Hines earns third consecutive NHRA POWERade championship at NHRA season finale
When Matt Hines earned three consecutive NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle championships between 1997-’99, his little brother was 14 years old, just wandering around the Vance & Hines pit area.
Andrew Hines has grown up since then.
Now 23 years old, he spent Sunday celebrating his own threesome of NHRA championships. Hines successfully defended his 2004-’05 titles by earning the third consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle title at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
Hines said watching his older brother race helped him prepare for the championship seasons.
"Watching Matt race was a great way to spend my childhood," Hines said. "I was just some punk younger brother stressing everyone out in the pits at the race track. I never wrenched on his bike the way he does mine. But being able to follow in his footsteps means a lot to me. I have great people who have encouraged me throughout my young career and I’m really lucky that way."
"To be only the third rider in NHRA history to win three consecutive championships (along with Matt Hines and Angelle Sampey) is just incredible."
Matt Hines started tuning the V-Rod entries when Andrew Hines joined GT Tonglet as a two-bike program in 2003.
"My team took a punk rider without any experience and they made me a three-time champion," Hines said. "I have no doubt that I have the best team in the business. We had some challenges this season but we didn’t buckle under the pressure. We just worked harder and got better as the season progressed."
Hines said the only thing that would make earning a third championship any better would be to win the season finale race.
Hines was a runner-up in 2005, but didn’t get past the first round this time. Hines fouled at the starting line, giving the first round win to Tom Bradford (Buell).
"Matt is always helping me become a better rider and he always tells me to be a robot on the starting line," Hines said. "I wasn’t today. My hand said it was time to go and I went early. It’s the kind of thing you have to take with a grain of salt. Having to sit around and wait to find out if you’re the champion again, knowing you don’t have any control over the situation anymore, wasn’t fun."
Second-place Suzuki rider Antron Brown was down 43 points going into Sunday’s final eliminations. He closed the gap to 23 by winning his first round matchup against Ryan Schnitz (Buell) before he faced off with Craig Treble (Suzuki) in Round Two.
Hines was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch. A win by Brown would have put him just three points down. A loss by Brown would ensure the title went to the Screamin’ Eagle team.
Treble beat Brown and Hines celebrated instantly. Treble went on to win the race on his Harry Lartigue-tuned bike.
"That was the worst time of my life, just sitting there, waiting for the race to unfold," Hines said. "My knees were weak. I couldn’t even stand up until I saw the win light come on in Treble’s lane. I wanted the race to be won at the finish line. I kept hoping they wouldn’t red light. I wanted it to play out by performance and Treble pulled it off."
Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said the third championship is a tribute to the way the team continues to improve.
"When we started this program our goal was to first qualify for a race, then win a race and then start aiming for a championship," Paluso said. "The plan was really to keep moving in that direction. The second championship was icing on the cake for the team but the third title is a real tribute to how they can continually improve and find ways to be competitive in a very tough Pro Stock Motorcycle field."
And what does the father of the two championship winning sons think? Team owner and tuner Byron Hines never thought he would see six NHRA championship rings sitting in his trophy case.
"Never in a thousand years did I think this would happen," Byron Hines said. "But Matt is a big reason why Andrew is the champion again. He brings so much knowledge and experience to the team and that has helped in some key situations that come up every once in a while. He has helped Andrew become a better rider and he was a big motivation to me this year too. He was probably one of the biggest reasons why we spent so much time testing and working on the dyno."
"We’re surrounded by people who help out in key situations. Terry Vance, Harley-Davidson and all the people back at the shop give us all the tools to get the job done and put together a third championship."
Teammate GT Tonglet won his first round matchup against Chip Ellis. Tonglet rode his V-Rod to a 7.104-second pass at 186.92 mph to top Ellis’ 7.144 at 185.31. Tonglet lost to Matt Smith in the second round. Smith recorded a 7.111 at 184.98, slipping past Tonglet’s 7.137 at 188.10. In qualifying, Tonglet turned in a 7.107 pass at 186.54, which was good enough for the No. 11 position. Tonglet earned one runner-up appearance this season en route to a 12th-place finish for the season.
Hines started the elimination round from the top this weekend. Hines was the No. 1 qualifier for the 19th time of his career and second time this season. Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod to a 7.020 pass at 191.00 for the top position. He finished the season with three wins in five final round appearances.
At the end of the day and the season, Hines walked away with his third trophy - something he wasn’t sure would happen at the beginning of the season.
"We came from behind to win this championship," Hines said. "We tested in the offseason and we thought we were in good shape. Then we came out to the first race and we were behind the ball. We came back from that and other challenges throughout the season to earn this. We fought back all year and it paid off. It’s amazing to believe what this group accomplished this season. I’m so proud to be part of the team."
2006 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings following 15 of 15 events (Victories in parenthesis):
1. Andrew Hines, Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod (3) 1,099
2. Antron Brown, Suzuki (2) 1,076
3. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki (3) 999
4. Chip Ellis, Buell (2) 892
5. Matt Smith, Buell (2) 857
6. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki (1) 814
7. Ryan Schnitz, Buell (1) 771
8. Tom Bradford, Buell 721
9. Geno Scali, Suzuki 705
10. Craig Treble, Team Tigue Suzuki (1) 675