HOUSTON (April 29) — Karen Stoffer had her best outing of the season Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway, riding her GEICO Suzuki past reigning world champion Eddie Krawiec and Chip Ellis for a steady semifinal finish at the 25th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals.
Starting from the No. 6 qualifying position, Stoffer got a free pass against Ellis when the veteran rider left the Tree -.001 seconds early, an automatic disqualification. Stoffer still rode out the pass and posted a 6.960 at 191.70 mph.
Up next was two-time and reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Krawiec, who had qualified No. 3 on his Harley-Davidson V-Rod. But this time it was Stoffer who had the quicker bike, running a 6.907 at 192.85 mph to Krawiec’s 6.928 at 192.41 mph.
“It’s tough because I actually went into that round wondering how bad I was going to get beat,” Stoffer said. “Eddie was so much quicker than us in qualifying and in Round 1. It was a real shock at the other end. It was actually Eddie that told me I won and I just couldn’t believe it. I kept saying, ‘Really? Really?’ He’s been the king of the hill for the last couple of years now, so to take him out was special.”
That win set-up a showdown with Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. This time Arana simply had too much for Stoffer’s Suzuki as he won with a 6.846 at 196.85 mph to Stoffer’s 6.954 at 190.70 mph. Arana’s elapsed time was quickest of the weekend.
“Going up against the V-motors is very tough,” Stoffer said. “They have a distinct advantage; it’s obvious to see. Even with a bunch of luck and all the skill we could put together, we weren’t going to beat Hector. We don’t have a 6.8 in this bike when the conditions are like this.
“This felt like 2004 at this race when we had to take on all the top guys. The difference was we started that race in the bottom half of the ladder. Overall, we’re pretty pleased. We got a little lucky at times, we rode really well when we needed to, and we got a couple win lights. I would’ve liked two more but we did have the best Suzuki all weekend, including today in eliminations, and we’re proud of that.”
Stoffer only has a few days off before next weekend’s 32nd annual Summit NHRA Southern Nationals, which begin Friday at Atlanta Dragway.
“This was a decent weekend for us,” she said. “We’re going to pack it up, head to Atlanta, and see if we can’t do even better there.”