The fortunate seem to get even more fortunate.
Andrew Hines, who's on a roll with his Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson, earned more Saturday than the Pro Stock Motorcycle class' No. 1 qualifying position for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Concord, N.C.
He also got a bye run in Sunday's eliminations at zMAX Dragway in this first race of the Countdown to the Championship. The class is one entrant short of a complete 16-rider field, so Hines will advance automatically to the second round.
He earned the distinction with the 6.851-second, 195.82-mph pass he clocked on the quarter-mile course during Friday's evening session. So his first real competition will be in the quarterfinals against the winner of the Karen Stoffer-Shawn Gann match-up.
"I've never had a planned bye run," Hines said after holding off teammate Eddie Krawiec and both Hector Arana Jr. and Sr. in two Saturday sessions. "I've had opponents break before staging. But it's kind of nice. It's going to make me sleep a little easier. That first run in the Countdown is crucial. You've got to get by that first round, and hopefully they keep coming after that. To know we're going to get a win light first round makes everything a little easier.
"It's unfortunate for the class that we didn't have a full field, but to have a chance to learn for the tune-up for the first round, to take a stab at something we might not try on Sunday is going to be beneficial to us," Hines said. "We tried a little bit in that last session, and I lost a couple miles an hour. We're going to obviously try to put up a good E.T. first round, but hopefully what we changed for tomorrow will work."
He said Krawiec's bike has been consistent all weekend but his own needed something, because it wasn't as consistent even with a nearly identical tune-up. We changed something on my bike down track and he went 193 and a half and I went 192.0. So we know that didn't work. So we're going to go back to something that I had similar earlier in the weekend and probably go extreme the other way and see what happens. We're going to, I guess, swing for the fences, because we know what we did last run slowed it down."
Hines has won four times and had three runner-up finishes to Krawiec as the Harley-Davidson duo has won all 10 previous bike-class appearances on the Full Throttle Drag racing Series schedule.
In the past six races, he has won three times (at Chicago, Norwalk, and Indianapolis) and qualified either first or second all but one time, and that time he started from the No. 3 slot. He brings a 29-6 record into eliminations as he leads the field for the 33rd time in his career, the third time this season and the first time at the newest of Bruton Smith's gleaming racetracks.
Hines is looking to register back-to-back victories, just like he did at Chicago and Norwalk.
Keeping the team streak alive is in the back of his mind, too. With a nod to Pro Stock's KB/Summit team of Greg Anderson and Jason Line, Hines said, "We're chasing Jason and Greg from 2004. They had 13 in a row as a team. And we're doing 'Operation Appreciation' with the Summit boys, going over to Europe [as part of a USO-organized tour to visit American military troops]. So that'd be something cool to talk to them about and see what they thought about their time then. Hopefully we can pull this off and be able to tie them."
He said the left lane at zMAX Dragway is "not exactly great, compared to the right lane" and called it "tricky for our motorcycles, at least." He said his bike didn't leave the starting line well in the first session Saturday in the left lane. Then he said his team "thought we calmed Eddie's bike down for the left lane in that last session, but again we overestimated the track. It's probably going to be a right-lane racetrack for our motorcycles. So we're going to do our best to keep lane choice."
Other pairings for the first round are Hector Arana Sr. vs. Michael Phillips, Matt Smith vs. Steve Johnson, Krawiec vs. LE Tonglet, John Hall vs. Scotty Pollacheck, Hector Arana Jr. vs. Chip Ellis, and Michael ray vs. Jim Underdahl.
With Krawiec landing on the other side of the eliminations ladder, Hines said, "we're going to take it as it rolls."
So far it has been rolling all their way.
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