LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29) – GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer was reminded about perspective Saturday at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Stoffer failed to qualify for the race, ending the fifth-longest streak of making races across all professional NHRA categories. She had made 118 races in a row for which she’s attempted to qualify, dating back to 2004.
But two things happened Saturday to remind her that missing a race is not the end of the world.
First, Stoffer got to spend time with the wife and daughters of an Air Force Sergeant who is stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Second, Stoffer visited a fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor who tumbled down the track after falling from his bike while making a qualifying run alongside her. Joe Desantis was OK, but it reminded Stoffer of the danger riders face in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“With what happened next to me, this seems pretty trivial,” Stoffer said of not qualifying. “I feel really bad that I was even concerned about it with Joe on the other side.”
Stoffer spent time Saturday with the family of Master Sergeant Todd Koons, who had contacted the GEICO team because he wanted some autograph cards from a good female role model for his two children, 11-year-old Kendra and 7-year-old Sembra.
But since Koons’ wife, Meryem, lives in Las Vegas with their children, the GEICO team invited the family to be their guests at the track.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify, but they got to see everything that happens behind the scenes, all the hard work and passion we have, the interaction with the fans, the camaraderie with the other teams,” Stoffer said. “It was a good experience for them. I hope their dad gets to read something about it.”
Stoffer was honored that Sgt. Koons would reach out to her team.
“It’s nice to always people out there who are looking up at you, and there are people who want to have the passion you, it’s definitely an honor,” Stoffer said. “No one should ever take it lightly.”
The Koons family was treated to visits to Stoffer’s GEICO pit area, as well as the pits of GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster driver Morgan Lucas. Plus, Kendra and Sembra sported Karen Stoffer T-shirts for the day. Kendra called Stoffer a “superstar.”
“It’s been nice,” Meryem said. “It’s been good for the girls to see all this. We’ve never been to a drag race, but it’s been fun.”
Stoffer’s best run of 7.145 seconds at 189.26 mph was only 20th-best, but she made that pass with the team’s sixth engine of the season, a four-year-old engine named “Blazin’.”
That’s because engine No. 5, “Wilson,” suffered a failure here this weekend, another in a string of mechanical issues that have plagued the team since the Norwalk race in June.
“Freaky stuff: Not shifting, transmission issues, cam chain issues,” Stoffer said. “And some that were our own fault with the timing and planning of our maintenance. Bad karma, bad luck, bad planning – I don’t know which one, but maybe it was all of it combined.”
Stoffer won one race and reached the final four times in the season’s first seven races, but has made only one final-round appearance since.
“I’m proud of the team,” Stoffer said. “I’m proud of representing GEICO. We had a good fight for the first half of the year, and we’re still fighting. We’re still passionate, we’re still driving, but unfortunately it didn’t show with what happened today.”
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