2021 Top Fuel Motorcycle – Season Preview
Story and Photos Tom McCarthy
As the 2021 motorcycle drag racing season moves ahead, many of the motorcycle drag racing sanctions have held opening rounds of competition for the season. At the recent Man Cup Exoticycle Nationals, none of the big thunder bikes were present. This has motorcycle drag racing fans and racers wondering, “Where are the Top Fuel motorcycles, and where will they be performing this year?”
So Dragbike.com has reached out to the teams to get their take on who will be performing this season.
There are mitigating factors that weigh into a team’s decisions as to when and where they will surface. It’s not always about points and performance. At the end of the day, sad but true, money often determines when and where we all go. Only a handful of motorcycle drag racers are full-time working professionals who earn their living solely upon being a full-time drag racer. Therefore, unless it makes economic sense or cents, they can’t go play if it doesn’t pay.
With diesel fuel costs through the roof, along with gasoline, racers of every stratum are going to take a hard look at travel and which races to attend this year.
For example, Larry “Spiderman” McBride commented in a recent phone interview, “When I race at Dragway 42 in Ohio, my rig will incur $600 in tolls alone going to/from that event. Now add plane tickets to that for the crew, meals, etcetera, and you can see just attending this race will cost me close to $2,000 before we even unload the motorcycle.
No Top Fuel Motorcycle team can even roll out of their driveway without spending $2,500 to $3,000 just to attend a racing event. So for the big bikes to come out and make the big noise with the big toys, there are financial concerns and logistics to give proper consideration.
We spoke to all the current Top Fuel competitors to get a rundown on their 2021 motorcycle drag racing season plans.
“Really, for me, the most important factor is my knees. I will know better in April. I have been in pain a lot for a long time now, and I need both knees replaced. I will find out from my doctor if I’m a candidate to have both done at once, or if I have to wait and do one, then recover, then have the other one done. So that’s going to weigh heavily on what I do this season.”
“If possible, we will be at the World Finals. We plan to be at the Man Cup event in April and the World Finals at SGMP, IF we can. We are also set with the NHRA to run exhibition passes at their Virginia event on June 4-6, with Dave Vantine. We are also planning to do the Norwalk ‘Night Under Fire’ event on August 7th that will be huge.”
Do you have a better chance at making more income from an exhibition event than a points race? “Some events we can sell a lot of T-shirts at, but not others, it varies a lot. That’s not something we can predict for certain.”
What’s your take on series sponsorship in 2021 and finding new series sponsors?
“You know that’s tough for everyone in racing right now, especially in drag racing. When you stop and think about it, anyone seeking sponsorship in drag racing, you’re competing against John Force Racing, Don Shoemaker Racing, and even the NHRA. They are all seeking sponsorship for their drag racing operations, so really, what can you offer a potential sponsor compared to them?”
Will you have Jimmy Brantley’s new TFM ready to race in 2021?
Yes, Jimmy’s bike is prepared for delivery, it’s up to Jimmy, and he’s so swamped with work and needs to find the time to get back into the swing of things. Jimmy is working out, he’s 66 now, and he’s getting ready to get back on the bike, hopefully, this season,” stated Larry McBride.”
“Dave Vantine’s bike is 85 to 90% done now, and that’s a roller as they requested. They want to do the final fitting and do some things to accommodate their race program their way. So really, they can pick it up almost anytime they are ready to,” added McBride.
Defending Man Cup Top Fuel Champion
“We are currently doing something different from all the other teams in that we are switching over to a Fuel Tech based system. Not on the fuel system mind you, but on the electronics. However, we need Sam Wills healed up to help us with that. We will likely miss the Man Cup race in April, but we hope to have our new electronics online shortly after that,” stated Mitch, owner of Monster Race Products.
“We do plan to begin our season at Man Cup’s Dragway 42 event and we will race every Man Cup race after that if we can, including the World Finals.”
“We will be doing the Norwalk ‘Night under Fire’ event, and we are looking at maybe doing other venues as well, making exhibition runs. Which ones are yet to be determined, but we are going to learn a LOT about this bike in 2021.”
“We will be doing the Man Cup event in April and the World Finals in November. We will be doing the NHRA exhibition runs with McBride at the June Virginia event. We are also excited about being at Summit Motorsports Park for their Night Under Fire on August 7th. That should be a big one.”
Dave further commented, “As for the new bike, we know from the photos, Larry and Steve have it further along than we had planned, and that’s totally okay. So yes, we will pick up the bike in 2021, and it will go to Canada to Greg Pollard’s shop, where he will finish outfitting the bike. So, 2021 will be good, and 2022 will be VERY interesting!”
“We are going to try to make all of them. I don’t know that we can do that, but we will do our best. We will definitely be at the Man Cup event in April and the World Finals in November. We are excited to and plan on attending the ‘Night Under Fire’ at the Norwalk Ohio in August on the 7th. And if something else comes up, we will look at that,” stated team manager Sharon Hand.
“As I am healing up from my shop miss-hap, I am currently at 40% use of my injured leg/hip. At the end of March, I got out of 30 days of medical rehab and was finally released home. Currently, I am doing physical therapy several times a week, so I have a long way to go before standing at a Mill and getting back to work. We hope to test at Tulsa Raceway Park before the Norwalk Ohio ‘Night Under Fire’ event in August. We picture that as our first real outing this year for the Nitro Conspiracy team.”
“We are also in talks with Tulsa Dragway about trying to get four Top Fuel motorcycles on the schedule for the “Throwdown at T-Town” events they do every year. That’s a big deal at that track, and we certainly want to do that. If other exhibition opportunities crop up, we will look at that. And we are definitely planning on attending and racing the Man Cup World Finals in November.”
“My new Top Fuel Motorcycle, created by John Alwine and his family, is ready for pick up. Soon, I will venture out there to see John and spend a few days getting acquainted with the new machine. When circumstances permit this year, I will begin making runs to get acquainted with my new bike. My shop is quite busy, and depending on what time and money permit this year, my racing program will develop over time.”
“I have not made firm plans as of yet, as I am still recovering from my crash in 2020. I will be at the Man Cup Valdosta event and XDA Season Opener at the end of April just to hang out and see everyone.”
“I am doing the full-season races with the XDA. I want to run Top Fuel motorcycle, but I don’t know which ones yet. I was second in XDA 2020 Pro Xtreme points, so I want that championship this season, and that will be my main focus. I might do a Hog’s Gone Wild event if I can get a match race against a Top Fuel Harley! I put out a challenge in 2020 to race any Top Fuel Motorcycle, right off the trailer, no pre-test, $1,000 cash challenge, but still no takers!? I would love to run the Man cup World Finals in top Fuel, but the track prep would need to be on point for that to happen.”
“I intend to do the full XDA Series in Pro Xtreme, and the Man Cup World Finals in Valdosta. I also want to do the ‘Night Under Fire’ event, but with our government making it so difficult to return back to Canada and my parents in poor health, I’m not sure I’m doing any racing this year, unfortunately.”
Top Fuel Harley
In the world of Top Fuel Harley motorcycle drag racing, there are going concerns as the new season dawns. The Mickey Thompson Tires sponsorship that was the cornerstone of Top Fuel Harley drag racing with the NHRA sanction ended in 2020. The NHRA Gatornationals ran the Harley’s without a series sponsor. This has teams taking a close look at whether they can or will participate in future races. Even the NHRA is unclear if the Top Fuel Harley points series will continue in 2021.
On a more positive note, fans and racers can be assured that Top Fuel Harley will be alive and well in 2021 with the “All Harley” sanctions of the American Motorcycle Racing Association (AMRA) and the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA). These two sanctions always have and always will have a home for the big two-cylinder V-Twin hybrids. Money for class sponsorship is a factor for these sanctions and will accordingly affect class racing participation.
For example, the AMRA has six races slated for 2021, but only five of the events are intended for Top Fuel Harley to participate as a competition class. If sponsorship that sets the purse money is only there for five events, so be it. AHDRA has both national and regional events. They, too, will tailor the classes and class racing to meet the situations’ needs. Expect schedules to change as the year unfolds.
Event/Sanctions Running Top Fuel in 2021
- AHDRA – www.raceahdra.com
- AMRA – www.amralive.com
- Man Cup – www.mancup.info
- NHRA – www.nhra.com
- Night Under Fire – www.summitmotorsportspark.com
All of this, of course, is subject to change. No one really knows how the COVID-19 effect will impact racing and spectator attendance. Race promoters and track operators genuinely have no idea how state mandates that shut down many an event in 2020 – will play out in 2021. Often, in drag racing, what plays out on the race track is subject to that which actually makes cents.
|Until Next time…
– Tom McCarthy