Engine problems limit Stoffer to quarterfinal finish - 7/2/2012
Rob Geiger - Geiger Media

JOLIET, Ill. (July 1) – Karen Stoffer and the GEICO Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle team showed their mettle in this weekend's O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

After an engine change, Stoffer beat Steve Johnson in the first round and got lane choice for her second-round matchup with No. 1 qualifier Hector Arana Sr. Though she left first on Arana, Stoffer fell to the former Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world champion.

"It was a tough weekend," Stoffer said. "We had that new crank in our bike, but unfortunately we lost the new motor that pairs with the new crank on our last qualifying pass."

Stoffer qualified No. 8 but blew the engine in her GEICO Suzuki during the fourth qualifying session. The team worked hard to replace it with another engine, and crew chief Gary Stoffer was able to tune the bike to a first-round win.

Stoffer left first with a .040-second reaction time and outran Johnson with a pass of 6.985 at 190.51 mph. Johnson, the No. 9 qualifier, went 7.041 at 188.83 mph in another Suzuki.

"We put in 'Dirty Harry' in the bike and the GEICO bike ran pretty decent on that first round," Stoffer said. "We were slowest of the winners that session, but it was the fastest we'd run all weekend. Gary got the tuneup dead-on for that first run and was able to get us lane choice."

Against Arana, Stoffer against was the first to leave with a .036-second light, but Arana drove around her with a pass of 6.955 at 191.87 mph to Stoffer's 7.092 at 189.39 mph.

"Unfortunately that lane sucked us over to the right on that pass, which meant I had to do a lot of (steering)," Stoffer said. "When you are racing someone of the caliber of the Aranas you can't do a lot of riding and expect to win. He threw down a 6.95."

The GEICO team has less than a week to prepare for the next event, the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, on July 6-8.

"With back-to-back races, we have to put it all behind us quickly instead of having to marinate on it for weeks on end," Stoffer said. "We're going to stop through Indy on the way to Norwalk, let Gary talk to (engine builders) Vance & Hines and figure out what we're going to do about motors. We were feeling good when we had three motors available to us, now we're going to regroup and re-calibrate. Hopefully we'll come back to Norwalk and be strong."

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.