Andrew Hines advanced to five final rounds during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but never managed to break through, posting the first winless season of his incredible career since 2003. It has taken just four races in 2019 to put those struggles behind him, as the five-time world champion looks like his usual dominant self headed to this weekend’s second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.
Hines has already posted three wins in four events on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, building a commanding lead in the class. There seems to be no slowing down Hines at the moment, and the talented rider has been blown away by how his motorcycle has performed following his most recent win in Atlanta.
“My motorcycle is like nothing I ever had in my career before,” Hines said. “This new chassis that was concocted at our shop, we all put our two cents in, and it is working really, really good. It doesn’t do much wrong and it makes for charging through eliminations much easier. Something we’ve struggled with is a good 60-foot time and in the finals (at Atlanta), that was my best of the weekend and probably the best of the season.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including final eliminations coverage starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. It is the fifth of 16 races during the Pro Stock Motorcycle season and Hines has clearly established himself as the rider to beat through the first quarter of the season.
There hasn’t been a final round without Hines in 2019, an impressive return to dominance for the 51-time event winner. He became the first rider in class history to reach 50 wins with his victory in Charlotte, while Hines continued to push forward with his victory in Atlanta, which also gave Harley-Davidson its 100th career win in the class. It’s been a remarkable, milestone-filled season for Hines following a two-year stretch where he recorded just one victory, and it’s not something he takes for granted.
“The thing that has remained solid is my crew,” Hines said. “They’ve been the same the entire time. That’s a testament to how good they’ve been over the years to keep the motorcycle right and keep my mind right. Without a crew that’s as phenomenal as they are, it’s really hard to win these races.”
Keeping this impressive start going will be difficult, as Hines will have to deal with the likes of teammate Eddie Krawiec, defending world champion Matt Smith, Jerry Savoie, Hector Arana Jr. and Ryan Oehler in Virginia. But Hines is motivated to win his first world championship since 2015 and win for the first time in his career at Virginia Motorsports Park. The class made its first appearance at the track in two decades a year ago, and Hines and his teammate Krawiec will vie to become just the fifth different rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle to win at the facility.
“My bike and Eddie’s bike correlate pretty well, he’s just lacking the new chassis,” Hines said after the win in Atlanta. “We’re working on that and he will be a pain in my butt shortly. We’re also running the clutch totally different than anything we have done in the past and it is really working for us. We have the bike working really well. It is good enough to repeat and be within the top few numbers of the 60-foot sheet every single qualifying session and every round of eliminations.”
The Top Fuel category will be filled with tough competition including reigning champion and points leader Steve Torrence, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown and Clay Millican. Funny Car is loaded with talent, including points leader Robert Hight, defending world champion J.R. Todd, John Force, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, who won the most recent race in Atlanta.
After a six-week break, the thrilling Pro Stock class returns in Virginia. Everyone is chasing points leader Bo Butner, who already has three wins in 2019, while others to watch include Phoenix winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 at Virginia Motorsports Park. Defending world champion Mike Janis is the also the defending Pro Mod winner at the race. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity 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 also will want to 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.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Virginia Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Virginia Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.