ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 23) – GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer had her best race of the season Sunday at Texas Motorplex, reaching the final round of the NHRA Fall Nationals.
She came up short in the final against Michael Ray, but the performance boosted the confidence of the GEICO team heading into the final four Countdown to the Championship races of 2012.
“We would’ve liked to have turned on that win light, but we’re definitely glad we could be there and participate in the final round,” Stoffer said. “It wasn’t a performance issue that we had over everybody, but we certainly had a racing issue. We were able to race then. Racing doesn’t happen on paper, it happens on the race track. That’s why we do it there. If you can’t win on performance, you can win on the Tree.”
Stoffer was on her game Sunday, with an average reaction time of .029 seconds, including a terrific .009 light in a holeshot victory over defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Eddie Krawiec in the semifinals.
In the final, though, Stoffer made her slowest pass of the weekend, 7.029 seconds at 190.48 mph, to fall to Ray’s 6.920-second run at 192.77 mph.
“We slowed down progressively through the weekend,” Stoffer said. “We did notice we were starting to lose a little vacuum on it. We’re definitely going to take that motor out, and we’ll have a new motor for St. Louis. We weren’t exactly sure if it was the battery or the vacuum or what it was, so we went ahead and ran it.
“It actually spun pretty good in the right lane. We had run the right lane in the first round, and we ran pretty good there. But in the fourth round, it had a little more heat in it, and it was a little more slippery. Our 60-foot fell off.”
After qualifying No. 10, Stoffer faced No. 7 qualifier Jerry Savoie in the first round, with the prospect of facing No. 2 qualifier Hector Arana Sr. in Round 2.
But Stoffer took out Savoie with a pass of 6.921 seconds at 193.38 mph, beating Savoie’s run of 6.986 seconds at 190.11 mph. Meanwhile, Arana’s bike would not start in the first round, putting Harris against Stoffer in the second.
“It started out rough,” Stoffer said. “We missed the fast qualifying session, and that put us in the 10th spot. Looking back on it, that was kind of a blessing the way the ladder worked out.”
Stoffer outran Harris with a pass of 6.948 seconds at 193.40 mph, to Harris’ 7.125-second run at 187.96 mph. That put her against Krawiec, part of the dominant Harley team that had won 13 races in a row.
But Stoffer pulled off a holeshot victory, beating Krawiec’s pass of 6.980 seconds at 191.81 mph by leaving with an .057-second advantage. Stoffer’s run of 6.998 seconds at 191.21 mph sent her to the final round.
“That Harley team is phenomenal,” Stoffer said. “They’ve been dominant all year, and they work hard on their bikes. I don’t care if it’s Eddie or Andrew or one of the Aranas, anytime you take somebody out on a holeshot, the driver feels good. That’s a ‘You did it,’ so it always feels good. I would like to have the performance, too.
“It was a fun race. Timing-wise, I was glad I was able to cut a good light. You’re always on your game against them. Normally, they’re cutting teens and ohs against me, so that was just a fluke Eddie threw that down right there. ”
The victory over Krawiec made Stoffer the first non-Harley rider to beat the defending series champ twice this season. It also put her in the final round for the first time since the second Charlotte race last year.
The Stoffer-Ray matchup was the first final that didn’t include a Harley-Davidson since Reading last year.
“Michael’s a great rider, he has a great team and he has a heck of a lot of luck here, so we had the cards stacked against us going in the final round,” Stoffer said. “(Crew chief) Gary (Stoffer) played a little with the fuel and cooled off the bike as best we could. It was a clean race, and Michael ended up winning.”