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NHRA: Hines Looking for First U.S. Nationals Victory

27 August 1998

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Matt Hines, the most dominant Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to emerge on the NHRA scene since rivals Dave Schultz and the late John Myers traded victories during the late '80s and early '90s, still has one piece missing from his two-wheel racing puzzle.

It's a very big piece.

Despite winning 16 of 23 races during the last two seasons, and showing the confidence, consistency and poise of a time-tested veteran, Hines has been stymied at the U.S. Nationals. Sure, he's won the $15,000 NHRA Pro Bike Dash the last two seasons, and is the odds-on favorite to pull off a three-peat, but while the money is nice, he wants the one trophy that will forever link him with drag racing history as a U.S. Nationals winner.

Two appearances in drag racing's biggest event has produced two final round efforts -- and two red-light starts. Hines is his own biggest critic, and those final round results simply won't be tolerated.

The Trinidad, Colo. resident hopes to finally break through this season at the U.S. Nationals, Sept. 2-7 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The $2.4 million race is the 10th of 14 events for Pro Stock Motorcycles in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"I really want to win the U.S. Nationals," Hines said. "I sort of beat myself there the last two years by red-lighting in those finals. That is a very important race to me because it has a very long history of bikes competing there. I'm really pumped up about performing well there this year and finally getting that trophy."

Tragically, three-time Winston champion Myers, U.S. Nationals winner the last two seasons, will not be able to defend his consecutive titles this season. He died in early August from injuries suffered in a non-racing motorcycle accident near his home in Birmingham, Ala.

"John beat me there the last two years and it's going to be really tough not being able to compete against him this year," Hines said. "John always was very encouraging to me and always said that I reminded him of himself during the early part of his career. The entire motorcycle fraternity is going to miss him. He won Indy the last two years -- I'd like to win it this year in his honor."

With victories this season at the Mac Tools Gatornationals in Florida, Atlanta's Fram Nationals, Virginia's Pennzoil Nationals, the FRAM Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis' Sears Craftsman Nationals, Denver's Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals and Brainerd, Minn.'s VisionAire NorthStar Nationals, Hines holds a commanding 272 point lead over Angelle Seeling in the Winston standings. Hines says he can't allow his success to breed over-confidence.

"Right now I'm not worried about anything except staying focused and the next race," Hines said. "We still have some races to go and I don't want to let up. With the competition the way it is, I can't. I'd like to win the remaining races, but that can't happen if we don't maintain our routine."