PHOENIX (Oct. 16) — GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer raced to a quarterfinal finish Sunday at the 27th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals to remain fourth in the Full Throttle championship points standings.
Stoffer qualified fifth in the 16-bike elimination field with a 6.970 at 190.32 mph, although her path to the lofty mark wasn’t without drama.
“We had an issue with me on the top end on the second (qualifying) hit, where I caught a bump at the same time I hit the brakes,” Stoffer said. “I had to put my foot down to keep the GEICO Suzuki upright. No problems there: The bike was fine, I was fine. I just had to get a new pair of shoes.
“We had another gremlin with ‘Wilson’ (the nickname of an engine) in the bike, and it wouldn’t shift on two of our hits. Lucky enough, we got into the fifth spot. Unfortunately, on that last qualifying hit, it broke the motor.”
The team had a long Saturday evening swapping out powerplants, leaving Stoffer feeling a bit anxious before her first round match-up with No. 12 qualifier Justin Finley. But when the two riders staged, Finley got a little too anxious and jumped the green light by -.007 seconds, giving Stoffer the win by disqualification.
“We swapped motors after qualifying and put ‘Maverick’ in for our first round race against Finley,” Stoffer said. “Then it blew up on the top end.
“We rushed back and had to put ‘Wilson’ back in there, and it didn’t shift again when we lost to Matt (Smith). It was all we could do. We had to go out on a wing and a prayer.”
With her bike not shifting into top gear, Stoffer surrendered the lead and the race to second-round opponent Smith, who won with a 6.974 at 191.73 mph to Stoffer’s resigned 7.066 at 189.42 mph.
“I’m so proud of the team,” she said. “We thrashed all weekend long. The boys did a phenomenal job getting that thing going and putting it all together. They gave me a great bike.
‘When it’s hot like this it becomes V-Twin weather, which you can clearly see if you look at who’s in the top four and how fast they’re going. The fastest Suzuki out here just doesn’t compare in these kind of conditions. If you’re on a Suzuki here, you’ve got to have luck on your side, and we didn’t really have it.”
The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before heading to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 28-30 for the 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals.
“Hopefully, going to Vegas, conditions will level out a little bit more, and it’ll help the Suzukis out,” Stoffer said. “We’re going to do what we can, repair all the motors we can, but realistically we’re going into Vegas with one motor right now.
“It’s a challenge, but the good Lord puts challenges on those who can handle it. We have a good team and we all stick together. We pulled off a lot of switches this weekend, and we were able to get out there. We didn’t hang anybody out on the starting line, we made the call, we did a good job.”
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