Krawiec Delivers For Harley-Davidson in 2011
By John Sturbin |Senior Writer
There is no debating the quarter-mile path to Eddie Krawiec’s second NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship was personally more satisfying than the first.
Unlike his 2008 title, Krawiec’s 2011 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series championship was stamped by the sense of accomplishment that only one-two-three-four national event victories can bring.
“Yes, it has,” Krawiec said during a season-ending National Hot Rod Association teleconference. “I caught a lot of grief from a lot of people on being a champion and never winning a race (in ‘08). It’s just something…it was a bittersweet win for me.
“It was my second year racing. Obviously, having the opportunity to win a championship is something that everybody wants to do. At the end, I had this big prize. Building up to that big prize, I never had the opportunity to win one of those ‘little prizes.’ I was fortunate that season to win the Shootout for us, which was a bonus race, a $25,000 bonus. But it still wasn’t a national event win.
“The following year I went to a total of 10 finals, eight of them in a row, and I lost the championship by two points (to Hector Arana Sr.) At the end, it was sort of a punch in the gut to me because that was my championship season. I defended my title. I won races – but I didn’t win a championship. So this year I finally can say I won races and I won a championship. This is just something that really puts a smile on my face, and makes me proud.”
Krawiec clinched the 2011 crown with a second-round victory against 2010 PSM world champion LE Tonglet and his Nitro Fish Suzuki during the season-ending 47th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 13.
Krawiec then advanced to the final against Andrew Hines, his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-
Davidson V-Rod teammate. A three-time PSM world champion, Hines won the event when Krawiec red-lighted to cap an overall dominating weekend for the H-D factory team fielded by father Byron Hines and Terry Vance.
“To be the champion, I had to beat the champion that round,” said Krawiec, who will turn 35 on Dec. 6. “Racing LE Tonglet…he’s a tough competitor. He’s a great racer. Obviously, he’s a past champion. To beat him to get the official lock in for the championship felt really good. But you also can’t take anybody lightly in the category.
“I knew I could have shot myself in the foot there if I took something for granted or just went out there and slacked-off. The one thing I was trying to do is be consistent all day. For me, you need to stay calm and relaxed and not hype yourself up because if you do that, that’s when you’re going to get yourself into those bad situations and maybe get a red light or do something weird.
“The most important thing for me was being consistent and just staying cool, calm and collected. Just stay there and be consistent.”
To that end, Krawiec never dropped out of the top three rider standings all season, and entered the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs with the points lead.
“I had the opportunity to have the points lead for a good amount of the regular season,” said Krawiec, a native of Bayonne, N.J., and former track manager at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, N.J. “But, man, when you get to the Countdown, sometimes things can change and change really fast. So you never get too cocky.”
After finishing second and third in the point standings in 2009 and 2010, respectively, Krawiec won the PSM season-opening 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway in March to set the tone for 2011. He added three more victories, including Countdown wins at the fourth annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., and the 11th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Krawiec also posted two runner-up finishes and three No. 1 qualifiers en route to a total of 2,691 points
and a margin of victory over NHRA Rookie of the Year Hector Arana Jr. and his Lucas Oil Buell of 90 markers.
Krawiec credited crew chief Matt Hines, a three-time (1997-99) PSM world champion and older brother of Andrew, with helping him sort-out his V-Rod heading into the 57th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Clermont, Ind. On cue, that prestigious event was the last of the 16-race regular season.
“Our main focus is obviously keeping our motorcycles competitive throughout the season,” Krawiec said. “We struggled a lot this year on getting our setup right. I’d been riding really well but been racing really bad – the reason being is that the way we set up our bike now, with the changes, it’s really hard to cut our reaction time. Usually the bike guys are all complaining that our stuff moves too fast, and it’s actually vice versa. So it’s in a different position for me this year, and all I needed to do is focus on hitting the tree.
“It’s a very competitive category. Throughout the last two or three years, this class has grown leaps and bounds in that area of anybody can win. And on race day, any given qualifying position has a shot. So by no means is it a cakewalk or easy to do. To set goals and to achieve them is something that when you look back on the season, it puts a smile on your face and keeps you more excited and ready to move into next season.
“We may have had great motorcycles all year long, but by no means were they dominating the season or the class. It’s something that our team is just proud of, and we’re excited to be part of and being able to call ourselves world champions again.”
From a corporate standpoint, Krawiec said he was pleased to deliver the championship with Willie G. Davidson – senior vice-president and chief styling officer of H-D Motor Company – in the house. It was the fifth world championship in eight years for the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines H-D team, as Andrew Hines won the world title in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
“Yeah, Willie G. is a huge drag racing fan,” Krawiec said of the father of the V-Rod, and grandson of H-D co-founder William A. Davidson. “A lot of people may not understand that or realize it but he follows us all the time. If I do well at a race, it’s not uncommon to get a phone call or a text from Willie or Billy or some of the Davidsons. It’s a passion for them. They love it. Harley-Davidson’s heritage is racing starting from the early 1900s with board-track stuff.
“Racing to them is part of their heritage. Obviously, having Willie there makes it that much sweeter. Last year I was able to win the race and set the national record at Pomona and had Willie on the start line to see it. So any time he’s at a race and we win, it’s extra special.”
Krawiec added he continues to enjoy the marketing side of riding for the H-D factory, duties which include in-season dealer visits and rally appearances on behalf of Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) – the company’s official riding club.
“Harley’s main reason for being in the NHRA series is the great exposure and great participation of all the fans, that they have access to us,” Krawiec said of a factory program launched in 2002 with GT Tonglet, LE’s older brother, as lead rider. “And not just the riders, but being able to be in the pit area and seeing all the great displays and everything that is on the Manufacturer’s Midway at an NHRA event.
“From what I’m aware and what I understand, Harley-Davidson loves going to NHRA races because of the fact that they do get good support and good feedback. You do see walking around the pits now within the last couple years since Harley-Davidson has got involved, a lot of Harley-Davidson shirts. You see that Bar-and-Shield – that emblem that’s just world-known for its shape and its design and color pattern – on a lot of tee-shirts at the NHRA races.”
– John Sturbin can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment