Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – GAINESVILLE, FL – As the defending world champion, Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Eddie Krawiec wants to keep that momentum going as the class opens its 2018 season at the 49th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 15-18 at Gainesville Raceway.
A five-time event winner, Krawiec, who won in Gainesville in 2017, also hopes to add another impressive performance on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to his resume at the legendary track.
But above all, Krawiec has something even more specific on his mind at the Pro Stock Motorcycle season-opener, all revolving around a historic first in the class.
“First and foremost, I want to go 200 mph,” Krawiec said. “I’m excited to go to Gainesville because I think we have 200 mph motorcycles. We’re going there and hammering down. For us, if the weather presents itself, we want to go 200 mph. We have great motorcycles that can capitalize on the weather conditions if it’s there, so if the opportunity presents itself, we need to capitalize. There’s four-to-five bikes in the class that can do it, but we want to be the first. Going 200 mph is our focus.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Krawiec were last year’s winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. (ET). It is the first of 16 races in a loaded Pro Stock Motorcycle class, but that high level of competition continues to bring out the best in Krawiec.
He was dominant in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship en route to his fourth world title, but Krawiec remains driven to make history. That includes making the first 200 mph run, but he spoke glowingly of a class that continues to add depth. In Gainesville, he will face off against the likes of five-time champion Andrew Hines, 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie, two-time world champ Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Scotty Pollacheck, Karen Stoffer, three-time champ Angelle Sampey, and Joey Gladstone.
“I only see this class getting tougher and you need to perform at that high level if you want to stay at the front of the pack,” said Krawiec, who has 43 career wins. “There’s 15-16 bikes that could be in the top 10. There’s really good bikes at every race and you’re going to have to be on your game. You have to elevate the way you race.”
Krawiec did that a year ago, when he won four playoff races and five of the final seven events, going 24-2 in eliminations during that span. Krawiec said that stretch was the best he has ever raced in his career, and he was certainly locked in, putting together incredible reaction times and one of the most impressive performances in Countdown to the Championship history. The goal now is carrying that level of focus and performance into 2018, but Krawiec expects nothing less heading into Gainesville.
“We’re very confident with the equipment we finished with at the end of the year,” said Krawiec, who has back-to-back wins in Gainesville. “We’re confident we can roll that right into (2018) and it’s going to be business as usual right off the trailer. We know the track and we know what this bike is capable of. We’ve run well (in Gainesville), it’s a great race with a great atmosphere and we expect to be good right off the bat.”
Schumacher seeks his first Top Fuel win in 2018 against Pomona winner Doug Kalitta, points leader Steve Torrence, who won in Phoenix, and reigning champ Brittany Force.
John Force is after his first Funny Car win in a year against daughter and Phoenix winner Courtney Force, Pomona winner Matt Hagan and world champ Robert Hight.
Pro Stock points leader Jason Line has two straight finals appearances in 2018 against Pomona winner and defending champ Bo Butner, and Phoenix winner Chris McGaha.
The event is the season-opening race for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. It also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Following nitro qualifying during the weekend, a jet car operated by Douthit Motor Sports, with David Douthit running the “Black Pearl” Jet Dragster, will thrill the fans at the Gatornationals. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:15 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 16 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 17 at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 18.