Hines after Pro Stock Motorcycle Perfection in 1998
3 March 1998GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Matt Hines is planning to tighten his Pro Stock Motorcycle program in 1998. He feels like he didn't get off to the best of starts in 1997, so the Vance & Hines Racing rider will be focusing on excellence at Gainesville Raceway.
Hines' objective is to pick up where he left off in 1997 at the 29th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 5-8, the first event of 1998 to feature Pro Stock Motorcycle. The race is the third of 22 events on the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
The Trinidad, Colo. rider's approach may create a problem for the other riders in his NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series category. You see, Hines' definition of excellence nears perfection. The slow early 1997 season start he refers to included two runner-up finishes and one semi-final round loss. His effort for the remainder of the season included 10 final rounds in 11 races. Simply phenomenal.
"I really want to try and win more races early in the season," said Hines, who won eight of 14 events and made 12 final round appearances in 1997 on his way to claiming his first NHRA Winston championship. "There were a few races there where we didn't quite have the bike to win. If I can get off to a better start, I shouldn't have any problems, because it looks like I've got the end of the season down.
"Our goals this season are to win more races, ride a little better and go a little faster," said Hines, the 1996 NHRA co-Rookie of the Year.
Hines lost to Gainesville Raceway's master in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Dave Schultz in 1997, on a holeshot in the final. However, during the weekend Hines let his competition know he was a major contender for the NHRA Winston championship, running consistently low-7.40s and posting the fastest Pro Stock Motorcycle speed in NHRA history at 188.40 mph.
He says he enjoys racing at Gainesville.
"It's an awesome track," said Hines, who plans to ride his title-winning 1997 Suzuki this season with new sponsorship help from Eagle One car care products.
"The trick is getting off the line," he added. "These bikes have so much horsepower and the air is so good down there at this time of the year, if you don't get it set just right you'll overpower the track. If the weather is right and you can get a clean pass, I think you'll see some mid-7.20s."
* More pressure: Hines, 25, is the second-youngest Winston champion in NHRA history. While he says defending the Winston championship will be a lot tougher than winning it for the first time, he's ready to get going.
"There's definitely going to be more pressure this season," said Hines. "We're going to have to push everything a little more. Everyone will be gunning for me this season because I am the champion."
* Competition ratings: John Myers and Dave Schultz finished second and third respectively in the 1997 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Winston championship chase. While those two riders have been top bike contenders for many seasons, Hines expects two other talented riders to present tough challenges in 1998.
"I think Angelle (Seeling) is going to be the stiffest competition," Hines said. "John Smith is also going to be in the hunt. It's going to be a tight race, no question about it. There's really a lot of talented riders in this category."
* NFL player fields entry: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent will field a Pro Stock Motorcycle team during the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series that will feature rider Antron Brown. The team plans to compete in all 14 NHRA events where Pro Stock Motorcycle is featured.
"I look at this as the opportunity of a lifetime," said Brown, a 21-year-old Chesterfield, N.J. resident. "You don't get too many opportunities like this. I'm trying to stay levelheaded, concentrate and make the most of it."
Vincent, considered one of the fastest players in the NFL, admits he is living his dream through Brown.
"He's a great kid," Vincent said. "I get as much fulfillment from overseeing things as I do riding. The Pro Stock field is the best among motorcycles. It's where I want to be."
Vincent's Team 23 will be sponsored by Lexus, Suzuki Fun Center and Reebok. The team will receive technical assistance and advice from six-time NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series champion Dave Schultz, Schultz engine builder Greg Cope and motorcycle drag racing veteran Rickey Gadson. MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION
* Schedule: Pro qualifying sessions will be held at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on March 6 and March 7. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 8. Federal-Mogul qualifying will begin at 8 a.m. on March 5. Gates open each day at 7 a.m.
* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mac Tools Gatornationals. Call NHRA Ticketing at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information. Tickets can also be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.
* On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of highlights and final-round competition from the Mac Tools Gatornationals at 5 p.m. (ET) March 8. TNN will televise one hour of first-round coverage during "NHRA Today" at noon (ET) March 8.