After a year absence, the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series return to Atlanta Dragway for the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 16-18.
It marks the third of 16 events for the class and for Pro Stock Motorcycle riders, including standout Scotty Pollacheck, returning to Atlanta is definitely a good thing.
“I’m excited anywhere we go to race and it’s exciting to get back to Atlanta,” Pollacheck said. “It’s a pretty historical track, it’s a big market and it’s always a good place to race. Starting with this race the events for our class start running a lot closer together and we get into the swing of things. That’s always nice.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
Returning to Atlanta Dragway is also appealing for the two-bike team of Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. Krawiec, a three-time world champion, is the most recent Pro Stock Motorcycle winner in Atlanta and also won in 2009, while Hines won at Atlanta Dragway in 2010 and 2008.
Only an L.E. Tonglet victory in 2011 prevented the duo from five straight victories at the track and Hines brings plenty of momentum into this year’s event as the points leader and winner in Charlotte. But a host of challengers, including Hector Arana Jr., will try to slow down that momentum.
“I am happy to return to Atlanta,” Arana Jr. said. “As far as the track surface goes, it’s a nice track. It’s pretty smooth. Hopefully, this year, having the break before, we can come back and do well. They took Charlotte off the schedule and brought it back (in 2013), and I was able to go there and (win). I’ll cross my fingers, and maybe this will be the same thing.”
After finishing as the runner-up to Steve Johnson in Gainesville, Pollacheck is currently second in points. Other standouts in the class include defending world champ Matt Smith, Hector Arana and Michael Ray, but Pollacheck, in search of his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle win, likes the direction he is headed in 2014.
“I just want to see more of the same in Atlanta,” said Pollacheck, who also advanced to the final foursome at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. “We’ve done well, the bike’s doing what we want and it’s been a very good start to the season. As competitive as everything is in this class, I just have to keep that mentality going and keep pushing forward.”
Relying on what worked in 2012 at Atlanta Dragway may not bode well for Pro Stock Motorcycle riders this season. Arana Jr., who is currently fifth in points, knows whoever can figure out the track first may have the inside edge to a successful weekend.
“It will be interesting to see what the track holds for us and how much it’s changed since the last time we’ve been there,” Arana Jr. “Really, it’s going to be like going to a new track. Tracks change over the years, and not running there for a whole season, it’s going to be different for the bike class.”
A good showing in Georgia is also imperative with the bulk of the season still to come. After a month off following each of the first two races, the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals marks the start of a busy stretch for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, which is just the way the riders like it.
“It’s definitely exciting because I love racing and now we can start to get into the groove of things,” Arana Jr. said. “Those breaks have helped us get everything sorted through and we took full advantage of the time between races. But I’m definitely looking forward to getting in a rhythm and get some consistency. For a rider, now is the time when you can really start to get dialed in.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time 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 Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 18. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17 at noon. First round of Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at 2:45 and continue on Sunday.28