GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 6) – GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer is coming off one of her best seasons as a professional. The veteran rider won once and reached four other final rounds en route to matching her career-best, sixth-place finish in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings.
But Stoffer doesn’t worry about making predictions for the 2012 season, which starts this weekend with the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.
“I just want to go out and have fun,” Stoffer said. “The GEICO bike is such a fun bike to ride. I love racing it, I love going down the race track on it, so I’m excited about that.
“As far as the performance and how we’re going to stack up against everybody, that’s such an unknown that I have no predictions, no anticipation. I just want to go out and ride and leave the predictions to the media to figure out. Maybe we’ll have a good story at the end of the race, but right now, I just want to get out and ride my bike.”
The season is always a bit of an unknown to all racers, as they never know what improvements their competitors made in the off-season, if any. For Stoffer, her GEICO team worked to overcome engine issues that decimated the team’s inventory late in 2011.
Questions will quickly be answered, as Gainesville is usually one of the fastest tracks in NHRA. Hector Arana Sr. set the national elapsed-time record of 6.777 seconds there last year, and all the riders will be gunning for that mark this weekend.
“I definitely think there’s going to be some records broken,” Stoffer said. “It’s usually the place that it happens. I’d like to be in the mix, but right now we’re coming in to Gainesville as an unknown because we just got our motor in our bike. We won’t know what we have until we actually get out and hit the first or second qualifying session.
“Historically, we’ve been up there in the mix, but this is a whole new territory for us, so we don’t know.”
If the national ET record doesn’t fall, fans could still see the fastest field in class history.
“I don’t like predicting, because it’s very challenging to predict drag racing, as everybody knows,” Stoffer said. “But I expect, if not just the single ET record broken, we’ll probably have the fastest qualifying field. That usually happens at Gainesville.
“I’m hoping the GEICO bike does what in normally does in Gainesville. Normally, we do very well there, so I’m hoping we’re in that mix.”
Qualifying rounds will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday with eliminations slated to begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will show qualifying highlights from 5-6 p.m. Sunday with eliminations airing from 6-9 p.m. Sunday.