Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature five-time champion Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines:

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Driver: Andrew Hines

Age: 33

Hometown: Villa Park, California

Team: Vance & Hines Racing

Sponsor/motorcycle: Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

Crew chief: Matt Hines

2016 season finish: Third in Pro Stock Motorcycle

2016 season statistics: 16 races, 5 wins, 4 runner-up, 2 semifinals, 4 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier two times. Round-by-round record: 39 wins, 11 losses.

Career statistics: 230 races, 47 wins, 30 runner-up, 47 semifinals, 55 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 38 times. Round-by-round record: 424 wins, 182 losses. One DNQ. Five-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2014, 2015.

What went right in 2016: Hines had a championship season – but without the championship. He earned five wins in 16 starts and reached the final round 9 times. Had strong battle with teammate Eddie Krawiec (finished second) and surprise 2016 champion Jerry Savoie.

What went wrong in 2016: Hines was in the championship battle until the final race, but when he lost in the quarterfinals in the season-ending event at Pomona, that ended his title hopes, finishing a mere 31 points behind champion Savoie. … Not a lot went wrong for Hines overall, but he seemed to struggle at times during the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, including second-round losses at St. Louis, Dallas and Pomona, and lost in the finals at Charlotte and Las Vegas (recording a rare red-light foul at the starting line). Had he been able to turn one of those losses into a win, he might have been able to overtake Savoie.

What to look for in 2017: Hines is one of the toughest competitors in Pro Stock Motorcycle. To come so close to yet another championship in 2016 will definitely be a rallying cry and incentive for him and his team in 2017. Don’t be surprised if Hines gets off to a big start – and carries it on all the way to a sixth championship.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.