Tonglet Moves into NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Points Lead
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 15, 2005) - When GT Tonglet looked up from his Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod on Sunday night under the lights of the Atlanta Dragway, he could hardly believe his eyes. Thankfully, the 22-year-old waited for confirmation before he jumped off the motorcycle as it coasted to a stop.
Tonglet had finally done what had eluded his grasp for the last few years. He won. The victory followed multiple rain delays during the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals and was a long time in the making.
Tonglet joined the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines team for the debut of the Harley-Davidson program in 2003. The team went 0-for-7 in qualifying attempts that year as Byron Hines led the team in the quest to make Harley a contender in drag racing for the first time in NHRA history.
Tonglet had been in the final round aboard his Harley before, but hadn't seen the glow of the win light. This time, Tonglet's eyes saw the real story. He beat Buell rider Chris Rivas in the final round, riding his Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines V-Rod to a 7.106-second pass at 186.30 mph to best Rivas' 7.249 at 184.67. It was Tonglet's second victory in six career final round appearances. Tonglet's first victory was in St. Louis, Mo., in 2001 on a Suzuki when he was just 18 years old.
"I can't begin to express how much it means because it has been a long, long road to this win," Tonglet said. "It's awesome, to say the least. When I shut off at the end of the track, I always look at the wall to see if the win-light is on in my lane. I do that every pass, no matter what. This time, the light was on and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"I had been so focused on winning that round and I was still in that mindset. I had to settle down long enough to get the bike stopped before I hopped off. I haven't been that happy in awhile."
Tonglet takes over as the points leader for the first time in his career. Teammate Andrew Hines, the 2004 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, is in fifth place after a second round loss. Byron Hines, the team's owner, said the victory by Tonglet is proof there is parity with both Harley-Davidson entries.
"GT rode so well today and I'm proud of him and the team because we finally got the bike tuned in that small window of performance that is capable of winning races," Byron Hines said. "We didn't get crazy with the tune-up, we just tried to finesse it down the track. The kid is riding so well, and we finally got the bike smoothed out enough to match his riding and let him concentrate on making great runs.
"This win means so much to me because GT has had great equipment just like Andrew, but most of the times he has lost because of tuning elements or some mechanical failure and that has been real frustrating for us. This shows us that we have both bikes on the right path."
With the defending champion and the current points leader under the same Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines tent, Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said the pit area is a happy place to be right now.
"GT has been with this program from the very beginning, and he has been through the good, the bad and the ugly," Paluso said. "He's been close a few times, and I can't say enough about what he and the entire team accomplished today.
"GT's in the points lead and Andrew is in fifth place. Having both bikes perform so well consistently is a tribute to the amount of work this Vance & Hines team puts in all the time."
Concentrating on making four smooth runs was made more difficult due to persistent rain showers throughout the day. Tonglet knew from the start it would be a special day - a long day - but a special one nonetheless.
"I was real nervous for some reason - more than usual," Tonglet said. "I don't know if it had something to do with the overcast conditions and the time between rounds, but it was different from a typical Sunday. I still can't believe the victory. It won't sink in for awhile. I feel like a born-again winner, it has been so long."
Tonglet beat Wesley Wells, three-time champion Angelle Sampey and Geno Scali en route to the victory. Tonglet's 7.081 pass against Scali was the lowest E.T. of the entire weekend.
"GT has been on his game all year and he truly deserves this win," crew chief Matt Hines said. "He did a great job, and it's so satisfying to know that we finally got the bike together for him and he's finally back in the winner's circle.
"GT has been with this program from day one, and the entire program has improved every race in large part to the work he has done on this bike. This win is way past due. The bike was great today. It acted like a bracket bike. He pulled the trigger every time and let it fly."
"We all work together," Byron Hines said. "Andrew did all the testing last week for both bikes and I know the testing ended up helping GT more today. That's the way a two-bike team works."
The next NHRA POWERade event that features the Pro Stock Motorcycle category is the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio, May 19-22.
Screamin' Eagle Performance Parts are inspired by and built in the spirit of the raw adrenaline and power of motorcycle racing. Screamin' Eagle Pro parts are specifically designed for race-use applications, while Screamin' Eagle parts offer street-use performance options for the Harley-Davidson motorcycle owner. Visit www.harley-davidson.com for more information.
The Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Pro Stock Motorcycle team is sponsored by Ford Truck, Dunlop, Matco Tools and S100.
Source: Harley-Davidson Motor Company Communications Department