Racing : The Hard Part

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Racing : The Hard Part

Story and photos by Tom McCarthy

Many people are pondering the crash of the Alwine Racing, Top Fuel bike, piloted by Korry Hogan on Sunday, November 13th, 2016. They wonder what happened, why, how do we prevent it from happening again. Such are all noble, well-meaning, thoughts. There are bigger matters to consider here that don’t necessarily meet the eye nor come from the realm of conventional thinking.

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The cold water awakening that comes with the crash of Korry Hogan and the destruction of the Alwine Top Fuel drag bike known as ATF-1, is the harsh reality that Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing is very dangerous, very expensive in many ways, and at times harsh in the extreme. That’s what make this an extreme sport folks. And in case you missed the memo, Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing is the most extreme sport in motorcycle racing, in my opinion, for whatever that opinion is worth.

Fans and racers alike need to realize that until you’ve been in this sport long enough to see someone race down 1320’ of race track and not come back, you have not had a 360 degree view of drag racing. I’m not celebrating, debating or condoning this, but the harsh reality is, this horrendous event is part of motorcycle drag racing, the hard part.

 

Top Fuel drag cars and Funny Cars blow up, catch fire and become metal carnage with relative frequency in NHRA top level drag racing as a fact of life. Top Fuel Harleys have been scattering motors across drag strips since Eisenhower was in the White House, back when motorcycle drag racing first started – no surprise here. So what’s different about the Hogan/Alwine situation? It’s about matters of the heart.

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Korry has been off a Top Fuel drag bike three times at over 200 MPH and he’s still alive because God loves him and it’s just not his time. Not yet. Korry is wise enough to realize you can’t keep knocking on death’s door and not expect the Reaper to answer sooner or later. Korry is the fastest man in the world on two wheels with a valid 255 MPH pass to his credit and a beautiful little daughter to guide through life. He’s smart enough to know which is more important. No racing trophy or award will ever be as beautiful as Korry’s daughter London, one day wearing her Senior Prom dress. Smart man that Korry Hogan.

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As for the Alwine racing team, with respect to this situation, they have a whole different set of circumstances to deal with than their beloved, respected driver Korry Hogan who is not at fault in any way in this equation. What happened was racing, the hard part, pure and simple. And this is the really hard part, it’s not that simple at all, not for the Alwine family.

You see if you turn the clocks back to September 1st, 1996 at Indy, John Alwine was wrenching for Tony Lang in Top Fuel motorcycle at that time. Tony Lang was in the left lane and Elmer was in the right lane when Elmer came off his Top Fuel bike at 232 MPH and did not come back from that run. John Alwine saw Elmer die as many of us did that day.

John Alwine’s first race he attended in the early 1990’s was at Gainesville to an AMA Prostar event. He met Larry McBride at that race that day. He also saw Larry come off his bike that day and that memory will never leave him. That’s one more drag racing memory he’d like to forget.

Now consider this, the Alwine Racing team, John, Dave and Chris have designed and built a next generation Top Fuel motorcycle racing engine from the bottom up. They built the best drag bike they could with collective decades of experience and the best advice available to them. That’s their heart and soul, not to mention a few hundred thousand dollars crafted into a drag bike. It’s currently a twisted pile of rubble that damn near killed a very close friend of theirs.

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That’s the loss of quite an investment after losing a large motorhome just months ago while going to a race. It’s not so much the monetary loss that’s so devastating for them right now, it’s the emotional one that haunts them the most. Not what happened but what nearly happened.

They know they nearly watched their driver suffer a deadly crash that could have ended his life while driving THEIR motorcycle that they built. They nearly watched their own close friend die on their drag bike. They don’t want that on their shoulders, in their hearts, haunting their sleep at night. They built the ATF-1 motor to help advance Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing and have a more maintenance friendly, robust, Top Fuel motor. They didn’t build the bike with visions of their friends getting killed on it. This is the hard part to come to grips with. They don’t want that on their conscience, ever.

16-1118-alwine-hogan-01One has to wonder why the Gods of Thunder have been so harsh to the Alwine family. It’s not unreasonable to ponder if the Gods of Thunder are making it hard on Alwine Racing because they are out to change the game in a significant way. As Burt Munro so correctly related to us all, his “offerings to the Gods of Speed” were necessary sacrifices. So many pistons, jugs, engine cases, pay-checks all were sacrificed for him to reach the pinnacle of his racing career and set world Land Speed Racing records.

Elmer Trett, Jim McClure, Carl Ahlfeldt, Ray Price, Clem Johnson, and many more in Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing, have all done the same in the endless pursuit of the betterment of Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing. Their sacrifices are truly legendary, the decades they devoted to the class. One has to wonder if they are testing the Alwine team’s mettle.

The Alwine team is not blind to, but very grateful to the motorcycle drag racing community at large for their support and encouragements. One of the first guys to go give John a big hug was Mike Dryden. He and John looked at that big twisted pile of rubble that was once a Top Fuel bike and they both cried. The emotional investments in these bikes can never be seen nor understood by the people who don’t race in Top Fuel motorcycle.

The decision to race again or not lies with the Alwine Racing team. They fully understand the costs and the consequences of their actions. John Alwine is not getting any younger as he related to me, and he alone has to decide how much longer he and his wife want to endure this. As a man advances in age, he has to take stock of it all and make the most of his time while he can. John is not blind to this, for this is the hard part.

 

Comments

  1. Tommie
    Tommie 20 November, 2016, 02:46

    John you always have been an influence to me.I consider you one of the most intelligent person I have ever met. I am truly devastated by your losses. May the future bring you only the best.

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  2. Grey Ghost
    Grey Ghost 20 November, 2016, 22:30

    So glad you walked away’ I under stand your dilemma after watching so many of my close friends dying on their top fuel bikes after fifty years of racing myself. And dying from an explosion on my top own fuel bike and being brought back to life I’m still racing, and I’m still at it at 68 years of age. God bless you and what ever you decide. Good luck the ( Grey Ghost ) Larry Stanley. P.S. I plan to be at man cup races in 2017 with both my bikes, my top fuel bike, and my funny bike. Larry Stanley

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