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NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 7, 2016
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you for joining us. We will get started with our conference call this afternoon. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has finished up with the regular portion of our series and will start with the Playoffs starting with the Carolina Nationals September 16th through the 18th.
We'll start with Andrew Hines. Thanks for joining us today.
ANDREW HINES: Always good to be here. Good time to be talking to everybody.
SCOTT SMITH: Exactly. This time of year, this is the place you want to be.
He will be in pursuit of his sixth world championship and third consecutive in the two-wheel category. He has five wins this season with two runner-up finishes with one number one qualifying position this year.
His win at the most recent Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals allowed him to move into the number one seed past his teammate Eddie Krawiec. This is the third time he enters the Countdown as the number one seed.
Andrew, start talking about your season as a whole. Obviously you and Eddie, every team sets high goals for themselves, and is this where you wanted to be when you kicked off your season in Gainesville?
ANDREW HINES: This season has come pretty good to us. We've had a lot of I'd say unexpected success on my side of the team. We always keep Eddie's bike consistent. I'm the guinea pig on the crew. We make a lot of changes to the motorcycle for tune-up things and research and development for later in the year. This year everything has worked out in our favor. Years past I've been up and down on performance. This year it's been a lot better.
We've been making smarter changes, figuring out what our motorcycles need in different types of weather. Last year at this time we were hitting our stride because we had struggled with figuring out how to burn the Sunoco fuel. This year we've had a lot more notes to fall back on from last season. Everything has been pretty good.
I had a few rocky stumbles there in the beginning of the season with a first-round loss in Atlanta. We can chalk those up to learning scenarios. Everything has been good as of late. Still haven't had the quickest motorcycle, but found our way to the winners circle on Sundays and Mondays. It was really nice to get the U.S. Nationals win the other day and move into the number one in points.
Looking forward to more success in the coming weeks. It's going to be tough. The Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors have found every which way to make the class tighter than it has been in years past. I always talk about the class getting better, but you can see that's the truth separated by 1/10th of a second. Killer racing going on right now in Pro Stock Motorcycles, and it's going to be a dogfight all the way till the end.
SCOTT SMITH: You talk that you may not have had the fastest bike on Friday and Saturday, with only that one number one qualifying position. Does that show why your bike is so good on race day, that you are kind of working on a lot of different things as opposed to being the number one going into the event?
ANDREW HINES: Yeah. We take a different approach with my motorcycle. Fortunate enough to have two teams running for Harley Davidson. We can treat each motorcycle a little differently throughout the weekend. We use one as a barometer to see how we should be running and we can run the other one around outside of our tuning window to find performance here and there. We hone in on that and figure out what we need to do for Sundays.
It's been working for us. Like I said, the season has been going really well. My performance turns around on Sundays typically. You've seen that in races here more recently. Maybe I haven't qualified the greatest but I can pick away at it slowly on Sunday. The more rounds we get, the faster we can be.
Quite the adventure we've been on here recently. It's a little frustrating when you're moving around and trying to learn things throughout the weekend but it all pays off in the end when you can find the performance on Sunday and start going rounds.
SCOTT SMITH: We'll open it up for questions for Andrew.
Q. In the press conference, you talked about some changes in the one motor that you had tested with. I'm sure you don't want to talk much about what those changes might have been. But on the fuel side of things, I'm familiar with people talking about how two motors which are absolutely identical, one will just completely out-perform the other one. Do you have that same sort of thing happening? If so, what insights do you have as to how that happens?
ANDREW HINES: We do have that same phenomenon. It's just the product of how each engine wants to run. All the parts come off the CNC machine, like the majority of other teams. The ports should be the same, pistons are all the same. Most people get them from the same fuel manufacturers. It all just kind of depends on what that engine might want a little bit different for cam timing. We don't have a lot of just ability for cam timing. I might have a motor a little bit different some of the other ones.
The engine I used this weekend is the same engine I won the championship with last year and the year before. Just I hadn't been running it most of this year because I wanted to get some time on a different engine.
Like you said, I told you in the press conference that I ran this engine in testing last week. It didn't perform to our expectations because we had made some changes to it throughout the year. We put it back to our standard setup just like our other five spare bullets we got underneath the trailer, and it came back out running like it should have. It just took a little bit longer to find the tune-up on it this weekend than it typically does in a normal weekend.
Like you were talking, one engine may perform better than the others or may not be as good as the other one. With the V twins, you might get the engine that doesn't cooperate with itself. Tuning the V twin, you got to treat each cylinder as its own engine. The front cylinder might want something a little bit different than the rear. You just got to find that happy medium. When you get them both right, that's when they put up a good number.
It's a constant battle and fight dealing with humidity, barometer, temperature. You're sucking heat right off the racetrack with out air scoops being only 20 inches off the ground. The hotter the day gets, the track gets hotter, you're breathing hotter air. Each cylinder might want something a little bit different even throughout the day.
Q. Probably a stupid question. Because you've been so successful, started right off the bat with probably the most successful team in the history of motorcycle drag racing, do you ever wonder what it would be like to go out on your own and create something from scratch and start off like that?
ANDREW HINES: Well, it would be definitely tough. I've seen the roads these guys go down. People have found different ways to build motorcycles and find horsepower, bring out different innovations. Working closely with our Vance & Hines customers, Jerry Savoie and Tim Kulungian, they've built basically an entire team from the remnants of an older team, but they found different ways to come out and find different horsepower.
When I got kicked off in drag racing, yes, I was with the premier team that had been around for a long time with my dad leading the way and my brother racing. But they instilled in me if I wanted to learn how to do this, I had to learn to do it from the ground up.
I started with a chassis as a normal person would. I had to figure out a way to build that motor, getting parts from this person, that person, stealing a lot of my brother's spare parts, doing fabrication myself. I had to work my way up through those ranks. Never had to drive my own truck to the race. We would travel around in motorhomes. There's a level of respect I have for the teams that have gone the hard way of doing it. I'm fortunate enough to have the backing of a major American company. Harley Davidson has really helped pave the way for us in the last 15 years.
Q. What is your confidence level this year versus your two previous years?
ANDREW HINES: I feel like I'm pretty confident right now. The last two years, notably 2014, I was less confident because I had been racing for 10 years or eight years since I won my last championship. I'd gone in the Countdown battle with a couple people years prior and made major mistakes along the way. It was always in the back of my mind I didn't want to go back and make those mistakes. Luckily I've been able to learn from those mistakes, notably in 2007 and 2010.
This year and last year I feel more confident than I did in 2014, for sure. My performance level has been higher this year. Haven't had any red lights the last couple years. I'm knocking on my desk right now because it's made out of wood. I've been kind of dialed in on the reaction times. My riding has been fairly decent.
Haven't been a superior rider as of late. Been kind of making some rookie mistakes on getting the bike to go straight down the track. Been pretty focused on staging and keeping it as shallow as I can to get the most ET possible. My lights have excelled because of that. I needed to improve on reaction time to pick up maybe a couple hundredths on the other end.
I feel good about this year. I'm getting back into better physical condition than I have been in years past. Been doing a lot more running, keeping my stamina up, which helps on Sundays when you're going around.
Q. Brittany Force is here at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She's promoting the Countdown that's about to come up. She's about to go on a car ride with Kurt Busch. Have you ever been in a stockcar?
ANDREW HINES: I have never been in a stockcar. Something that would be fun to take a ride in. I'd like to drive one, follow somebody around, see what the racing line is like, see how hard those things can actually turn.
I have ridden in a two-seater IndyCar at the Speedway at the Indy 500. That was an eye-opening experience going 100 miles an hour into a 90-degree turn. The thing actually hooks and goes around the corner. That's the closest I've been to any roundy-round racing.
Q. If you get this championship, it will put you up with Dave Schultz. We talk about this from time to time with your numbers, where you rank. You talked about getting started in this sport, getting started in the business. Did you ever think you would get to the point where you would be mentioned in the same breath with a Dave Schultz?
ANDREW HINES: No. When I started out in this sport 15 years ago it was never on my radar that I could get to this point. It was years and years ago I wanted to retire. I thought I'd done enough for my level of racing.
Luckily it's turned the corner and everything has come back to me here recently. A couple more championships and a lost more wins the last few years. That kind of smooths over any rough edges I had about it years and years ago.
Starting off, I was 19 years old when I started, I was happy to go out there and race every weekend, have fun, ride a motorcycle that goes 200 miles an hour in under seven seconds.
Like I said, it was something that was never on my radar. I would look at some of the stats those guys had and think, Wow, that's a lot of wins. I'm going to be well retired or not in any shape to be racing by then.
It's just an evolution. I've had an awesome team the entire time that's given me the capability to go out there and perform and have a flawless motorcycle every time. There's probably a handful of times in my 15 years where I haven't either made it all the way to the finish line or maybe less than three or four times I've had to push the motorcycle off the starting line. We're talking about a couple thousand runs in that timeframe.
To have a team that's that resilient, to always give their best effort, make sure everything is flawless, that's how you get to achievements like this. You got to have a great team behind you.
Q. When you go into the Playoffs here, six races, do you go into it thinking, I can have one bad race and still win this thing, or is that a wrong way of looking at it?
ANDREW HINES: That's a wrong way of looking at it. If you have an average race, you can still lose this thing. You have to get every round win possible. This is when experience comes into play, keeping pressure out of your head and in the right spot.
You can learn from things like Indy this past weekend. I made a major rookie mistake on Monday. I didn't ate breakfast. I paid the price come semifinals. I had no blood pressure, light-headed getting away from the computer after looking at a run. I had to sit down in front of our big fan in the pit area, cool off, drink as much water as I could to get my blood pressure back up.
That's when the seasoned experience rolls in. We rolled up for the final round, I was feeling horrible. As soon as I put my helmet on I felt like I could run a marathon. Get your head in the right spot. You make one mistake, it could cost you ultimately at the end of the year.
Q. One of your biggest competitors that you'll be facing, you talk about the class being tough, talk about Eddie. One of your fiercest rivals is probably 30 feet away from you right now. Is it fun to have that battle and to race so tight with him?
ANDREW HINES: It is. Having Eddie as my teammate, it's probably made it harder on the rest of the class because we try to push each other so much harder because we each want to have the faster bike in the pit area. We work on that every single day here at the shop to make sure our motorcycles are going to be as prepared, as identical as possible.
We are very proud about how consistent they run with each other, while being near the front of the pack. You see other teams that have multiple vehicles, maybe they can't get one of them to run. Seems like nearly every weekend we have consistent power and consistent enough runs where we're both able to have a chance to run late into eliminations on Sunday.
We push each other every single day to be better. We keep each other in check on Sundays and throughout qualifying, making sure we're making the right calls, analyzing and preparing for each weekend.
A lot of our race wins, they happen because of the preparation that happens here at the shop. We may get to the track and look like we're not working hard. That's because everything happened here at Vance & Hines.
Q. Monday, after the race was over, after you left the media center, I noticed you and your wife, Declan, on the starting line of the Nationals, that historic track. Was he taking his own victory lap down the track? I thought that was such a neat moment that really showed at the end of the day we're all still just humans out here, showed the neat part of that family aspect. What were you doing out there?
ANDREW HINES: We repeated a picture that we took when I won the U.S. Nationals in 2012 when Declan was two years old. It was me holding his hand walking down the left lane of the racetrack. We wanted to repeat that exact same picture.
We got hold of my parents who were at my trailer. They dragged him up to the starting line, repeated that same picture.
At the same time he's been bugging me. He wants to drive a junior dragster real bad. Every time he gets on that subject, he wants NHRA to start a junior motorcycle class.
I had him stage right where the starting line was, went down on the golf cart. He wanted to make his first quarter mile run. He did that when he was six years old. He was laser focused.
He drove a simulator last year at the Indianapolis car show, some display they had there. He was making laps around Indy Motor Speedway. He just had this super intense focus going on. I saw that same look on him the other day when he rode down the track here at Lucas Oil Raceway.
He's going to be a tough competitor. I think he's got that same blood running through his veins that I got. He's passionate about every single thing he does, whether it's his Taekwon-Do practice, shooting the bee bee gun, riding his dirt bike and ripping up the grass in the yard. He's 100% committed to everything he does. I think it runs in the family.
Q. When does he get his first junior dragster?
ANDREW HINES: It's going to happen here soon. Probably over this off-season. He'll probably be out there running in the five- to seven-year-old class next year. It will be a different experience for me. He'll have four wheels instead of being on two.
Q. We've seen you, L.E., Angelle, close up this year. Is there one thing they're hitting upon, or are we at that part of the season where everybody is getting their combination and getting their package dialed in?
ANDREW HINES: I think everybody's got their combination dialed in right now. Obviously the playing field is tough. Most of the field this last weekend, like I said, a 10th of a second from one to 16. If you look from two to 16, this is seven hundredths. That is probably the tightest we've had in the history of this class.
It's not just those two. Everybody has brought their best out here for these last few races. You're going to see more and more of that throughout this Countdown. It's going to be deciding on the starting line from here on out. You want to make sure you get that advantage. You don't want to give up any little bit at the starting line. Makes a difference on the finish line. We're doing the best to make our my bike is consistent. Work on our 60 foots and we'll be there with everybody else.
Q. How hard is it to have three races in a row to start the season? With Charlotte and St. Louis, they're geographically close to each other, you can swing through. All of a sudden you're three races in halfway through all in a row. How tough is that on you guys?
ANDREW HINES: Well, it sets the tone right away. If you have one bad race, then you know you got two more that you can attempt to try to make up a bad race.
These days, it's not going to happen. You're going to have to be super consistent. You're probably going to have to go to the semifinals every single race of this Countdown to have a shot come Vegas, Pomona. It's fortunate for us these three races are bounced around Indianapolis so we can get back here and do normal maintenance on our motorcycles, go home and sleep in our beds, not worry about traveling around the country too far.
I love three races in a row. Keeps your mind sharp, keeps you going from one race to the next. If we can get off to the right start, be on the right foot, it sets the tone what's going to come in the next few weeks after that. We're ready for the battle and we're ready for everybody.
Q. Since the Norwalk race, that's where you really hit your stride. Did you do a lot of testing in between there or just work on the dynos? Is it a matter of finding a hundredth here and a hundredth there?
ANDREW HINES: Lately it's all been found here at the shop on the dynos. We don't get a chance to test as much as we like because we're always here working on the shop. In Pro Stock, everything is won at the shop. You got to have the horsepower to get to the finish line first.
We can make do, dial our 60 foots in, get them close at the events. The NHRA Safety Safari does such a good job preparing the track, it's hard to test anywhere else except the Monday after a national event. It's hard to get that same racing surface at any other venue when you're not racing in the Mello Yello Series.
Our big thing is just pushing for more horsepower. We've come a long way in our valve train to make them rev up harder. Our Harleys are screaming across the finish line. We're pushing higher than what Pro Stock is allowed to run right now. Impressive what our guys have been able to do.
Working with our valve train companies to get stuff lined out, especially comp cams and drive trains. Everything has been working real good. We're happy with where we're sitting right now. If we can find three, four, five horsepower before the end of the year, it's going to help us that much more.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you very much, Andrew, for joining us. We'll look forward to seeing you in Charlotte here in a few days.
ANDREW HINES: Thank you. We'll see you down there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports