Fans lift Stoffer after disappointing first-round loss - 9/16/2012
Rob Geiger - Geiger Media

CHARLOTTE (Sept. 16) - GEICO rider Karen Stoffer may have lost in the first round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway on Sunday, but to many of her fans, she was No. 1.

Stoffer was greeted by dozens of fans at her Pro Stock Motorcycle pit area after falling to Shawn Gann in the rain-delayed race.

"You come back here, and they're so supportive and so nice," Stoffer said. "We had a large group of people at our pit, and I had a lot of little kids here. They were all cheering and saying, 'Good luck.' That's what makes this worth it. And what makes losing actually bearable is when the fans come up to you and wish you well and tell you you're their hero."

As she approached the first round of the first race of the Countdown to the Championship, crew chief Gary Stoffer made a lane swap, putting his wife in the left lane.

"That was Gary's call," Karen said. "That's what he does. He figures out which lane was better. For a bike, it's a little different than a car. We only have one patch to go in, so he might've seen something in the right lane that didn't look good, and he put me in the left lane."

Stoffer was also concerned that because of the cloud cover over the track, she'd see the green of the Christmas Tree too quickly, so she was determined not to red light.

"I probably could've won that race if I'd have kept my normal light, but I was a little concerned with the cloud cover, and I didn't want to go red," Stoffer said. "You can win on a bad light; you can't win on a red light. Hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done that, but I really wanted to make a race of it."

Gann had a .060-second reaction time, leaving ahead of Stoffer's .117. Stoffer made a solid pass, going 6.989 seconds at 191.08 mph, falling to Gann's 6.984-second pass at 191.70 mph in a matchup of the Nos. 8 and 9 qualifiers.

"Neither light was sporty," No. 8 Stoffer said. "Neither Shawn nor I had a sporty light, and we both ran dead-on, and it was just the better light of the two.

"She was a good bike. She was a good bike all week, she was a consistent bike all week. We ran a .98, he ran a .98 - it was a good race."

But it was a race that ended too soon for Stoffer, who came to Charlotte fifth in the points standings.

"We're going to go to Dallas and do what we do," Stoffer said.

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.