When the NHRA Mello Yello Series tour lands at the famed Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next week’s NHRA Toyota Nationals, fans of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class will have the opportunity to see the largest and most competitive field in more than a decade. Racer demand for the Las Vegas event was so great that NHRA officials elected to expand the entry quota and as a result, 30 riders representing are expected to compete for the 16 available qualifying spots. The last 30-bike field came during the 2004 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indy.
Taking center stage in Las Vegas will be the fierce battle for the Mello Yello championship. At one point, it seemed almost a given that Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines would finish 1-2, but that plan was interrupted when Jerry Savoie rode his White Alligator Suzuki to a win at the recent AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. Following the Dallas race, the fourth of six in the Countdown to the Championship, Hines leads the standings by 21 points over Krawiec while Savoie is just 31 points out of the lead. Hector Arana Jr. and Chip Ellis are lurking in fourth and fifth, respectively, though both are at least four rounds out of first place. Given the size and quality of the field, no one can be assured of a starting spot on Sunday and a single mistake could be devastating to any one of the ten riders in the Countdown.
Jerry Savoie, the tour’s most recent winner, sits in third place in the standings and his Suzuki will be just one of 30 Pro Stock Motorcycles on hand in Las Vegas.
The rise in popularity for Pro Stock Motorcycles is fueled in a large part by the parity that the class has achieved in recent years. The NHRA Tech Dept. has worked tirelessly to maintain a level playing field between the various brands and engine configurations. As a result, there have been six different winners and 10 different finalists in the season’s first 15 events. Hines, Krawiec, and Savoie have each won three events, while Karen Stoffer and Hector Arana Jr. have won two. Hector Arana Sr. broke a long winless drought with his victory in Atlanta and Matt Smith has made steady progress with a pair of final round finishes on his all-new Victory Gunner.
The fall race in Las Vegas has traditionally attracted fans from all over the world fans and that international trend extends to the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. The field includes a pair of Swedish riders, Robert Karlsson and Kalle Lyren as well as Australian Luke Crowley. Karlsson, is the father of Elvira Karlsson, who made her NHRA debut in 2014. He recently clinched the 2015 European Drag Racing Series Nordic Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, and honor that Lyren held in 2014.
Karlsson, Lyren, and Crowley will be making their NHRA debuts in Las Vegas and will be joined by Cory Reed, who is making his first appearance on the Star Racing EBR and California’s Bill Burkart, who is appearing in his first Pro Stock Motorcycle race on his Suzuki GSX-R. Reed is the son of Top Alcohol Funny Car standout Annie Whiteley, and he is scheduled to race full-time in the Mello Yello Series in 2016.
The field will also include four female riders including Nevada resident Stoffer, Angie Smith, Katie Sullivan, and Melissa Surber, who was impressive in her two-starts earlier this season in Denver and Sonoma.