Eddie Krawiec hasn't been able to get it out of his mind for the past three years.
All this time, he has been a Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. He has had the 2008 trophy to prove it. But the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson headliner couldn't slough off the whispers about the year he won the National Hot Rod Association championship without winning a single race: "'He's not a champion. He only did good at the final five races."
Although that would seem to make a racer even more of champion, performing consistently strong enough to win a title and ace out the ones winning the races, Krawiec kept letting his detractors bug him.
But he said he thought he shut them up the next season.
"To go back and defend a championship, going to 11 finals, winning five of them, and basically just beating the top of the class for the whole season, battling it out with Hector [Arana] and losing the championship by two points, there isn't one person who can say I didn't earn that championship," Krawiec said defiantly.
But Sunday, Nov. 13 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., Krawiec didn't have to prove anything to anybody as he earned his second Pro Stock Motorcycle crown in four years and the Vance & Hines organization's eighth in 15 years.
Krawiec, who follows his crew chief Matt Hines and teammate Andrew Hines with multiple series titles, clinched the championship with his victory over 2010 champion LE Tonglet in Sunday's second round of the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
The battle this year came down to Krawiec and rookie Hector Arana III, who started out wanting to show well for Road to the Future Award honors, then realized that he had a legitimate shot at the championship -- just as Tonglet had come on strong in the later part of last season to win both.
Bike eliminations Sunday began with Krawiec beating Karen Stoffer and Arana III winning against Justin Finley. Although Arana was keeping pace in eliminations, Krawiec had gained six valuable qualifying bonus points to Arana II's four. So all Krawiec had to do to win the championship was defeat Tonglet in Round 2.
He did, with Willie G. Davidson, senior vice president and chief styling officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, among his supporters watching on the starting line. Tonglet had the better reaction time, but Krawiec made up the deficit for a 6.853-second victory to Tonglet's 6.937.
"I'll always have my first, but this is the one that validated everything," Krawiec said Sunday evening.
He red-lit by .009 of a second in the final round against Andrew Hines, who registered a 6.814-second pass at 196.39 mph on the fabled quarter-mile. The newly crowned two-time champion Krawiec threw away a 6.819-second elapsed time at 197.80 mph.
"I knew my teammate had an identical motorcycle and the race "was going to be won on the line," Krawiec said. "I went for it. It came up on the negative side, but that's racing."
He has reached the final round at this race the past four years and said he had hoped to earn his third victory.
He didn't, but the consistency between the bikes gives a strong hint about why this tandem combined to win about one-third of the 16 events on the class schedule this season.
Hines said when he qualified No. 1 that his wish was to see points leader Krawiec win the championship and meet him in the final round for the second straight race. He got his wish Sunday evening, as the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates dominated the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series finale.
Hines' $10,000 victory, his second in three final rounds this year and 25th of his career, was the opposite outcome of the previous race, two weeks ago at Las Vegas. At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, though, both ran 6.9-second E.Ts. in that showdown
That accounts for the fact that the Brownsburg, Ind.-based team stole the spotlight in all the performance categories this weekend. Hines won from the top qualifying position and set low E.T. of the meet with his winning 6.814-second pass. Krawiec, the No. 3 qualifier, had top speed of the event at 198.12 mph in qualifying.
During the summer, Krawiec got into a war of words with a few other Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors who mocked their "Screamin' Eagle" moniker. Krawiec called them cowards. And with his in-your-face New Jersey style that for the most part had been contained since his move to the Indianapolis area, he dared them, "If you have a problem, you come to me, say it to my face, [and] Ill respect you for it. But stop saying it behind our backs and letting us hear it second-hand. You can trash-talk us in the pits all you want. We're going to trash-talk you on the track. Let's go."
He won four races, more than anyone else in the class did, yet he still was a bit harsh on himself until the Countdown.
Said Krawiec, "I had a great motorcycle all year long. The stats prove it. I let myself down sometimes. I sort of felt I let some get away from me. Coming into the Countdown, I changed my mentality. It was go out there, enjoy yourself, have a good time and no matter what happens, you did the best job that you could."
Krawiec and teammate Andrew Hines, the three-time champion, soon decided answering the rhetoric was fruitless and returned to focusing on racing.
The result is that Krawiec did do the best job. He ended up taking a few minutes from his continuing race day to ride atop a convertible, clutching the championship trophy and waving to the grandstands full of fans. His team is $75,000 richer. And the rest of the drag-racing world knows the determined Eddie Krawiec that he always longed to show.
For his 21st birthday, all he wanted was the gear and the funding to attend George Bryce's motorcycle drag racing school to learn to ride a Pro Stock Motorcycle. So his family bought him a helmet and leathers and sent him off to start his dream.
Fourteen years later, he has vaulted from virtual oblivion as occasional racer and dragstrip manager at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J., to a two-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion.
Much has changed since Krawiec captured his first title. He has won 11 races. He has been that sponge he said he wanted to be when he arrived from New Jersey at Vance & Hines' operation at Brownsburg, Ind. He has learned a lot about the business of racing. He's married to New Jersey sweetheart Annemarie, and they have a year-old daughter, Kayden Marie.
But one thing hasn't changed about Eddie Krawiec. He still has that passion for Pro Stock Motorcycle Racing.
"I don't think I chose racing. It just fell into my lap," Krawiec said when he first broke into the NHRA ranks. He didn't mean it was easy. He just it's what he was born to do. And nobody could argue with that Sunday at Pomona.
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