Date published: May 27, 2011
31st annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15, Atlanta
LE Tonglet began the race with a new engine but had to replace it when a transmission was damaged on the first qualifying attempt. He put in the motor that he had been running from the Reading event last season until the Houston race this year even though it was overdue for a service. "That motor was on borrowed time," said brother/crew chief GT.
The consistency of Tonglet's bike on the starting line was remarkable. His 60-foot times during eliminations were, in order, 1.062, 1.055, 1.056, and 1.056. Gary Tonglet, LE's dad, joked, "Karen [Stoffer] told us before the final that we were sandbagging. I said, 'No, we're bracket racing.' "
GT Tonglet, who recently announced that he would be running the rest of the series with Nitro Fish sponsorship, battled electrical snafus on his one-of-a-kind aluminum frame, but he's encouraged by the bike's potential. "This is the first bike we've built ourselves, and we're going to go through the wiring again before we go to Englishtown," said Tonglet. "Once we get it sorted out and figure out what it wants on the starting line, it's going to be a good bike. The 10-12 pounds that it saves allows me to hang weight on the front even though I'm not one of the smaller riders."
Mike Berry took delivery of a new chassis for his LAT Racing Oils Buell on the Monday before the event. He was unable to get a truck to transport it after being flown into Colorado, so he had to pick it up from the airport, assemble it completely, and haul it to this event. Berry qualified No. 15 and posted better backhalf numbers on his new bike than what he had previously recorded.
Stoffer left with the points lead after a weekend in which her GEICO Powersports team had to overcome a great deal of challenges to get to the final round. A malfunction in the opening qualifying session, parts breakage in the second round, and humid-to-dry condition shifts kept her team on its toes, but they left the event in the points lead for the first time since the 2007 season. "It wasn't Cinderella, but the fact that we got out of there with a runner-up was huge," said Stoffer.
Jim Underdahl gathered his first round-wins of the season and got into the top 10. He changed engines Saturday night thinking he had a mechanical issue that turned out to be an electrical problem. Though the difference threw off his early setup in the first round, his reaction time helped him pull off the upset against Eddie Krawiec by .008-second. He scored another round-win over Hector Arana Sr. before he lost to Stoffer, from whom he leases engines.
Hector Arana Sr. and Jr. looked strong in qualifying, but each had issues in the second round. The younger Arana sprung a fuel leak when he fired up against Andrew Hines and had to be shut off. The senior Arana's bike jumped out of gear and had an electrical miss against Underdahl.
Matt and Angie Smith are still looking for some racing luck this season. Angie lost to Hines despite cutting a perfect light, and Matt red-lighted against Stoffer in round two while her bike suffered breakage. Matt had an event-best 1.044 60-foot time in the first round, but he believes some of his clutch development that has helped in that area has also caused his bike to respond too quickly on the Tree. "It's not like me to redlight twice in one year, especially this early," said Matt.
Odolph Daniels, who owns a janitorial service and a motorcycle shop outside Detroit, made his Pro Stock Motorcycle debut aboard a fuel-injected '06 Suzuki.
The alligator farmer tattoos his young friend from Texas with a .005 light and easily hangs on despite an imperfect run to score the holeshot win.
The bitter rivals face off once again, and Smith gets a starting-line advantage that he increases early with a stellar 1.044 60-foot time. Smith withstands Phillips' top-end charge for the win.
Neither driver is eager to stage or, for that matter, leave the starting line when the Tree comes down. Arana gets the advantage and rides away on the Lucas Oil Buell.
Junior runs within .007-second of his dad right behind him in the left lane. Stevie J is a little slower off the line and can't catch him on the Red Cross Suzuki.
Smith nails the Tree with a perfect light and pulls away two-hundredths more by 60 feet, but the upset-in-the-making doesn't see completion because Hines' Harley tracks her down before the stripe.
Berry is off the line first, but the GEICO Powersports Suzuki motors past him at 800 feet and earns lane choice against Matt Smith.
Gann and his green leathers are never in this one: Louis Earl leaves the starting line first and unloads low e.t. of the round.
Underdahl gets a six-hundredths jump on the line. Krawiec actually catches him at half-track, but he doesn't have enough in the bank to hold off the late run of Underdahl's Suzuki. Underdahl collects his first round-win of the year.
Arana's day ends early when a fuel leak from a loose fitting causes him to shut down his Buell on the starting line. He watches as Hines' bike bogs early and manages a 7.06 on a single.
It's like watching the opposite of the race before it. Smith gives it away with a red-light while Stoffer breaks part of a shifter and coasts to a 16-second run.
It's a pair of Louisiana natives, albeit with a significant age difference. Savoie is off the line first, but Tonglet makes it up by 60 feet and doesn't look back.
They swap leads early in the race, and 25-yearold Underdahl runs away from the 2009 world champ to reach the semi's for the sixth time in his career.
The tightly knit teams square off in the final four. Stoffer is on her game with a .028 light and never looks back. She takes the points lead and advances to her second final of the season.
Hines bogs off the line again and never has a chance against the Nitro Fish Suzuki. Tonglet leaves the starting line first and runs low e.t. of the event.
Tonglet leaves first and never stops pulling against Stoffer. Tonglet improves his final-round record to 6-8 in his third race into his second full season.