GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer thought she had snared a second-round victory in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sears Point Raceway on Sunday when she gained a .073-second advantage on the starting line.
But Hector Arana Sr. ran Stoffer down at the top end and won by less than a foot.
"When I left on him, I said, 'Dude, I've got this race,'" said Stoffer, who left with a .020 light. "I said, 'Just ride and give them a good number to tune for the next pass.' Usually, .07 on the Tree will get you there. Out of the corner of my eye, I looked for the 60-foot cone. He was on the right-hand side, and as I'm looking for the cone, I saw he was way behind, so I knew we had a good chance.
"I was tucked, started clicking the gears, and the next thing you know, I hear him and I hear him. I squeezed tighter and tighter and tighter, and I'm going, 'Come on finish line.'"
Stoffer made a pass of 6.889 seconds at 194.41 mph but came up just short of Arana's lap of 6.814 seconds at 195.00 mph.
"I think I had every single finger and toe and piece of hair squeezed," Stoffer said. "I was squeezing that bike so hard I had to actually pry myself off the bike at the top end. I really wanted that win."
A victory would have sent Stoffer to the semis for the second race in a row, which would have been sweet on the Western Swing for the Nevada resident.
"This is our home track, it's one of the West Coast tracks, and we had a lot of friends and family here," Stoffer said. "The bike was running good today, but we just got snakebit. When we look back at it, our 60-foot fell off, and if your 60-foot falls off, the ET falls off.
"Props to the team. We had a good bike today on race day, and that's what we want. We're still fifth in points, but we certainly would've liked to have won this round and try to battle one of those big guys again."
Stoffer took down Michael Phillips with an excellent pass in the first round, going 6.827 seconds at 194.30 mph.
"My Suzuki was running good today," Stoffer said. "(Crew chief) Gary (Stoffer) hit the tune-up. We weren't as fast as them, but we were within striking distance. I'm proud of the team, proud of what we've got. We've got a fast Suzuki, and hopefully, the cards will fall right and we can out-race these guys one of these races."
Photo by Matt Polio