Vance is unequivocal about the new four-valve OHC 160 cubic inch aluminum billet engines that the team designed for this season. "They're really something. They'll rival anything in the world as far as something that'll make horsepower for a single function." Andrew Hines said the bike makes about 370 horsepower. Matt Hines said that everyone in the field had to make over 350 hp to be competitive. The Suzukis don't need as much power because they can run bodywork. Because the stock V-Rod doesn't, and because Harley wants it to resemble the stock bike as much as possible, the race bike runs naked, which makes it an aerodynamic drag. As Vance says, with the "Harley you've got to have more because it's like pushing a flat piece of wood down the strip." Said Andrew Hines, "We've had these bikes in the wind tunnel versus Matt's Suzuki when we first started the program and there's a major difference." Still, they respect Harley's decisions and "it's all about being out in the wind on a Harley. That's definitely what we are on these things."
There was no shortage of grumbling when the NHRA allowed Harley to use a four-valve DOHC cylinder head, the same as the stock V-Rod (until this year they were running a two-valve pushrod twin). But it came two years after the NHRA had approved a four-valve head for the Suzukis, a motor that never got built because of problems with the partners. There was also grumbling about the V-Rod's air intakes, but they too were approved by the NHRA. Vance & Hines also builds the engines for a number of their competitors, though not as many as before. Matt Hines remembered one race where 15 of the 16 qualifiers ran Vance & Hines engines.
The Screamin' Eagle/Vance...
The Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines team is very self-sufficient. Both riders work on their own bikes between runs, as demonstrated by Krawiec spinning wrenches on his V-Rod in the team's pit.
Because the stock Buell XB12R...
Because the stock Buell XB12R has bodywork, the Pro Stock Buells are allowed to have fairings, which helps on the back end of the strip. That advantage means they have to run additional weight, however; note the huge weight on the bottom of the fork leg of Hector Arana's Lucas Oils Buell.
In NHRA dragracing, you have...
In NHRA dragracing, you have to learn to ignore distractions such as cameramen getting in your face prior to a run. Here, Geico Powersports Suzuki's Karen Stoffer (one of the many female Pro Stock motorcycle racers) prepares to launch on a qualifying pass.
Vance would match the team's shop in Brownsburg, a western suburb of Indianapolis, to any in car racing. "There isn't an Indy car shop or NASCAR shop that rivals our shop in terms of the complexity of CAD. It's a first class facility." Matt Hines said there were about 40 full-time employees at the shop, including the exhaust pipe production. "We got a handful of CNC machine guys, there's like five in that department. My dad and a couple of other guys. Luciano (Santana), at our shop, he's been porting cylinder heads for the last 20 years at V&H, so we've got a lot of knowledge."
The results wouldn't be possible without the Harley backing, which is one of the things Vance is most proud of. "I brought a $5 billion company into the NHRA. That's a big deal," he said. "You don't get that every day. They said, 'We want to be involved. We want to have a display. We want to do something with this, not just because we're on the starting line.'" The collaboration has proven valuable to both V&H and H-D. The Harley display at the strip is as modern and interactive as any other. "They're seeing a lot of people who could be enthusiasts and the numbers are showing that the NHRA is selling motorcycles. It's a very positive thing all the way around. For us it's been a huge, huge benefit to partner with Harley," Vance said. "Think about it; at the end of the day, Harley doesn't endorse a single company in the aftermarket that they don't leverage with.
"They're one of our best partners we've ever had. The Ducati guys were real passionate. The Yamaha guys were totally available to give us whatever we wanted. [But] I really like [Harley Davidson], because they understand the business side of our business." What you have to keep in mind, Vance says, is that "if you were a company and you wanted [television] exposure at the national level in 17 metropolitan areas...drag racing is the bargain of the century." The Pro Stock Bikes get a "solid 30 minutes. If people speak their products are identified. When you talk about impressions per dollar, it's the best value."
The first few gearchanges...
The first few gearchanges on a run are crucial. "If you're off a couple hundred rpm it's going affect your ET," said Hines. "If you're short on the two-three [shift] by 200-300 rpm-pretty much every 100 rpm is a hundredth of a second and second gear's a major power gear for these bikes, because you're doing a lot of accelerating through that range-it's just going to fall on its face in third gear."
None of which would matter if they weren't winning. Vance admits the Harley may have an advantage. The economy has wracked dragracing. The Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines team is the only two-rider team in the paddock, and one of the few with significant sponsorship. Money aside, Vance said, "I know my guys have been running as good as the other competitors and our guys have been winning because they've been riding better."
Of that, there is no doubt. Krawiec and Hines were one-two heading into the six-race, end of the season "Countdown to the Championship." Krawiec, who didn't win a race last year en route to the title, has four wins this year.
"We're not a combined total of seven-time world champions here with this team from not knowing what you're doing," Krawiec said. "So you try to always keep your head up and enjoy yourself."