Karen Stoffer's decision to return to racing this season after nearly a two-year break looks increasingly like the right call after this past weekend in Ohio.
The Minden, Nev., native - who began her career in local sportsman drag racing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - defeated Angelle Sampey to win the Pro Stock Motorcycle title at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, on Sunday. Stoffer, whose husband, Gary, is her crew chief, now has two Mello Yello Drag Racing Series victories this season and moved to second in the points standings just 45 points behind Eddie Krawiec.
Stoffer won for just the fifth time in 17 tries against Sampey, who left the line early by 14 thousandths of a second in the head-to-head final. Stoffer had a .036 reaction time, clocked a run of 6.984 seconds and hit 193.10 miles per hour in the finals on her Stoffer Enterprises Suzuki.
"I certainly can't imagine the way this season has gone," said Stoffer, who defeated a trio of world champs - Matt Smith, Krawiec and L.E. Tonglet - to reach the final. "I'm still pinching myself, but we never planned how this season was going to go. I didn't think I'd be here for a second.
"We just wanted to put our best foot forward, and to end up winning, that is icing on the cake."
The triumph was Stoffer's eighth "Wally" of her career, and the all-female final was only the third pro final featuring two women in NHRA history. Her win over Sampey avenged the only other final-round meeting between the two veteran riders. Sampey beat Stoffer at Reading, Pa., in 2002.
The only other Mello Yello Series final to feature an all-female pairing happened in Top Fuel in 1982 when Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in Columbus, Ohio.
"Racing Angelle in a final for the first time since 2002 was interesting," said Stoffer, the only multi-time winner in her division this season. "We both struggled here, so we had to race a couple of times in qualifying. It was great to race her in the final.
"I would have liked to have seen two green lights, but we all live and die by the tree in this class. We managed to get our tire hooked up, and we went down the track, so I think we'd have been in good shape no matter what."