Despite showing race-winning potential and setting a new Pro Stock Motorcycle track record, a wild ride across the centerline in early eliminations and stiff competition in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class resulted in the Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki team leaving the NHRA Texas Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Dallas empty-handed as chances to move up in the Countdown to the Championship standings dwindle with only two races remaining.
On Saturday, Angelle Sampey topped an action-packed qualifying session that saw some of the fastest speeds in class history. Sampey took her fifth number one qualifying spot of the season and the 58th of her career with a track-record 6.728-second/202.05 mph blast that set the team’s hopes high for the rest of the weekend.
After a late morning rain delay, final eliminations opened on Sunday under cloudy skies with the threat of more rain to come. But Sampey’s day only got worse in her first-round match up against Ryan Oehler, when her Suzuki Hayabusa took a hard turn to the right after leaving the starting line, sending her on a scary ride into a timing marker and across the centerline, resulting in an automatic disqualification that left Sampey imagining what might have been.
“It’s disappointing being the number one qualifier for Suzuki again and not having it happen for us in the race,” she said. “I double-clutched in the first round. My body moved to go, but my hand didn’t. When that happened, the motorcycle didn’t leave the line like it should have and started heading to the right. There’s a strong left-to-right crosswind here, so once I started heading in that direction, the wind pushed me to the right harder. I was trying my best to keep the motorcycle in my lane, but when I shut off the gas, it darted across the cones. I could see that Ryan was clear from me, so I let the bike drift to keep it under control and brought it back as I was slowing down. It’s frustrating. The championship is done for me, so winning the next two races and redeeming myself to my team is the only option I have. That’s my goal.”
Eddie Krawiec qualified in seventh position on the team’s other Suzuki Hayabusa with a 6.815-second/199.29 mph run. He got off to a strong start in the first round, knocking off Chris Bostick (11.660 seconds/68.21 mph) with a 6.834-second/198.88 mph run that was the third quickest of the round. But Krawiec faced stiff competition in round two from championship leader Matt Smith, who has shown he has the most consistently fast motorcycle in the class since the five-race Countdown to the Championship began. Krawiec’s 6.904-second/193.97 mph pass was not enough to defeat Smith, who advanced with a 6.804-second/200.07 mph run.
“We changed the clutch coming here to try to improve my reaction times. I was in the 20s and 30s for reaction times every single lap, so we got the bike to move better, but now it’s about managing the power to get it under better control in the first 60 feet. We’re making progress, but just not there yet,” said Krawiec, who with 49 class wins has two chances remaining this season to hit a major career milestone. “To say I’m in the championship hunt, that’s a tough battle right now. I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but my personal goal right now is to get a win and place the best I can in the championship points.”
After making clutch adjustments in pre-race testing that improved the starting line reaction of both team motorcycles and claiming the top qualifying position, Crew Chief Andrew Hines was hoping to see those qualifying results rewarded with a better race result, but a combination of factors including windy track conditions proved to be the team’s undoing.
“It’s unfortunate. This track has been notorious for extreme crosswinds. In hindsight, if I had adjusted the bike differently to compensate for the wind, or if Angelle had done something different on the starting line it could have been better. It’s a combination of circumstances and we came away without a win,” Hines said. “We strive to put our best foot forward every time we roll up to the starting line, wanting to go low elapsed time every round, and trying to win that race. It’s not for lack of effort, we just haven’t had the stars align too often this year.”
With two rounds remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, Krawiec and Sampey currently sit in sixth and seventh positions with 2,237 and 2,218 points, respectively.
The Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki team will be back in action October 27-30 at the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. The 2022 Pro Stock Motorcycle season concludes November 10-13 at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA.
For the latest Suzuki team news, race reports, and information visit SuzukiCycles.com/Racing/Drag-Racing.