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AMRA 2024 No Problem Opener – Nitro Coverage

American Motorcycle Racing Association

AMRA PennGrade1 motorcycle drag racing series race coverage report
PennGrade1 AMRA Cajun Nitro Nationals
No Problem Raceway, Belle Rose, Louisiana, USA
April 5-7, 2024

AMRA 2024 No Problem Opener – Nitro Coverage

The PennGrade1 AMRA American Motorcycle Racing Association kicked off their 2024 season of Harley-Davidson drag racing at No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, Louisiana, with the Cajun Nitro Nationals on April 5-7. Big fields, big nitro noise, and big fun were to be had amongst the marshes and petrochemical plants of southern Louisiana. Track manager Nelson Hoyos has the cane-field-turned-speedplant looking better and running more efficiently than ever—the perfect spot for AMRA to bring their thundering nitro show.

Circle M Ranch/Dove Fuels Top Fuel

The Cajun Nitro Nationals initiated a new era for AMRA Top Fuel featuring 16 bike raceday ladders, thanks to the generous support of Dove Fuels and Nitro Harley legend Johnny Mancuso’s Circle M Ranch.

First round of qualifying went as Q1 of season openers often do, with many teams getting their bearings rather than posting impressive performance. Not so for California’s Tim Kerrigan. Tim and tuner Steve Vickers posted a strong 6.43 at 212 mph to lead the round. Kerrigan’s bike had a problem during Q2 warm-up, sat out the round, and still held on to provisional number one.

Two-time and defending champ Ryan Peery started off qualifying spinning in his own puked oil. “I didn’t realize the oil was still in it from last year and filled it up again,” said Peery crewman Buddy Johnson. Second round looked pretty similar, as Peery missed the clutch tune-up. But round three was just right as Peery’s bike thundered to number one qualifier with a 6.39 at 212. “Lightest amount of weight on primary fingers I’ve ever ran,” said Peery. “The air quality was great and our motors were making plenty of power, too much for the track.”

Peery had the first round bye on raceday, which was a good thing since he didn’t make it down the track that round. It was a tough round for many, including local hero Randal Andras, North Carolina Hall of Famer Jay Turner, AMRA’s own John “JT” Toth, Pennsylvania’s Michael Balch, and Finland’s Juha “Sushi” Hintukainen.

Peery pulled it together to beat Spevco’s Tii Tharpe in round two. Jimmy “Mac” McMillan was gifted a Kerrigan red light and Ricky “Sharkey” House advanced past Rockingham Finals winner Jordan Peterson.

Rickey House
Rickey House

“I did not know that Jordan Peterson redlighted,” said House. “I think he was out on me a little bit and I was, man, I was pedaling. I mean, I was like, face down, I wasn’t looking where I was going, I tried to get aerodynamic. I was coming on and I passed him before the finishline. I asked him ‘Who won?’ and he said ‘You did, I got a redlight. So you beat me twice—at the light and on the track.’

This was McMillan’s first race since running off the end of the North Florida track last spring, into the creek and trees that reside there. His own bike not quite back together yet, McMillan rode his Bad Apple Racing teammate Frank Capone’s bike and was strong on his very first hit with a 6.66. “After the .66 we laid down on Friday, we saw signs of some ring leakage, so TK (Tracy Kile) and the crew swapped the top end that evening,” reported McMillan.

“Saturday’s first run saw a slower lap with a dropped hole about 1000 foot and puffed some smoke. During warm-up for Q2 we noticed a lot of smoke but needed to go. Q2 results confirmed we hurt it and needed to sit out Q3 to fix this for Sunday. The problem was, we only had the piston/cylinder assembly we just pulled for spare parts. Again, TK and the crew swapped top ends.

Jimmie McMillian
Jimmie McMillian

“To add to the fun, BAM’s (Pro Fuel racer “Bad Apple Mary” Dangrow) bike hurt the top end as well, so they tore into it. Both Bad Apple bikes were down to the crankshafts that evening and back up again. Not much fire and storytelling time for Saturday.

“Sunday warm-up looked good, but when eliminations started, we knew the bike was down on power and the clock was ticking. E1, JT went red and I thought I was sleeping at the tree but caught him at the big end. We were thinking it had one more pass in it before it expired. On to E2 Tim drops the hammer and runs his personal best of 6.36 but hands me the win with a red light. E3 I broke the beam to move onto the final where we faced Sharkey, who was on point all weekend.”

Ricky “Sharkey” House didn’t think of himself as “on point,” but acknowledged his consistency. “It was really embarrassing in a way,” said House. “I mean, I normally run .20s and .30s, but I come here and I’m running consistent .60s—a .67, a .65, a .63, a .59 with a 9 and a .55. So I slowly, slowly got quicker.”

Whether House noticed McMillan’s issues or not, his reaction time slowed considerably from the .011 he nailed in the semis. “I accidentally double bulbed him as we approached the stage beams, which I hated doing, but it didn’t bother him,” said McMillan. “I got the advantage on the tree (.041 to .069) but Sharkey was gaining with every second and we made it about 800 feet before we ran out of steam and he powered by. Not a Cinderella story by any means but it sure feels like it. A very special weekend for us, our team and our fans.”

“I’m right now where I should have been when I started,” said House, who slowed from a .55 in the semis to a .65 while driving around McMillan in the final. “Should have been a .50 out of the trailer and we can work from there, but it don’t matter—a win’s a win. Like everybody, I come here for one reason—to win. If I didn’t think I could win, I wouldn’t be doing this.” And his last Top Fuel win was two years ago right here at No Problem.

“I didn’t break anything, but on oil line came off and lost all pressure one second after the hit (early in the event). I pulled the bottom end off because I thought maybe the bearings were wiped out.” They weren’t. “Other than that, everything was pretty good. I had to work hard. My brain thinks it’s 25 years-old but my body is 65.

Rickey House
Rickey House

“I’d like to thank Dugan, Pam, and everybody that worked on the bike this weekend. Javelina H-D, if you want to buy a new Harley, go see them. OTR—they do all the service on my truck.”

The next stop for that truck was taking House to a blown alcohol hydroplane drag boat he’s learning to drive. “I’m getting more comfortable in it. I haven’t really, really made a hard clean pass yet,” finished Sharkey, who’s been drag racing boats since he was a teenager. Hence the nickname?

Nitro Funnybike

House only had to drive from Texas to get his Top Fuel win, but Nitro Funnybike rider Tadashi “Reggie” Saitou came all the way from Japan. He made the most of the trip, qualifying number one with a 7.07 at 197 and taking the win against Jason Leeper in the final despite granting Leeper a big chunk of time at the tree.

Don “D.J.” Johnson disciple Saitou got his start wrenching with Top Fuel star Tak Shigematu, also from Japan. “Then I got my Nitro Funnybike and became a race pilot,” said Reggie. “I learned how to race a nitro bike from D.J., and about six months before he passed away, I was able to become a race winner for the first time. This is my first joy.

Tadashi Reggie Saitou
Tadashi Reggie Saitou

“When D.J. passed away, I lost support, and Tracy and the Bad Apple team reached out to me. Jimmie Mac and Stacey (McMillian’s wife and occasional Pro Fuel racer) are especially supportive and kind to me outside of racing. To reward their support, I will become a winner. I think it’s more important than necessary.

“This victory was the first time I was able to give back to the team. I will continue to enjoy racing in the United States with Bad Apple Racing! Please look forward to the success of this team!”

Leeper and the Universal Fleet & Tire team were thrilled at his runner-up finish. “We decided to enter our carbureted bike into the Funnybike class in order to conduct some tests on our recently rebuilt motor,” said team boss Michael Train. “Simultaneously, we participated in the Pro Fuel class with our newly rebuilt nitro pro fuel bike motors. Our primary objective was to ensure that they were properly broken in and prepared for competition.

“Moving forward, our team intends to focus on the Funnybike class more as we transition into the realm of injected nitro. We are pleased to have “Racin’ Ray” Robinson licensing on our latest injected Funnybike (“Big Nasty” recently purchased from Ryan Peery), and we anticipate his seamless adaptation as he continues to make impressive hits.

“It was truly remarkable to witness Jason Leeper’s competitiveness in the nitro Funnybike class with our carbureted Pro Fuel bike. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone for contributing to a fantastic weekend of racing.”

Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel

Champion Sam White started his Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel title defense in the best possible way—with number one qualifier and the win. In fact, White posted a sharp 7.18 at nearly 177 in Q1 and promptly put his Hawaya Racing T-Too on the trailer until eliminations.

“We got very lucky with 7.18 out of trailer on Saturday,” said White. “Gave us an opportunity to work on our routine. We have a new team member, Lynn Rogers, an old friend of mine. We have known each other since we were young boys and were drag racing on the street as teenagers. We overcame some of the new challenges in ‘breaking in’ a new guy.

Sam White
Sam White

“We had Hailey Caulk in the first round on Sunday—wonderful to see some new talent coming on the scene. We had bye run in the second round then moved to our pal, Bad Apple Mary.

“The bike seemed to slow down as the day moved on. As luck would have it we met Curt Sexton in the finals. Thankfully we had just enough power to pedal it through the finishline.” Like Saitou, White gave up a chunk at the tree and—despite being down on power—still mustered a winning 7.47.

“Hardy shout out & thanks to Hawaya Racing, Products, Matt Coleman, Lynn Rogers, April White, and Cathy Rogers. We look forward to seeing everyone in Cecil County!”

Shutdown Area

That’s it for AMRA Nitro coverage from No Problem, but Gas classes are at the ready line so keep your eyes on your favorite motorsport media outlets for all of the AMRA Harley drag racing news.

For more information visit www.amralive.com / info@amralive.com / Facebook

2024 Schedule

The American Motorcycle Racing Association was formed over 30 years ago and is the only officially sanctioned association that is exclusively dedicated to American made, V-Twin based motorcycle drag racing in the world. Whether you’re interested in E.T. based racing, set index racing, heads-up or Top Fuel Nitro Bikes, we have a class for you. Membership is easy and the events are carried out in a way that makes it easy for beginners and veterans alike. All class designations and rules for each can be found here as well as the membership application. We are happy to welcome new racers and offer help to get you started. Join today and we’ll see ya at the track.

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