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Wed, 17 Dec 2008, 08:12 PM

Eddie Wins From The Wild Card Spot
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2008 Auto Imagery, Inc.






Eddie Krawiec
Motorcycles have been a part of drag racing since the very formation of the sport. Early on, back in the 1950's, most of the top speeds in the sport were turned by the two-wheelers and not the cars. Bikes used to compete regularly with the cars and, at some tracks, they still do today. In 1970, NHRA had motorcycles at some of their national events and Larry Welch, one of the pioneers (and still one of the only riders to ever take a rocket-powered motorcycle down the drag strip), won the U.S. Nationals when he beat the great Boris Murray in the final round. The two were participating in the first-ever motorcycle eliminator at an NHRA national event and they were riding nitro-powered bikes at the time. Larry, on his Triumph, had qualified sixth in the field and went on to win the race with a string of runs in the low nine-second range, which, at the time, was spectacular. Since then, bikes have become regular contestants on the national scene and the 2008 season was one of the most exciting, competitive and interesting ones ever.


Eddie Krawiec
There were several big stories in the motorcycle class this year and among them was the fact that Eddie Krawiec won the championship without the benefit of winning a national event. In fact, not only did Eddie not win a race this year, he hasn't won a race yet in his brief Pro Stock Motorcycle career. And that's different from when Rob Bruins won the Top Fuel title in 1979 without winning a race. Different because Rob had already won a couple of races the year before. In fact, Rob had won a pair of national events in 1978 prior to his title year in 1979. Rob also raced in an era when the pros had to compete at divisional races in order to win the world championship. Did you know that Rob went to five divisional final rounds in 1979 and that he won all of them? Anyway, back to the present. Eddie had a good year statistically, not a great year, but in the end he did what he had to do and that is win the championship. Did you know that Eddie wasn't the top rider in any of the performance categories this year? He was fourth best in the elapsed time department, fifth best in the speed department and fourth best in average reaction time. For the year, he was the number one qualifier just three times, he

only set low elapsed time once and he set top speed twice. But once the "Countdown to 1" began he was as good as anyone in any of those categories. Did you know that Eddie won fourteen rounds once the "Countdown" began and that he went to four final rounds in that same period of time, a span of five races? Of course, as he mentioned several times during the season, just the fact that he was riding for the legendary Vance& Hines team put a lot of pressure on his shoulders and, at the same time, carried a lot of responsibility. When I interviewed him for the 2008 Year-In-Review DVD, he told me what an honor it was to be part of the team and how it comes with a lot of responsibility. "You have all the best equipment, people and resources on your side," he said. "So you are expected to do well. And by doing well I mean win races and championships. Everyone who has been part of this team has done that and that's what I intend to do." And he did!!

Even though he won the championship and even though he does ride for one of the top teams in the sport, regardless of class, it wasn't an easy year for Eddie. In fact, over the first third of the season he was just one of the riders who was competing and hanging on to a spot in the top ten and hoping to make the "Countdown." In fact, when we made the turn after Indy coming into the "Countdown," Eddie was mired in seventh place and it looked like his goal for the rest of the year would be to win a race or two and see how high he could finish in the standings. A good outing in Charlotte, where he made it to the final round only to foul out and lose to Steve Johnson, moved Eddie up three spots in the points and he left North Carolina in fourth place. Other than that, his only real glitch during the playoffs came in Dallas where he lost in round two to the reigning champ, Matt Smith. And to make it worse, he lost on a holeshot. "That's

Craig Treble vs. Krawiec
the worst way to lose," he told me. "You have a good bike, a great team and you're coming off a final round the race before and you give it all back with a loss like that." And while it obviously hurt at the time, it didn't take Eddie and his Screaming Eagle Harley Davidson team long to rebound. At the next race in Memphis he not only made it to the final round but he beat Chris Rivas and Matt Smith along the way. Only a broken part in the final round kept him from possibly winning his first national event. From there he went to the final in Las Vegas before clinching the title and making another final round appearance in Pomona. One of the other things that Eddie said to me during our interview in Charlotte was that winning the championship would mean a lot more than winning a race. "Of course," he added, "it would be nice to do both."


Steve Johnson vs. Krawiec
During the course of the season Eddie held his own with the top riders in the class and that helped him stay in the top ten during the first part of the season and helped him win the championship once we got to the "Countdown." In fact, did you know that the only members of the top ten who had a winning record against him this year were his teammate, Andrew Hines and Steve Johnson? The one thing that Eddie did do too much, but then so did all of the other motorcycle riders, is foul out. OK, so not all of the riders did it too much, but a lot of them did. Eddie lit the red light five times during the season, and when the points are as close as they have been recently, and especially with the "Countdown" format, those red lights can hurt you. But, in the long run, Eddie proved that old adage about "slow and steady wins the race." He didn't have the quickest or the fastest bike but he did, when it counted, have the best bike and he made the fewest mistakes. And, as we've seen several times in the past (as I mentioned in the Cruz Pedregon story), even though he didn't win the most rounds, he played within the rules, adapted to the new format and, in the end, emerged the champion. And that, after all, is what he set out to do when he began the season in Gainesville.


Angelle Sampey
Besides the fact that Eddie won the championship without the benefit of a national event win, the 2008 season was one of the more unusual in recent years. In no particular order, some of the interesting things about the 2008 season included Steve Johnson winning Indy for the second time and winning back-to-back races for the first time in his long career. Steve also won multiple races for just the second time in his career and he went over the 400 mark in the number of rounds in which he has competed. That's quite an accomplishment for any racer in the motorcycle class..Angelle Sampey continued her streak of qualifying for every race in her career and she has now qualified for 183 consecutive races. Andrew Hines is next best in the class with his current streak of 89 in a row. Angelle also competed in thirty-seven rounds this year bringing her class-leading total to 506 rounds in which she has raced. And with her twenty round wins this year, did you know that Angelle passed the late Dave Schultz on the

Hector Arana vs. Treble
all-time motorcycle win list? She now has won 364 rounds while Dave won 354 in his great career. But one of the big stats was the fact that Angelle did not win a race this year and that ended a streak of twelve straight years in which she had won at least one race. And now we're not even sure what she will be doing next year. Let's hope Angelle gets a sponsor and a ride because she is so good for the class and the sport in general. Besides, if she doesn't return, who will dress up as a cheerleader next Halloween?...Angelle's record over the years has been amazing and she has won 72% of her races, but as good as that is, did you know it's only fourth best in the class? Mr. Schultz won 76% of his races and Matt Hines won 78% of his, while John Myers, Angelle's teammate for a while, won a staggering 79% of the rounds in which he competed. Amazing, isn't it?...Another noteworthy performance this year came from Hector Arana when he won his first race after years of trying, and I mean years. Did you know that Hector's first appearance at an NHRA national event came back in 1990 at the U.S. Nationals? Hector was the first non-qualifier at that race, a race that was paced by two gentlemen I just mentioned, Dave Schultz and John Myers. Since that time he has been at 159 races and he finally recorded his first win this year. Talk about perseverance.


Like most of the classes, pro and sportsman, 2009 will be extremely interesting for the bikes. As I mentioned, we don't know the status of Angelle and I'm sure there are other teams out there who are looking for some additional financial help in order to race next year. The good thing about it for the motorcycles is that they don't start until Gainesville and that gives them a little extra time to get funding. But it won't be easy and we could be facing a shortage of bikes at some events..The bikes have put on a very good show for a very long time and the past few seasons have been the best for the class, both in quantity and quality and I hope next year brings more of the same. Eddie will be looking to repeat, Steve Johnson will be looking for another Indy win (or any win, for that matter), Andrew Hines will look to rebound and Angelle would like to win a few races to pass Dave Schultz on the all-time win list. A lot of the other teams will be looking to improve on their 2008 seasons so it should be exciting. Let's just hope that the teams can get the help they need so that when we go to Gainesville in March there is a full field of motorcycles waiting to put on another great show.





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