HomeColumnsTom McCarthy2024 NHRA Top Fuel Motorcycle Season Begins at Route 66 Nationals

2024 NHRA Top Fuel Motorcycle Season Begins at Route 66 Nationals

Pingel Named Title Sponsor Of Thrilling Nhra Top Fuel Motorcycle Series

2024 NHRA Top Fuel Motorcycle Season Begins at Route 66 Nationals

Story and photos, Tom McCarthy & staff

In 2023, the NHRA heralded a significant development in drag racing by including Top Fuel motorcycles as a championship points category in its 2024 race calendar. This decision marked a historic revival, as these motorcycles hadn’t competed under this status since the 1984 season, ushering in a new era for teams and enthusiasts alike.

Wayne and Donna Pingel

Following this announcement, Pingel Enterprise Inc. stepped up as the title sponsor for this newly reinstated class, integrating it into the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series. This partnership was set to debut at the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals, hosted from May 17-19, 2024, and presented by PEAK Performance. This event promised not only the thrill of competition but also the chance to set the inaugural NHRA 1000-foot Top Fuel motorcycle record, an exciting prospect given the absence of existing records for this specific distance.

The 2024 season will feature four major events for Top Fuel motorcycles, starting with the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in May, followed by the NHRA Virginia Nationals in June, the NHRA Brainerd in August, and concluding with the NHRA ZMAX in Charlotte, NC, in September. Each event was meticulously scheduled, with qualifying rounds spread across the weekend, culminating in the main competition on Sunday. The dynamic nature of racing schedules, however, meant that all timings were tentative and subject to change.

In preparation for the first race, Dragbike.com surveyed sixteen prominent Top Fuel motorcycle teams globally. Responses indicated strong participation intentions, showcasing a lineup of experienced and formidable competitors.

Larry ‘Spiderman’ McBride

Larry McBride Racing is set to be a central highlight at the opening race of the NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle series. Known widely as the man to beat, Larry McBride holds a formidable reputation as the quickest and fastest Top Fuel motorcycle racer globally. His exceptional skills stem from a career that began in the 1970s, giving him decades of experience in piloting nitromethane-powered motorcycles. This longevity in the sport provides him with an unmatched depth of knowledge and an intuitive understanding of race dynamics that only comes with time.

Larry 'Spiderman' McBride

McBride’s racing prowess is not merely about speed; it’s about the mastery of timing, precision, and the ability to read the race track under varying conditions, skills honed through countless races over many years. His intimate familiarity with the mechanics of Top Fuel motorcycles, combined with his strategic acumen, makes him a formidable opponent. The saying in the racing community that “there’s no substitute for seat time” encapsulates McBride’s edge over his competitors—his extensive hands-on experience.

Brown/Bradley Racing

Brown/Bradley Racing, spearheaded by the skilled Mitch Brown, is entering this year’s NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle series with a focused and determined mindset. The team’s ambitions are not just to participate but to dominate, evident from their rigorous pre-season preparations. Mitch, who will be at the helm of the Brown/Bradly Top Fuel motorcycle, brings a mix of experience and a proven track record to the team.

Brown/Bradley Racing

Their commitment to excellence is underscored by their extensive testing regime at their home base in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This venue serves not only as a familiar setting but also as a crucial testing ground for fine-tuning their motorcycle to peak performance. The testing sessions have been comprehensive, focusing on everything from engine performance and aerodynamics to Mitch’s handling of the bike under various track conditions.

Jaska Salakari Racing

Jaska Salakari Racing, a dynamic father-son duo, brings a formidable blend of innovation, skill, and ambition to the NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle circuit. With record times dipping into the 5.80s, they have demonstrated not only their current capabilities but also the potential to significantly surpass these achievements. This team stands out not just for their speed, but for their technical prowess and meticulous approach to motorcycle racing.

Originating from Finland, the Salakaris have traveled across continents to compete on the prestigious NHRA stage. Jaska, the patriarch, is not only the team’s chief mechanic but also the brains behind the engineering of their unique motorcycle. His reputation as a master tuner and designer precedes him, esteemed throughout the European racing community for his innovative designs and mechanical acumen.

Jaska Salakari Racing

At the controls of the meticulously crafted motorcycle is Elmeri, Jaska’s 22-year-old son, whose youth belies his intense dedication and growing expertise in the sport. Under his father’s guidance, Elmeri has quickly adapted to the high stakes of Top Fuel racing, showing a natural aptitude for handling the intense speeds and pressures of competition.

The motorcycle itself is a marvel of engineering, entirely designed, machined, and assembled by Jaska. This bespoke creation is tailored to harness the raw power necessary for Top Fuel competitions while maintaining the precision handling needed at extreme velocities.

Bob Malloy Racing

Bob Malloy Racing is anchored by Bobby Malloy, a seasoned pro with deep roots in NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle racing. His extensive experience spans several decades, featuring participation in numerous NHRA T/F Harley events where he has consistently proven his prowess on the track. Malloy’s racing history is rich with noteworthy performances and significant contributions to the sport.

Bob Malloy Racing

In the mid-1980s, Malloy achieved remarkable success on an I-4 bike, specifically Elmer’s “Titanium bike,” with which he recorded a stunning pass of 7.01 seconds at 191.00 MPH. At the time, this performance was groundbreaking, showcasing his ability to push the boundaries of speed and engineering in motorcycle racing. Additionally, Malloy’s skill set was further highlighted when he took the helm of John Sands’ famous Honda F/B, adding another chapter to his storied career.

This season, Bob Malloy will be piloting the Top Fuel motorcycle owned by Chuck Redfern and meticulously built by the renowned builder Sam Wills. The tuning and technical strategy for this motorcycle will be managed by Sam Wills along with Pro-Mod racer Todd Martin, creating a formidable team equipped with extensive experience and technical acumen. This collaboration aims to blend traditional racing strategies with innovative approaches to bike setup and performance optimization.

Micah Fenwick Racing

Micah Fenwick Racing, hailing from Burlington, Maine, stands out in the NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle series as the team with the youngest roster. Led by the enthusiastic and forward-thinking Micah Fenwick, this team is characterized by its vibrant energy and a fresh approach to the sport. For them, each race is not just about competition; it’s an invaluable opportunity for learning and development.

Micah Fenwick Racing

The team has dedicated considerable time to testing at the New England Dragway, which serves as their home base. This venue has been the backdrop for their intensive preparation throughout 2023, allowing them to refine their strategies and improve their motorcycle’s performance in real-time conditions. The hours spent on the track have been crucial in fostering teamwork and enhancing the skills of each member, helping the team to coalesce into a cohesive unit.

2024 is poised to be a pivotal year for Micah Fenwick Racing. With a focus on leveraging their youthful dynamism to its fullest potential, they are eager to translate their learnings into tangible results on the race track. The team’s strategy revolves around continuous improvement, applying insights gained from each race to optimize their performance in subsequent events.

Vantine Nitro-Sports

Vantine Nitro-Sports, led by the accomplished David Vantine of New York, is entering the racing season with a notable record and a potent combination of skill and machinery. David, known for his remarkable 5.77-second pass, is back with his team and their striking “yellow-bullet” motorcycle, a machine that has made significant waves in the Top Fuel motorcycle racing scene.

Vantine Nitro-Sports

The team’s current focus is on a new bike that is still undergoing rigorous testing. Although they have yet to accumulate enough data to fully predict its performance in points competition, their extensive experience and technical know-how have them confident in their existing setup for the initial races. This prudent approach underscores their strategic mindset—leveraging a well-understood and proven bike while they continue to refine the new entrant.

Vantine Nitro-Sports

The decision to start the season with their established motorcycle is a testament to their confidence in its capabilities. Having one of the quickest Top Fuel bikes in the history of the sport affords them a significant advantage. This bike is not just fast; it’s a culmination of years of engineering, experience, and incremental improvements that have consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s possible on the track. They are ready to “send it” on Sunday!

This season was particularly significant as it introduced a 1000-foot race format, a departure from the traditional 1320-foot distance, reflecting a strategic decision voted on by the teams. This new racing distance was poised to redefine performance benchmarks, with Larry McBride’s past achievements providing a glimpse into the potential speeds and timings.

In a commendable display of solidarity and support within the competitive world of Top Fuel motorcycle racing, Dave Dunigan from Dunigan Racing has stepped forward with a significant gesture of financial support for the competing teams. By offering $1,000 to each team, Dave Dunigan aims to alleviate the burden of travel expenses, demonstrating a deep commitment to fostering a collaborative and supportive racing environment. This financial assistance is not just a boon for the teams; it reinforces the community-oriented spirit that is vital for the sport’s growth and sustainability.

Dave Dunigan
Dave Dunigan’s Pro Street team celebrating a Win!

As the 2024 NHRA Top Fuel motorcycle season drew near, anticipation among fans and participants reached new heights. The forthcoming races were seen not only as fierce competitions of speed and skill but also as monumental opportunities for riders and teams to etch their names into the rich history of motorcycle racing. This season promised to be more than just a series of races; it was poised to be a celebration of the sport’s evolution and a testament to the spirit of innovation and camaraderie that drives it forward.

Racers and fans are recommended to keep a close eye on the NHRA.com page as the race date nears. Near real-time results can be tracked closely at www.dragracecentral.com

Tom McCarthy will be on site for the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals to capture another moment in history!

Tom McCarthy Until Next time…

– Tom McCarthy

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