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Racing with a new team in 2019, Karen Stoffer already accomplished one major goal this season qualifying for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. But the Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran now wants something she hasn’t had since 2015 and that’s a victory. She’ll look to break that string at this weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway after a strong showing to open the playoffs.

Stoffer advanced to the semifinals on her Stoffer Enterprises/Big St. Charles Suzuki at Maple Grove Raceway, which was the first of six playoff races. She fell to eventual winner, current points leader and White Alligator Racing teammate Jerry Savoie, but Stoffer moved up to fifth in points, just 46 points behind Savoie. What she hopes is next is her first career at St. Louis, which would make that title talk a little more serious.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot,” said Stoffer, who has eight career wins. “I wish Reading turned out a little different, but I’m happy we’ve got a fast bike so I’m excited about St. Louis. Every rider out there is tough, so just being in the top 10 is phenomenal. I’m going into this with the hopes and ambition to continue to improve every race and hopefully that turns on win lights. It’s been a while since I won a race, but I really feel optimistic with the bike and equipment we have.”

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29. It is the 12th of 16 races during the Pro Stock Motorcycle season and the first year of Stoffer competing on the WAR team with Savoie, who has won back-to-back races to move into the lead.

There’s been an adjustment for Stoffer and the team, but it’s gone well on nearly every front. Stoffer has praised the work of crew chief Tim Kulungian, who has adapted to her riding style to give her a bike capable of performing well. She advanced to the final round in Chicago earlier this year, but Stoffer admitted it took some time for everything to come together.

“Tim has found some good things for my style of riding,” Stoffer said. “There were some major differences and the bike reacts different, but I think he’s done a fantastic job. I’ve been pretty happy with how the season has gone. They’ve got great equipment and I’m proud to be part of the WAR team. We’re in a great spot in the Countdown and there’s still an opportunity to do something.”

To have a memorable weekend in St. Louis, Stoffer will have to get past the likes of defending event winner and world champ Matt Smith, who beat her in the final round in Chicago, Andrew Hines, who won seven races in the regular season, Eddie Krawiec, Savoie and Hector Arana Jr. But as Savoie has showed the past two races, the team has bikes capable of winning races in the biggest moments. Stoffer’s confidence working with Kulungian has only grown as the season progressed, and she is confident that ascension will continue in St. Louis.

“I’ve never traditionally done well in St. Louis, but Tim has, so I’m excited about that,” Stoffer said. “Every race I learn something new and so does he. I think he’s done a fantastic job. We’re improving every race, so hopefully that continues this weekend. I feel like I’m riding well and the team is gelling, so we certainly have a good opportunity to keep that going.”

Steve Torrence will look to get a second straight St. Louis win after the defending Top Fuel world champ opened the Countdown to the Championship with a first-round loss this year. He’ll face off against points leader Doug Kalitta, Reading winner Richie Crampton and Antron Brown.

Robert Hight won in dramatic fashion a year ago in Funny Car at St. Louis as his car exploded just past the finish line in the final round. Hight crashed and broke his collarbone, but he returned the next race to compete for a championship. He’ll look to keep his St. Louis momentum going against Jack Beckman, who won in Reading, John Force, and defending champ J.R. Todd.
Jason Line grabbed the early momentum in Pro Stock, winning the opening playoff race and taking the points lead. He’ll look to keep that going against a talented group of championship contenders, including Bo Butner, Erica Enders, Alex Laughlin, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Greg Anderson.    

                        The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, which will have its 10th of 12 races in 2019. The series is presented by the Real Pro Mod Association (RPM) in St. Louis, and the defending winner is current points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson. The event includes the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.

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 Pro Stock Motorcycle School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. World Wide Technology Raceway will also 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. Another can’t-miss experience 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 victories. 

   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.  

 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:15 and 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1:45 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (618) 215-8888. Tickets also are available online at Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more info about NHRA visit


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