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Q&A with Kent Stotz

Q How do you describe the excitement of motorcycle drag racing to a motorcyclist? To a non-rider?
A: Most sport riders' bikes are capable of 160 mph over a distance. Our turbocharged Honda CBR1100XX will do that in one city block. I tell people that reaching a top speed of 200 mph in a quarter-mile requires the perfect pass, which is a combination of three things: you have to put all of your horsepower [550-plus for Stotz] to the ground in the first 660 feet, you have to prevent wheelies and you must shift each gear at just the right moment to minimize wheelspin and get maximum top speed at the end of the run. Short of strapping yourself into a rocket sled, it's the fastest, most exhilarating experience you can imagine.

Q How is motorcycle drag racing different from road racing?
A: In drag racing, there is no margin for error. In a road race, when you over-brake or spin up the tire in a corner, you might have another lap to make it up. But in drag racing, you just have one shot. One shot and just a handful of seconds to get it all together. That's it. To an untrained eye, drag racing looks somewhat easy because we're just going in a straight line, but if you don't do everything perfectly for that brief time you're on the track, you're going home long before you get to the winner's circle. It's a very unforgiving motorsport.

Q Who is the typical motorcycle drag-racing fan?
A: There are many classes in motorcycle drag racing, but the class that attracts the most fans is the Pro Street tire class. In street-tire racing, the bikes are similar in appearance to street bikes, but they make immense power. We see a lot of young men, ages 18-30, come to the track with their girlfriend or spouse. There are also families that come to the races; these are veteran racers who come with their wives and the kids. The younger crowd is heavily into high-tech and computers, while the family crowd is often comprised of tuners and enthusiasts from all types of motorsports.

Q What does it mean to be sponsored by Honda Rider's Club of America?
A: I can't tell you how flattering it is to have the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer as your primary sponsor. I worked all my life to have this kind of opportunity and I am really proud to fly the Honda Wing. It says something that the HRCA backed a two-time national champion to start their drag racing program and reach out to sport bike riders. The competition from other brands is substantial, but we went out and captured two more crowns with the CBR1100XX. I am living a dream and Honda is the power of my dreams.

Q What other sponsors have factored significantly in your success?

A: In addition to the HRCA, there is Velocity Racing Turbo Systems, which is critical to my success, and Joe Rocket leathers, which has brought us some great exposure. I am very loyal to the sponsors who have been with me from the beginning: Pingel, Star Racing, RC Components, AirTech, and Falicon. These guys have been with me through thick and thin, no questions asked. I also want to thank JE Pistons, HyperPro Racing Suspension and Schaumburg Honda for their ongoing support.

Q What sponsorship opportunities exist at Stotz Racing?
A: Of course, the HRCA is our number-one sponsor. In the same way that Repsol lubricants sponsors Honda Racing's MotoGP effort, we are also looking for a sponsor that wants to share the primary sponsorship billing with the HRCA. The time is ripe because Stotz Racing and the HRCA are now synonymous with success in drag racing, and motorcycle drag racing appeals to a growing, young, high-tech audience.

Q Looking back over your racing career, how have you changed in your approach to racing?
A: It has been a noticeable change for me. In the beginning, my focus was solely on being the best rider I could be. I did that and won two championships. Today, those skills are second nature and now I am focused on building and tuning the perfect bike. We have won two more championships and the fifth is within our grasp.

Q What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a competitor?
A: My determination and my work ethic. Also, my ability to develop the bike as a tuner. Today I am aware of all aspects of the bike in competition, and I work in between races, all hours of the day, building and testing, to be ready for the next race.

Q What unique qualities does the Honda CBR1100XX possess compared to other machines?
A: Honda is world-class in everything. Number one is the design engineering of their parts and the assemblies, and how they come together in the entire bike. Honda designs their engines and components to withstand almost anything. Number two is Honda's build quality. Hondas just don't wear out. For example, we are running a stock crankshaft in our CBR1100XX. The original crank was designed to withstand 140 horsepower and we are twisting it with more than 550! That is amazing. So, we don't have to spend a lot of money redesigning parts because the stock parts are so good. Finally, Honda's replacement parts and lubricants are the best. And because we use so many stock components, this is significant.

Q What are some of the new technologies you have introduced to your class of drag racing?
A: Stotz Racing was the first team to pioneer electronic fuel injection (EFI) on turbocharged street bikes. We started this effort 10 years ago with Hahn Racecraft, who built all of our EFI systems and helped us win four championships in 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2002. EFI and turbos were the start of the "reliable horsepower" movement and everyone has jumped on board. Another technology we popularized was data-logging: the ability to look at many pieces of data at one time, lay them alongside one another, and make corrections that translate into lower ETs and faster top speeds. For example, we routinely look at engine rpm, wheel speed, turbo boost level, throttle position and g-force, to name a few. The sophistication of electronic monitoring has progressed to the point that for 2005, we are using the same Magneti Marelli black box that is found on Formula 1 cars and MotoGP race bikes.

Q What will the future bring to Pro Street racing?
A: Over the last few years, we have seen reliable horsepower increase tremendously. Now we are learning how to get all that power to the ground through a street tire. The focus has shifted. Those who understand suspension and the art of smooth power delivery will be the next champions.

Q What's one of your favorite tracks, and why?
A: I have two favorites, actually. First, I like Indy [Indianapolis Raceway Park] a lot. It is closest to my home, I have a 20-year history there, and the track surface is always well prepared, which means you can set records. Another favorite of mine is Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia. It is another well-prepared track and we tend to do well there.

Q Tell us about your favorite race weekend on the CBR1100XX.

A: The weekend that stands out was our first championship on the CBR1100XX in 2001 in Gainesville. Charlie Keller of the Honda Rider's Club was there along with Keith Dowdle and the Honda truck, so we had a big presence. We were up against very experienced, big-budget teams of the other brands and we won the championship. We blew away the record with 7.63 ET at 192.

Q How do you go about putting on your "race face" before you get on the track?
A: It starts in the pits. When my tuning is done, I sequester myself for 10 to 12 minutes. It may not seem long but then I do my own tuning so that doesn't leave much time. I get very quiet and visualize 10, maybe 12 perfect runs down the track. I picture everything from the burnout box to the end of strip. When I am on the track before the race, I get really focused when there are just four to five people ahead of me. At that point I don't talk to anyone except my crew chief, Mark Harrell. All I think about is reacting to the timing light tree and my launch. If I can do all that, I generally do well.

Q When you're at the track, what do you do to relax between sessions and before races?
A: I relax in my motorhome. It's quiet and I can sit or lay down and prepare for the next round or the final. Because I am so hands-on, there isn't time to do anything else.

Q What is your training regimen?
A: I still ride motocross, though I enjoy quads (ATVs) a lot too. I also water ski in the summer months. And believe it or not, I stay fit in my business (office relocation) because we are constantly lifting and moving boxes and furniture, going up and down steps, and loading and unloading the trucks.

Q What's your favorite off-track activity?
A: Spending time with my family. When you are on the road as much as I am, you really treasure your time with your family. Together with my wife, Sharon, we do a lot of things, and I enjoy riding and waterskiing with our kids Frank and Jacqui.

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