Can anybody stop Eddie Krawiec?
The two-time and reigning NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion is behaving almost downright greedy this Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
He leads the standings and has won three of the four bike-class appearances, has qualified No. 1 twice, and sports a 13-1 round-win record so far aboard the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson. He has posted top speed of the meet at all four events and set low elapsed time at two.
He also owns both ends of the national record and has been flirting with the first official 200-mph run for a Pro Stock Bike. He hit the mark unofficially in preseason testing at Valdosta, Ga., and everywhere the bike class races, fans have been cheering for him to do it on the record.
Last week’s Toyota SuperNationals at his home track — Englishtown, N.J.’s Old Bridge Township Raceway Park — belonged to Krawiec. He set both ends of the track record in Friday qualifying and won for the first time on the dragstrip he used to manage, the one in his Old Bridge neighborhood he used to ride his bicycle to every week as a school kid.
The accomplishment was one he said he wasn’t sure he’d get another chance to pursue, after he lost there in 2009 to Craig Treble. And it was one that he wasn’t ashamed to say made him cry, even before he turned off the quarter-mile course following his triumph over red-lighting Hector Arana Sr.
The bike class’ next appearance will be the June 28-July 1 O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway at Joliet, Ill. It will be the first of four straight races and six in the final seven before the Countdown fields are set following the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.
The long layoff will give the other contenders time to prep their motorcycles.
They include Krawiec teammate Andrew Hines, who won the Gatornationals and got a taste of first place for a couple of weeks.
The Lucas Oil Buell’s of father-son Arana team, whom Krawiec calls “The Hectors,” have thrown their own aggressive tag-team talent at the Harley-Davidson duo.
Surprise No. 5 rider Michael Ray has been strong with a runner-up finish at Atlanta and semifinal debut at Houston in only three appearances this year. Karen Stoffer is a fierce competitor who knows how to qualify well and win races, and champions Matt Smith and LE Tonglet are dangerous anytime.
But the wait for Joliet also will give Krawiec plenty of time to strengthen his grip.
So the best answer to whether anyone can halt Krawiec’s powerful run is that it’s hard to stop Krawiec when he makes up his mind.
To understand why he’s so relentless now, it’s best to take a look at what fueled his motivation.
Paul Bailey is the operations manager at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, and he just can’t help but pester Krawiec. “Wayne Paul,” as he’s known to his working pals, has done that for many years, even when Krawiec was — in Jersey jargon — “a punk kid” who dreamed of drag racing’s big time, long before he became dragstrip manager at the multi-purpose Raceway Park facility.
Wayne Paul showed off some of his best graffiti on a photo of young Krawiec standing in front of a lineup of Pro Stock Motorcycles. Bailey long ago had scribbled “P.S. Wannabe” on it beside Krawiec’s image.
So Krawiec took some ribbing for his aspirations to race in the National Hot Rod Association’s bike class. But Bailey has kept up his antics this past weekend, although Krawiec has moved away to Brownsburg, Ind., and become a two-time series champion who works for Vance & Hines in his day job and rides the company’s Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson in NHRA competition.
Bailey posted a sign in the Raceway Park office last weekend that read, “What does the ‘E’ in ‘E-town’ stand for? . . . Eddie?”
Yes, Wayne Paul, you’re in Eddietown.
And don’t forget it.
The “wannabe” is a winner — 14 times over, with an impressive 158-72 record in 95 races.
Krawiec rolls with the punches and said Bailey’s jabs kept him focused on his goals. Bailey’s gestures are more tongue-in-cheek, but Krawiec said he had real critics.
“Actually, I’m the only person [champion] ever to never have won a race. I never had won an NHRA race. Rob Bruins never won a race that season [1979, when he took the Top Fuel crown], but he won races in prior years. Me, I never won a race.
“It was sort of twisted emotions,” he said. “It was like, ‘Wow! I got the big prize at the end, but I had nothing to show for it all year long.’ It was really weird. I think a lot of people said, ‘He’s not a champion. He only did good at the final five races.’
“But then to go back and defend a championship, going to nine finals, winning five of them, and beating the top of the class for the whole season, battling it out with Hector and losing the championship by two points, there isn’t one person who can say I didn’t earn that championship.
“That’s the way everybody reacted, but I didn’t mind. I enjoy the pressure on my shoulders. I feel I perform under pressure way better,” Krawiec said.
“It’s a very driven sport, drag racing, and you have to have that want, that fire, and that desire,” he said, “and when that goes out, it’s your time to get out. But it’s something that for me makes me want more. You should always set your goals high and when you reach them, set them higher, because you should never be just satisfied with what you have or who you are.”
Krawiec jumped at the chance to work and compete for Vance & Hines, which he said “obviously is the top of the motorcycle category. The Vance & Hines team has always been the place to be. Although I was confident and I felt I could do the job, I knew that there was a lot of other people out there who probably had a better set of credentials at the time. I just hoped that they saw value in me.”
With his Englishtown triumph, Krawiec said his goals have changed, if only slightly.
He had said that he had two races on his must-win list: Englishtown and Indianapolis – the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the NHRA’s oldest and most prestigious and historically significant event.
If he had his choice of the two, he said Sunday, “I’d pick Englishtown any day of the week. This race means a lot to me. I can live with my career at this point. I don’t have to win Indy — but I want to.”
Krawiec always will cherish winning at Englishtown as maybe his biggest moment.
“There’s a lot that’s happened at this track and it’s where my career started. I spent so much time here, all the way back to my childhood and in my teen years and up until my 30s. I was here every day. I probably worked seven days a week for 30 weeks of the year. It’s something I love,” Krawiec said after his winners circle celebration.
“I come back and do The Shakedown race every year here,” he said, referring to New York Motorsports owner /driver Dave Hance’s decade-strong outlaw showcase each fall. “I try to help the Napps [Raceway Park owners] whenever they need me. I’m only a two-hour plane ride away, and they all know that. I love it and enjoy it. The track side of things is enjoyable and is my hobby now, not my job.”
His 9-5 job with Vance & Hines is overseeing the engine program and working with customers at the NHRA races.
“It’s not uncommon that I’m in somebody’s trailer, helping them out Friday and Saturday during qualifying to make sure they get in the show or have assistance or even technical questions on tuning or engine stuff, and then I’m lining up next to them first round or second round or third round. It makes me feel good,” Krawiec said, “because I don’t want anybody to ever say that it was easy for us because we dominated or did anything. None of us wants it that way. We want to help out all the racers and make the class really good in the whole.”
As for his own bike, he said, “I’ve had an awesome motorcycle all year. My crew chief , Matt Hines, is doing an awesome job.” Matt Hines owns three of Vance & Hines’ eight championships, and Krawiec said, “He has given me a bike that has consistently been 60-foot good, and it allows me to focus on hitting the tree and doing my job. The key thing is consistency.”
So Krawiec will carry his points lead into the Joliet event, where he’s hoping to discover it’s a lot like Eddietown.