here, however, with some good tuning and good riding we should be right there in the mix with the rest of the Suzukis and hopefully take out a couple of the Harleys.”
Bostick isn’t ready to announce any racing plans past the U.S. Nationals.
“We will see how this weekend goes,” Bostick said. “I turn 60 in two weeks (on Sept. 17), so this was kind of a bucket list to come back out and do it again just to do it because I loved it so much. If I do well, since I’m retired and I have a little bit of money saved, we may allocate some of it to go racing.”