GEICO Powersports drag racers Karen Stoffer and Morgan Lucas both bowed out of Sunday’s action at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals well before they had planned, but not until Stoffer set a national elapsed time record of 6.847 seconds on her powerful Suzuki.
Stoffer already had backed up her run by qualifying No. 1 with a 6.855 at 194.77 mph on Saturday. By NHRA rule, any racer making a world record run must post another pass within one percent of the record run at the same event to make if official. If her mark holds through eliminations, a good chance considering the afternoon’s increased temperatures, Stoffer will be awarded 20 bonus points.
“We knew we had a bike that could win the race and the national record proved that,” Stoffer said. “For our first time out in the season, it was a good race, just not a great one. We accomplished two big season goals — the No. 1 qualifier and the national record. It’s been a lesson to learn as far as learning the racetrack and tuning the bike. We thought the same setup was going to be OK, but it really didn’t work very well.
“We’re happy going into Charlotte and we know we have a fast bike. This is a new package for us, but the biggest change we’ve made has been with my riding and it went very well this weekend. It wasn’t the Cinderella story we wanted, but it certainly was a princess one.”
Her run into the record books came against Round 1 opponent Redell Harris, whose 6.999 at 187.08 mph was nowhere close to Stoffer’s 6.847 at 193.46 mph. Stoffer was then eliminated herself by second-round foe Shawn Gann, who posted a 6.945 at 192.06 mph to Stoffer’s out-of-the-groove 6.979 at 187.52 mph.
“We overpowered the track in Round 2, similar to what Top Fuelers do when you see the smoke come off the tires. It’s evident when they do it; it’s not as much when we do it. We got out of the groove and I had to do a lot of riding and correcting. It seemed like we took up a half-mile be the time we got all the way down the track.”
Lucas didn’t have much of a chance Sunday morning as his GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster was instantly engulfed in tire smoke as soon as he hit the throttle. Being the first pair out on the track and not having lane choice against the higher qualified dragster of Steve Torrence certainly played into the early dismissal.
“We were lost in our first qualifying round on Friday and some parts we worked on in the second round screwed us up,” Lucas said. “We were chasing it all weekend after that.”
Officially, Torrence posted a 3.879 at 311.05 mph in front of Lucas’ resigned 7.782 at 91.43 mph.
“We’re frustrated and thank God it’s still early in the season,” Lucas said. “We can’t use that excuse forever though. We’ve struggled in qualifying the last couple of races and it’s because we are lacking the consistency. It’s no reason to get down; it’s just a bump in the road.”