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Pollacheck enjoys landmark NHRA bike victory

No sooner did Scotty Pollacheck return home from a career-defining week on the National Hot Rod Association slate than he was back in the real world.

The Central Point tire shop co-owner doubles as a pro stock motorcycle racer and, on Sunday, he won that sport’s Super Bowl in remarkably decisive fashion.

Pollacheck, 51, rode his EBR bike to the DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals championship at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In a decade of competing at the highest level, he was in his 12th final of a national event and recorded his first win.

“I’m kind of a late bloomer getting that first win,” he chuckled.

Still, he didn’t bask in the laurels for very long.

Pollacheck flew home Monday, had lunch with family, then was back at his shop of 29 years, Quality Tire, to catch up on work. And that was on a holiday.

Not to worry, said Pollacheck. His work ethic shouldn’t diminish the reverence he has for this achievement.

“No,” he said, “I think this one is going to last for a while.”

As it should.

Pollacheck’s breakthrough might have been one of the most consistent and superior performances pro stock motorcycle racing has seen.

Twice during the weekend, the Matt Smith Racing team member eclipsed 200 mph, becoming only the fourth racer in history to hit that benchmark.

He made three qualifying runs to get to the 16-bike elimination bracket on Sunday, and his passes in those do-or-die rounds were 6.81 seconds, 6.82, 6.82 and 6.79.

In the final, Pollacheck went head-to-head with one of pro stock’s legends, Andrew Hines, and set the track record for speed with a run of 200.53 mph. The mark broke the standard of 200.29 he set in qualifying, when he also had his career-best pass of 6.78 seconds.

Hines is a world champion six times over and has won a record 56 races on the national tour, including twice at the U.S. Nationals.

“And we had none of those,” said Pollacheck. “This was definitely that giant-killer weekend. He’s the best in the business for all the success that he’s had. He’s won a lot more races and a lot more championships than anybody else.”

Hines had a 24-5 record against Pollacheck before Sunday, and it was the first time they’d squared off in a final round.

The triumph vaulted Pollacheck into the season points lead with 251. Hines is second with 226, followed by Ed Krawiec with 225 and Matt Smith — Pollacheck’s team owner — with 224.

The NHRA season, like most everything else during COVID-19, has been on a herky-jerky ride. The first event of the season, scheduled for mid-March in Gainesville, Florida, was canceled just as it was about to begin.

“We’d only been there a couple hours,” said Pollacheck, “and the governor came to the race track and shut it down. That was right when COVID hit.”

Ordinarily, there would only be one race date in Indianapolis, but it proved to be a site that could successfully pull off a restart to the season.

There were two events at Lucas Oil Raceway leading to last weekend’s nationals and, in each, Pollacheck and his team liked what they had going. He made it to the quarterfinals on July 12, losing to Ryan Oehler, and to the semifinals on Aug. 9, getting eliminated by Angelle Sampey.

“The bike was running really good,” said Pollacheck, “and I was riding kind of OK. But this weekend, everything just came together, where I rode the best I’ve rode and the bike was the best it’s ever been. We were pretty much too fast for anybody to catch us.

“That’s like catching lightning in a bottle. That doesn’t happen very often.”

As important as the setup of the bike is, quick reaction time off the line by the rider is paramount, and Pollacheck was in top form.

“You definitely have to put all those things together at once to make it work out like you want it to,” he said.

There are five more races this season, beginning late this month in Gainesville. There usually are 16 races in a season.

The Smith team is based in King, North Carolina, and trailers its equipment around the country. Pollacheck is the only member in these parts and flies to meet his teammates at race sites.

He’s hopeful the season finishes as planned, and he isn’t ruling out other big showings.

“Now that you’ve done it, you should be able to do it again,” he said, “because you should know how. That’s OK. I don’t think there will be as much pressure as there was for this one.”

Not now that he’s bloomed into a champion.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneScotty Pollacheck holds his NHRA trophey in his Central Point office Wednesday.