SONOMA, CA – July 27, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The competitors in Pro Stock Motorcycle only race the first two events during the famed Western Swing that stretches over three straight weekends. But an extra busy weekend at the 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway makes up for it with a race within a race.
Eight of the top riders in the talented Pro Stock Motorcycle class will take part in the NHRA Pro Bike Battle during the race weekend, making the stop in Sonoma that much more important.
Current points leader Eddie Krawiec swept both the Pro Bike Battle and the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals a year ago, a feat that will be difficult to repeat in the deep Pro Stock Motorcycle class. But Krawiec knows if he has any chance of that memorable repeat performance, his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson must be ready to deliver immediately.
“The hard part of this is you have to go and try to make your best qualifying lap right off the trailer,” Krawiec said. “In theory, you’d love to have a couple runs to try and search for things. But you have to shift your focus and be in that raceday mode right away. But I’m confident and we’ve done well in Sonoma. The key is to run well off the trailer. It looks like we’re going to have some really, really good conditions and that’s going to make it that much better.”
Krawiec will face off with Steve Johnson in the opening round, while Krawiec’s teammate, defending world champion Andrew Hines, meets Hector Arana Jr. Hines enters the race with considerable momentum, winning the past two events entering Sonoma.
“My team’s had my motorcycle really dialed in lately,” Hines said. “It’s a heck of a ride right now. I’m just taking it as it comes. This class is so brutal, it can turn the opposite direction the next day.”
Two-time world champion Matt Smith jumped to sixth in the Pro Bike Battle standings after a solid showing last weekend in Denver, but still faces a tough matchup with Jerry Savoie. The road to three wins and the Pro Bike Battle title isn’t easy but it makes a victory, which would get Smith’s season well on track, that much sweeter.
“I don’t know that Jerry is an easier draw because when his bike is on, he’s as fast as anyone but the truth is all eight riders are good, or else they wouldn’t be in the Battle to begin with,” Smith said. “I’m really excited we made it and honored to represent Victory and ride my Gunner against the other big brands.
“For sure we’re not as good as we want to be but I think it’s pretty remarkable that just a year and a half into this deal with Victory we have a bike in the most elite field in the sport. We’ve come a long way and are fighting hard to continue forward.”
The fact that he gets to compete against seven of the top riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class is enough to excite Hector Arana Sr., who meets up with Chip Ellis in a first-round thriller. It can make for a busy weekend with eliminations for the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals coming on Sunday, but the chance to compete for wins in both makes it a thrilling weekend for Arana.
“It’s the best of the best from the last year and it’s great that Hector and I made the cut,” Arana said. “It shows a high level of consistency over a full year’s worth of qualifying and consistency is what wins races and championships. It’s what we all want.”
Krawiec, though, is ready for another banner weekend in Sonoma, and the having the added incentive of the Pro Bike Battle simply adds more motivation to the weekend. Coming away with victories in both events at Sonoma Raceway would also set Krawiec up nicely for a run at a world championship with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship approaching.
“It is fun and anytime you have extra cash and bragging rights on the line, I’m all for it,” Krawiec said. “We still have an opportunity to win both races in Sonoma and we’ll see what we can do.”
NHRA Pro Bike Battle elimination rounds are scheduled for 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. on July 30. The all-star specialty race will be televised on FOX Sports 1.
2016 NHRA PRO BIKE BATTLE FINAL STANDINGS:
1. Eddie Krawiec, Indianapolis, Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson – 2,580
2. Andrew Hines, Indianapolis, Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson – 2,470
3. Jerry Savoie, Cut Off, La., White Alligator Racing Suzuki – 2,420
4. Chip Ellis, Brownsburg, Ind., PiranaZ Buell – 2,190
5. Hector Arana Sr., Milltown, Ind., Lucas Oil Buell – 1,930
6. Matt Smith, King, N.C., NitroFish Victory Gunner – 1,885
7. Hector Arana Jr., Milltown, Ind., Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell – 1,875
8. Steve Johnson, Birmingham, Ala., racethevote.com Suzuki – 1,825
2016 NHRA PRO BIKE BATTLE ROUND PAIRINGS:
FIRST ROUND (1 p.m.):
Krawiec vs. Johnson
Hines vs. Arana Jr.
Savoie vs. Smith
Ellis vs. Arana Sr.
SEMIFINALS (3 p.m.):
Krawiec vs. Johnson winner vs. Ellis vs. Arana Sr. winner
Hines vs. Arana Jr. winner vs. Savoie vs. Smith winner
FINAL (4:50 p.m.)
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
WHAT: 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 15 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 29-31
FRIDAY, July 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 30 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:15 p.m.
NHRA PRO BIKE BATTLE AT SONOMA RACEWAY at 1, 3 and 4:50 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 31 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, July 29, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, July 30, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 31, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Chris McGaha, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Antron Brown, 4, TF; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Eddie Krawiec, 3, PSM; Jason Line, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.707 sec. by Antron Brown, July ‘15; 329.10 mph by Dave Connolly, July ’15.
Funny Car – 3.921 sec. by Jack Beckman, July ‘15; 325.77 mph by Matt Hagan, July ‘15.
Pro Stock – 6.499 sec. by Chris McGaha, July ’15; 213.00 mph by Shane Gray, July ‘15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.785 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, July ’12; 198.79 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sonomaraceway.com.
Source: National Hot Rod Association