GAINSEVILLE, Fla. — official series release — NHRA photo —
Andrew Hines and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team worked so diligently to return to prominence that it might be understandable for Hines to take a little time to enjoy the fruits of his labors after winning the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship.
But to hear Hines talk, the four-time PSM world champ and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team are as motivated as ever to stay on top of the mountain as they were to again reach the summit.
Hines will get a chance to show how hungry he and his team are as the Pro Stock Motorcycle class kicks off its 2015 season at the 46th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, March 12-15. It is the first of 16 races for the two-wheel category during 2015, and the tradition-rich drag race is the first opportunity for Hines to show he isn’t content with last year’s banner season.
“We’re absolutely just as motivated,” Hines said. “It’s a lot tougher because we performed so well last year and found the power we needed, but we’ll work hard to find that little extra horsepower. We’re trying to optimize and use the power we have. It’s also about trying to better ourselves for the future. It’s a constant process, and there’s always stuff in the works. You always have to be on top of your game in this class or the whole field will pass you by.”
The traditional East Coast opener on the Mello Yello Series circuit will feature the biggest stars in the NHRA. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will again be televised on ESPN2.
A busy off-season, which included a trip to Africa to meet with members of the U.S. military, didn’t keep Hines and his crew from putting in ample work. That was the theme a year ago after Hines failed to qualify for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in 2013. The team made vast changes to the bike, discovered considerably more power through extensive work, and capped 2014 with Hines’ championship.
He finished 2014 with six victories, including two in the Countdown, and eight final-round appearances while teammate Eddie Krawiec finished second in points and posted five victories. But with the bull’s-eye firmly back on Hines, he isn’t fretting about the challenge that awaits this season.
“I’ve been in this position before, and honestly, I felt more pressure to repeat earlier in my career,” Hines said. “I’ve learned to calm my mind down. My whole approach has been about being calm, and it’s worked well. A big part of that is taking everything in stride, and whatever happened yesterday is history.”
The challenge will be great as a talented class will be looking to knock Hines off his title perch. That includes Krawiec, defending Gainesville winner Steve Johnson, father-son duo Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr., three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, and husband-wife duo Matt and Angie Smith.
Opening at a track such as Gainesville has a certain motivating factor as well, especially for Hines, who hasn’t won there since 2004.
“Gainesville obviously has a ton of history, and I won my first national event there, but the cards just haven’t been aligned for me there since then,” Hines said. “It’s a big bike area, and there’s a huge following down there, and to top it off, it’s one of the quickest tracks we’ll go to all year.”
A quick track means that Hines and the rest of the class must be ready right off the trailer. That is where off-season preparation comes into play as well as focus for the upcoming 16-race season. Those nervous butterflies also tell Hines he is ready to go.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I’m nervous before the first run every year,” Hines said. “But once the bike fires up, you fall right back into it and get right back into the same frame of mind. Gainesville is great because you’re going out there at the first event running some the quickest times you’ll have all year. It’s a great way to blow off the rust.”