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AMA Dragbike Tech

AMA Dragbike Tech

Joey Willhite told me all tech does is provide control for the racers addiction. If you think about it, a racer is nothing but a “Junkie” and like a true junkie we will do whatever it takes to satisfy our habit. Now if you are contemplating what you just read and thinking to yourself, it is not true, I have one word for you. Denial.

Let me illustrate. How many times have you seen someone do one of the following in order to race? (Not yourself of course.) Running without a rear brake because they stretched the swingarm and could not find a new brake line long enough…Seen it. Putting an MPS kill switch on and run the wires like they are connected to something… Been there. Taking someone else’s leathers to tech that zip together around the waist and then use their actual leathers that don’t zip to race… Seen that too, got the t-shirt. Pretend like we are sitting on the bike without actually putting our weight on the seat so the clearance bar will pass under it… You get the point.

Yes, we will do whatever it takes to get that adrenaline high one ¼ mile at a time.

The Techs (Addiction counselors)

Joey Willhite and Harvey Deane’s job is to make sure we chase that high safely without experiencing an OD. In order to help someone with this kind of an addiction you must have true professionals in order to identify the wily ways of the addict.
Joey first got involved with drag racing even before he knew what drag racing was. He got his hide tanned for it too. As Joey tells it, back in 1980 he was playing with a neighborhood friend; they were making a Hotwheel city in the dirt and decided they needed houses and buildings to make it more realistic. So they went into the neighbor’s garage to see if there was anything available. A few hours later that neighbor came out to see what the kids were doing and had a complete apoplectic attack. Joey and his friend had made houses in the dirt out of a brand new set of Arias pistons for the drag car that was in the garage.

After surviving this incident Joey eventually went into motorcycle racing and has won 3 S/G Championships, raced in PRO ET, Pro Sportbike, 3 years in Pro Street, Grudge, etc. In short Joey has been racing motorcycles practically his whole life. He is one of us, he knows our poison, knows our tricks and more importantly, he knows how to keep us safe.

Harvey has much the same background minus the Arias Piston incident, although he has been known to spread viruses around Facebook.

Harvey got involved with Tech in the classic volunteer method. You know, the one where the Drill Sergeant asks a line of privates if anyone would like to volunteer by stepping forward for the land mine clearing assignment and the whole line steps back leaving one guy out in front. Harvey was that guy out in front and the Sergeant was Scott Valetti.

Harvey has also been around drag racing forever. He used to race cars and became bored with it. Then in the mid 80’s he had the pleasure of working with the legendary Jack O’Malley at Orient Express. He also raced Formula Superbike in Prostar. So here we have another qualified individual in tech who is also one of our own.

Between Joey and Harvey they have seen just about everything, although they both agree something new always comes up. When I asked both of them what a racer could do to help make sure they pass a tech inspection. Joey said, “Read the Rule Book.” Which was immediately followed by Harvey stating, “Read the Rule Book.”

Some of the items they run into are purely due to the person being new to the sport and not realizing how firm AMA Dragbike is, such as not bringing a Snell or BSI approved helmet. This actually happened in Martin, MI when a racer brought his old school ironhead Sportster to race and ended up having to borrow Scott Valetti’s helmet.

Higher Standards
The big separating factor when you compare AMA Dragbike tech to tech at a local race or even some of the “Big Money” races is it does enforce safety issues with motorcycles. There are few grey areas to debate when it comes to a rule not being followed.

In the Dragbike.com forum a while back I actually saw this comment in a rather heated thread,” I have to say that figuring out what I need and don’t need to do to race with the AMA dragbike organization is very difficult. It is because you [AMA Dragbike] have a higher standard for motorcycle drag racing.” I love the last sentence. One, because the poster is admitting they are used to racing in an environment where tech inspection is lax. Two, because of this “higher standard”, AMA Dragbike has class, it gives the organization legitimacy and most important of all a safe place for everyone to get their “fix”.

Issues found in the tech shakedown
The following issues are some of the ones we “Mainline Junkies” try to get by with the most:

1. Ride height.
Somewhere someone once said, “For every inch lower you are, you will pick up a .10 in the ¼.” Personally, I thought ET was mainly dictated by horsepower, but this one statement maybe why everyone tries to get away with having their bike too low. Joey says the bike is too low if the pipe STOPS on ANYTHING. There is a very good reason for this rule and it dates back to 1986 when two very good riders Marty Blade and Jim Schumacher died at the same event. In both instances the bikes were too low causing the accidents.
2. Tether and Kill Switch
This is where the addict gets crafty and tries to rip off the dealer. Everyone listen up. The wires from the kill switch have to be connected to kill the engine. They will not miraculously graft themselves to the correct wires just because you slid them in the wire loom.
The photo below shows one type of legal tether and kill switch.

The plastic clip and plastic cord are not legal in this photo below.

3. Leathers
Your leathers have to zip ALL the way around your waist if you are in a division that requires you wear leathers. By the way, the leathers you bring to tech have to be yours. Joey and Harvey know you are trying to get your fix, but it is their job to protect you from yourself. Don’t try and deceive them.

4. Boots
Tennis shoes do not cut it. They are supposed to be leather boots above your ankles.

5. Gloves
Gloves have to be leather and must have a 3” cuff. This means you can’t use your Mom’s green gardening gloves.
The guy in the picture above breaks practically all the rules. Look at the cool new sneakers. At least he has suspenders to keep his pants from falling. Just so you know this was allowed at a track run test and tune and not an oversight due to AMA Tech experiencing temporary dain bramage.

6. Helmets
This sends more people home than any other item, approximately 20 people per race. The helmet must carry a current Snell or BSI certification. See the Rule Book for the dates considered current.

After a helmet passes tech, Joey or Harvey put a sticker on the back of it. Not only does this sticker let Joey and Harvey know you have current safety gear next time you race an AMA Dragbike race, it also lets Tony Williams see if you have a current helmet while he is manning the starting line. If Tony does not see the sticker, you are instantly sent to the sidelines.

Now you know…

If you want to be an addict and get to do as many ¼ miles as you can without getting busted, all you have to do is follow the Rule Book. It is really that simple. Otherwise, you could end up watching all of your friends having fun while you are at your trailer going into withdrawals.

BTW. Did I mention, read the Rule Book?

See ya on the track!

By Paul Cavanaugh

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