The 16-race NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle category heads towards its ninth contest of the 2019 season this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, site of the 32nd annual Sonoma NHRA Nationals. For the two-wheel set, it’s more than the penultimate race before the 10-rider Countdown to the Championship is set; eight riders also take part in the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, held on the the final day of qualifying this Saturday.
The eight competitors are reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith on his EBR, Angelle Sampey, Eddie Krawiec and current points leader Andrew Hines all racing Harley-Davidson motorcycles, former titleholder Hector Arana and his son Hector Jr., Angie Smith and Ryan Oehler, the latter four all racing EBR bikes and in the game because of their bonus-point acquisitions in qualifying, leading up to the event.
This year’s Pro Bike Battle features a new manner of setting match-ups on Saturday afternoon. First-round pairings will be decided on stage during pre-race ceremonies just before competition starts. Each of the eight riders will select a special Mickey Thompson tire on the stage. The inside wall of each tire will contain a number, one through four. Riders who select tires with the same numbers inside will be paired against each other for the opening round.
Matt Smith, who led all qualifiers at Denver last week, won the event in 2018, defeating Krawiec in the final round. This gave a huge boost to his momentum going into the Countdown and set a positive attitude in his pits that remained through to the season finale at Pomona in November. Andrew Hines, winner of six of the eight races contested thus far, together with teammate Krawiec, have dominated the class thus far in the season and understand – as does everyone in this special race – that this event can set them up for success in the Countdown.
For the first time since the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle began, there is more than one woman competing for the winner’s $25,000 prize. Both Angelle Sampey and Angie Smith have taken part in this race-within-a-race competition in the past but never at the same time. Either one of them would be over the moon to be the first woman to win the Bike Battle.
Introductions and tire flips for first-round pairings are set to take place at 12:45PM on Saturday, followed by the first round at 1:15PM. The semifinals take place at 4:15PM with the final round to crown a winner at 5:30PM Saturday afternoon.