Spending time with fans is Stoffer's favorite activity, next to racing - 10/4/2012
Rob Geiger - Geiger Media
READING, Pa. (Oct. 4) - Many NHRA drag racing fans know Karen Stoffer from the bright yellow GEICO Suzuki she races in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
But many more know Stoffer from meeting her in pit areas across the country, as Stoffer is widely known as one of the friendliest, down-to-earth competitors in the sport.
She's cultivated that image through years of interaction with fans, bringing their time together to a personal level. So as she races at this weekend's 28th annual Uni-Select Auto Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, expect to see long lines at the GEICO hauler waiting for a moment with her.
"I'd say I spend about two-thirds of every day - if not longer - outside signing autographs or at the T-shirt booth, mingling with the fans," Stoffer said. "Sometimes I'll sit up in the stands and watch races with them. Any time you're out there with the people making their experience more exciting, it's a good day.
"I also enjoy the conversations I have with them. When fans come up and ask for an autograph, I'll ask them what's going on or I'll make a comment about their T-shirt. Sometimes I'll get people who come up with Harley-Davidson shirts on, and they cover it up as they walk over. I let them know it's fine."
Stoffer spends a little more time with each fan than many competitors, asking their name if they want an autograph and then asking a question or two of each one. She takes the extra time because she is a fan herself and had a similar experience with another drag racer many years ago.
"From being a fan and coming out to these races, I know you pay good money to be out here," Stoffer said. "You want to be entertained and have a good time. I know a large part of that is interacting with the drivers. Darrell Gwynn did that to me a few years ago. He asked me my name and personalized the hero card for me and chatted with me. I realized how much I liked it, and I just pay it forward."
The lines may be even longer at Reading, as she won here in 2006 and was runner-up in 2002 to Angelle Sampey.
"We have a very large fan base in Reading," Stoffer said. "Back when we first started, Angelle and I were in the final there. That was the first all-female motorcycle final. Being a rookie, we were able to gain a lot of fans that year. And it grew. We've won the race there before too.
"It's a very family-friendly environment when you go to Reading. The fans are family-oriented, and that's where this GEICO team focuses on, and that's our demographic and fan base: Women and children. It's going to be fun going to Reading."
Stoffer went on to extend special thanks to all
of the 2012 sponsors and supporters.
Geico Powersports 1-800-442-9253, Suzuki Extended Protetion, Bates Leathers, KYMCOUSA, NGK, Airtech, Red Line Oil, American Racing Products, Mechanix Wear Gloves, and TKO Graphics.