By Paul Cavanaugh
I would be lying if I told you motorcycle racing was alive and well at Atlanta Dragway. The only big motorcycle events we had were IDBA, AHDRA, PROSTAR and AMA Dragbike. Those are all but a memory.
The last thing we have is our anemic at best, Summit Race Series with a dedicated group of 11 bikes and the occasional person who shows up to test his mettle against our regulars. For a $125.00 purse things were not going in the right direction as far as growth was concerned.
On a lark
Scott Saemisch is one of our regulars who noticed the NOPI Nationals was coming to Atlanta Dragway and took it upon himself to reach out to Mark Meyers, President of NOPI Nationals, in early July to see if bikes could run at the event. Once he caught Mark’s ear, Scott had me contact him to make some solid plans as to how we could get a bike class going.
Because this was the first NOPI event in 4 years we decided to start small with a Street ET and Pro ET class. Mark agreed to a 100% payout of the $35.00 entry fees. Since we did not know how many bikes were going to show up we made the decision to have the 1st place SET winner run the 1st place PET winner for a 60/40 split of the entry fees. This way we knew there was a good chance of getting a decent size purse. Mark also gave us all day Saturday to qualify as many passes as we could make.
As soon as the details were in place, we hit Dragbike.com, Facebook, the motorcycle forums and word of mouth. Billy Orsino of Prestige Cycles in Winder, GA kicked in $100.00 on top of the purse and Brian and Sheila Livengood of Livengood Motorsports in Lawrenceville, GA threw another $250.00 on top of that.
I started to get some inquiries when those announcements were made but not enough to make me feel as if the turnout was going to be big.
This is the first time I have ever really been given the reigns to run a race, in the past I have just been an observer and helped out when needed. Mike Savage is the new track manager at Atlanta Dragway and he has just given motorcycles the breath of fresh air we needed to grow. For the NOPI event he just turned the whole motorcycle program over and told me to handle it.
First thing in the morning the whole event seemed to be a bust. The gates were to open at 8am and when we got there at 7am there was not even a line of cars. Now I knew what it felt like when a promoter holds a race and there is hardly anyone lined up at the gate in the morning. And this was only for a small race that did not cost me anything but time.
By 9am that changed, there was a line from the registration trailer all the way to the entrance of the track, full of every kind of exotic car, import car, American muscle car and unidentifiable car you could think of. But few motorcycles, other than the 10 that camped out Friday night.
The qualifying started at 11am and by then there was 30,000 plus people milling about the entire facility. (According to NOPI they presold 30,000 tickets.) There were car shows, motorcycle shows, sound competitions, hydraulic competitions, bands, lifted trucks, lowered trucks, custom hot rods, Rat rods, Dodge Vipers everywhere, Lamborghinis, new Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers decked out to the hilt, Import mania and the Bikini contest of course. This was one of the most diverse events I have been to.
Twenty bikes eventually came in and each made about 10 passes before they called it a day. There were very few cars actually testing and tuning. You could drive right back to the staging lanes and make as many passes as you wanted. Most bikes just stopped running because they had already made enough passes. Also they wanted to go to the Bikini contest at 7pm.
I am trying to keep it clean here; you never know how many 7 year olds are reading these articles.
After the Bikini contest, Michael Tlapa broke out the “Big Green Egg” and made pork loins for all the motorcycle racers and track workers. In addition to Michael’s cooking Scott Saemisch made venison sausage and venison tenderloins.
We ended up with 20 bikes in Street ET and 5 bikes for Pro ET, this gave us a $1,225.00 purse to race for with the $350.00 added from Prestige Cycles and Livengood Motorsports.
In the first round of Street ET we had some very close races. Stanley “Big Stan” Russell took off out of the hole with a .042 reaction to Ben Byrd’s .088. Byrd crossed the line first; unfortunately it was .009 below his 8.80 dial in, giving Russel the win.
Next Steve Jackson, Atlanta Dragway’s 2010 NHRA Wally trophy winner, on an 08 ZX-14 ran a 9.308 on a 9.30 dial in taking the win over Tim Jones who broke out by .221 trying to run Steve down. I won’t tell you what their reaction times were because I think they were talking to each other while the tree was coming down.
Michael Tlapa and Randall Cross had a close race. They both had identical reaction times of .060. Tlapa dialed in at 9.53 and Cross at 9.51. Because of their reaction times they were wide open and had a double breakout, Tlapa winning by breaking out .01 less then Cross who took the stripe first. Afterwards Tlapa said, “We were just looking at each other side by side all the way down the track, I couldn’t tell who was ahead.”
Our “Zero to Heroine” Angie Young on “Dragula” took the win in her race running only .05 over her 9.75 dial in against Garrett Owens who found out about the race on Dragbike.com and came down from Winston Salem, NC. Young’s “Slick Wicked” teammate Reah Smith on the Palmetto Moonshine powered 02 GSXR 1000 took out Randy Barrett on a hole shot.
Gwinnett County Sheriff Sgt. Mark Welch on the “Beat the Heat” 05 GSXR 1000 had an easy win when Don Chavous decided to leave .077 earlier then he should have. Mark ran a 9.69 on his 9.6 dial in. Sgt. Welch contributed his win to the can of “Whoop Ass” he sprayed on his chain.
Craig Cross came with his son Randall to race; he had the bye run for a free pass.
In the Pro ET Class there were only 5 bikes to begin with, after merging the buy backs we had 4.
In the first round I paired up with Scott Saemisch and took the win with a nerve racking .009 light. I thought for sure that puppy was going red.
David Fletcher went up against Billy Orsino of Prestige Cycles. Fletcher had the better light and Orsino ran closer to his dial in, but Fletcher crossed the line .0042 earlier then Orsino for the win.
Young had to face Jackson for a ZX-14R to ZX-14 showdown. Jackson dialed in at 9.30 and the “rider in training” Young dialed in at 9.75. Jackson had a .037 reaction to Young’s lackluster .159. Interestingly enough Jackson had to say after the win, “I want one of those bikes, I caught up to her but then she started pulling away, then she started coming back, I thought she was messing with me.” Angie learned a new lesson during this race, as she thought she had won because she ran only .018 over her dial in to Jackson’s .108 over. She did not realize you have to cross the line first to win. She thought in bracket racing who ever ran closer to their dial in won regardless of who crossed the line first and had always wondered why so many people red lit in bracket racing.
Tlapa faced Sgt. Welch and won handily when Tlapa cut a .077 light and Welch left with a .320 light.
Craig Cross and “Slicked Wicked’s” Smith had a show down. Cross left with a .042 light and Smith with a .046, Smith ran a 9.861 on a 9.85 dial in but Cross ran dead on his 9.67 dial in crossing the line .0152 before Smith.
“Big Stan” had the bye.
In Pro ET we decided to wait for SET to get to their finals.
Tlapa won his round when “Big Stan” left .003 before he should have. Interestingly enough Craig Cross won the same way against Jackson who also turned the red eye on by .003.
In the pit area Tlapa realized his air compressor was no longer filling his air shifting tank. He had 65 lbs in it and thought he would be able to make the next round with it. We tried to get it working but it would only run and not pump air. Meanwhile we were being called back to the lanes.
I had to run Dave Fletcher and gave it to him by leaving the line with a .146 light to his .012.
In Street ET Tlapa was going to run Craig Cross and was worried about the air shifter. In the end he did not need to, Cross red lit by .015.
Pro ET against Street ET Finals
Quickly we took apart Tlapa’s air shifter only to find the reed valve had broke. I got an eraser to a pencil and covered the vent hole in the top of the air pump, the eraser acted like a valve due to its porosity. It was enough to get the shifter back up to 80 PSI.
Tlapa tried to shave the tree and did a fine job of it, .007 on the wrong side of green, giving Fletcher $735.00 of the $1,225.00 purse.
Tlapa went home with $490.00.
The standard look at the Bikini Contest
How do I get one of these on my bike?
Getting out of the sun
I am thinking it needs more chrome
You would be smiling like that too if you had those socks.
A big thanks goes out to…
- Prestige Cycles in Winder, GA 678-975-7649
- Livengood Motorsports in Lawrenceville, GA 770-913-8340
- Mark Meyers of NOPI Nationals for letting us play at their event.
- Mike Savage Manager Atlanta Dragway and all of the track personnel for letting us run ourselves.
- Dean South for the girl in the Lamborghini picture
- John “If it ain’t fun don’t do it” Cavanaugh for helping with the ladder and the staging lanes.
- Every one of the racers who came out to make this event a success, because of your support there will be more of these races.
For additional information on the Nopi Nationals, visit NopiNationals.com