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Stoffer’s Near-Perfect Run Not Good Enough

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 4 2009
Karen Stoffer says the bike her Geico team brought to the Nationals is good enough to keep her in the top 10 in points. (NHRA File Photo)

Karen Stoffer says the bike her Geico team brought to the Nationals is good enough to keep her in the top 10 in points. (NHRA File Photo)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Clermont, Ind. – Karen Stoffer crossed the finish line Friday night in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with some pretty warm thoughts racing through her mind. The kind of thoughts that go along with moving ever so close to nailing a berth in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1.

She brought her Pro Stock Suzuki bike to a stop after her run in the first round of qualifying for the Nationals thinking she had a pass that “was darn near perfect” and might hold up through four more rounds of qualifying.

Then, competitor Steve Johnson came up and gave her the bad news. Johnson told her that the run might not count because the biker in the other lane Friday hit the center-line cones near the finish line and by NHRA rules, that would nullify both runs.

Johnson turned out to be right.

Stoffer was able to shrug her lousy luck off. Able to find the bread in the mud sandwich.
“It was a beautiful run, a beautiful pass,” she said. “It was a 6.95 (second) pass. But that’s the rules and you’ve got to go by the rules.”

Stoffer arrived at O’Reilly Raceway Park for the biggest NHRA event of the season in a tough spot. She was holding onto the 10th and final berth in the Countdown, which starts in Charlotte, N.C. in two weeks. But she was holding that berth by just two points over Johnson and she sure could use the eight points which go with being top qualifier.

And she was disappointed, saying, “There is no such thing as a perfect pass, but that was darn near being perfect.”

But she also understands the rule. She said that officials DQ both runs because a piece of debris from the cone, which was struck by Shawn Gann, might have gone through the timing light and set it off prematurely.

“It’s a good rule,” Stoffer said.

And, “It’s a bummer but not a weekend killer.”

Only one of four remaining qualifying sessions will be held in the cool of the evening. That one will be on Saturday. The rest will be in the heat of the day and that almost always makes for slower passes.

When Stoffer was asked if she thought that her run would have held up and earned her the eight points, she said, “Potentially, yes,” it could have been the fastest of the weekend.

Had that panned out, it would have given Stoffer her first No. 1 qualifying run of the season. But it would have been her fourth top-four qualifying run in a row.

What she needs, even if she does pull off another near perfect qualifying run between now and Monday, Stoffer will need to step up her efforts in eliminations. She has gone down in the first round the last four races in a row.

But, she said the bike her Geico team brought to the Nationals is good enough to keep her in the top 10 in points.

Top Fuel

Larry Dixon earned the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot in Top Fuel when he made a pass at 302.89 mph in 3.85 seconds.

Second was Cory McClenathan.

Point-leader Antron Brown, who was in the lane next to Dixon Friday night, was fourth.

Funny Car

Robert Hight needs a near perfect weekend if he is going to make the Countdown. Friday night, he got off to a near perfect start as he was fastest in qualifying with a run of 4.10 seconds and a speed of 305.56 mph.

Hight, who a year ago came within one race of winning the Top Fuel championship, came to Indy 12 in points and 38 behind 10th-place Cruz Pedregon. Hence his good mood after his good start to the weekend.

“Definitely a good start,” High said. “I doubt that it will hold up but we should stay in the top five.”

Mike Neff, Hight’s teammate at John Force Racing, was second fastest and Pedregon was third.

Pro Stock

Mike Edwards had the top run in Pro Stock as he made his pass at 207.66 mph. His time was 6.624 seconds.

If the time holds up through four more rounds of qualifying, it will give Edwards his 10th top-qualifier slot of the season.

“I’m really happy,” Edwards said. “It was a great run. It was a great start to the U.S. Nationals.”

Second fastest was the guy who lined up next to Edwards Friday night, Greg Anderson.

“He’s the bad dude right now,” Anderson said of Edwards.

Jason Line was third fastest and Allen Johnson was fourth.

Point leader Jeg Coughlin was ninth.

Motorcycles

Hector Arana was top qualifier Friday in Pro Stock Motorcycles with a run at 190.30 mph and 6.985 mph.

Second was Andrew Hines while Matt Smith was third.

Point leader Eddie Krawiec qualified fifth fastest.

- Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 4 2009
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