Orlando Speed World Nationals
Photos and words by Tom McCarthy
On Friday, May 17, 2019, the AMRA “All Harley” motorcycle drag racing sanction rolled into Orlando Speedway, in Bithlo, Florida for the second stop on the 2019 AMRA season. After a successful season opener on April, the Harleys are on a roll and they thundered into OSW with pipes blazing and 80-degree temps under sunny skies.
On Friday during a leisurely test and tune day, the Wade Rich prepared 1320 was ready early and bikes were rumbling down the track all day. Test and tune went from 10 to 5PM for the motorcycle drag racing event. Then from 6 to 10PM the Orlando Speed World staff took over and ran their normal Friday night program which included an open invitation for the AMRA testing crowd to join in.
Racers who made passes during the Friday test session included, Reggie Sato, Gary Stroud, Donnie Hoffman, Vance Houdyshell, Tim Grindle, Buster Meador, Dewayne Stambaugh, Dave Dennick, Bob Maier, Mike Motto, Charley Douglas, Manny Carrasquillo, Dave Cartwright and Brian Conley Jr. Also in attendance setting up were luminaries; Jay Turner, Tracy Kile, Rich Vreeland, Janette Thornley, Jim Doyle, Jim Page, Kirby Apathy, Jim Martin, Preston Bartlett, and many others.
The quickest and fastest pass of the day in was Gary Stroud, piloting Johnny “Red” Rhea’s Nitro Funny Bike to an impressive 6.849 @ 196.50 on his second full-pull in the hot-seat! He commented after the run, “That was an eye opener, running on the 200 MPH mark. At 185 my helmet stays put, but up near 200 MPH, the wind wants to lift the helmet off my head. I’ll pull that helmet chin strap a little tighter now.”
Saturday Qualifying: The morning Test & Tune session from 10-11:30, began promptly with a full mix of racers joining in the fun. Tracy Kile brought out the old “Bad Apple Racing” bike of Frank Capone and blew the dust off it. It was also Tracy’s birthday, so a cake was presented to the birthday-boy which he promptly shared with everyone present.
The staging lanes were closed off just after 11:45-AM for the daily drivers meeting, which was held at 12 noon.
The Q-1 session began with VP Fuels Trophy class racers, followed by Thundermax Eliminator, Super Eliminator, Energy One Dresser class, Pro/Eliminator, Zipper’s Performance Super/Street, Super/Pro, Horsepower Inc. Hot/Street, Vreeland’s HD Super/Gas, Brock’s Performance Outlaw/Street, Modified, Vreeland’s HD Top/Eliminator, Pro/Modified, Super/Comp, Pro/Gas, Pro/Fuel, Nitro Funny Bike and of course: Top Fuel.
The professional class sessions were scheduled for 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30PM, in two-hour increments. This seems to work out well for the fuel bikes as they have a fixed time they can plan and prepare for.
The Pro bikes took to the track at their designated hour with Pro Modified leading the session Billy Doherty of Wyoming was the #1 qualifier of the weekend with a stout, 8.57 @ 154 MPH. As the professional sessions continued, in Pro Gas, Keith Richner, of Ohio on the new beautiful GMS built bike clocked in as the leader with a 9.10 @ 145 mph. In Pro Fuel action, Janette Thornley was the low qualifier after the first session with a 7.30 blast right off the truck. This held for two rounds but during Q-3, Kirby Apathy of Deland, Florida stepped up with a 7.24, to up the ante. Janette on her Strutmasters.com entry was ready for the Q-3 session, but a sudden loss of oil pressure during the warm-up test fire brought panic. This caused her and her husband Buddy to thrash and make repairs, late into the midnight hour to prepare for Sunday’s matchups.
During Nitro Funny Bike qualifying, things got interesting for Jim Doyle of Chicopee, Mass in an unexpected fashion. Jim has one leg shorter than the other by an inch due to a bad NFB crash in 2015. So he has a special boot made for the shorter leg. He got quite the surprise during Q-1 for NFB when his special boot had the strap melted off and he suddenly became barefoot just about 250’ from the starting line. To complicate matters, this was the right side boot, the same side as the exhaust pipes. Now with his foot fully exposed he could no longer go for the footpeg, and the bike began drifting to the wall as he was in the right lane. As the bike gently scrubbed the wall in the shutdown area, Jim was holding on for dear life and in trying to get the bike off the wall – he ran out of race track! His Nitro Funny Bike went almost 200 feet into the sand trap, but Jim never gave up on it. His injuries were minor and he was ready on race day.
Meanwhile, as the rest of the NFB field thundered on, Ryan Perry emerged as the #1 qualifier with a 6.71 @ 206 to lead the pack. Gary Stroud (6.72), Rich Vreeland (6.73), Hal Cort (7.01), Jake Stordeur (7.04) and Jim Doyle (7.18), all qualified. The first three bikes in NFB were separated by only .002 of a second!
In Top Fuel, Armon Furr of Orangeburg Cycle Racing fame thundered into the low qualifying position with a 6.56 @ 204 MPH, while delivering hellacious burnouts to warm up his rear tire. His showmanship was much appreciated by the fans! #2 qualifier, Randal Andras, out of the Bayou Low-country (6.57), Juha Hintukainen AKA “Sushi” (7.23), Tracy Kile, Rebel Glover, Don Becker and Jay Turner (broke) also entered the fray.
In the Sportsman racing action, the number one qualifiers were, in Pro Gas – Keith Richner, Brock’s Performance Outlaw Street – Tim Grindle (8.16), Horsepower Inc, Hot Street – Dave Cartwright (9.37) Modified – Gary Douglas (9.10), Super Comp – Donnie Huffman, Vreeland’s HD Top Eliminator – David Dormeus, Vreeland’s HD Super Gas – Bob Maier , Super Pro – Sharon Dubois, Zipper’s Performance Super Street – Charlie Douglas (10.01), Energy One Clutches, Dresser class – Crosby Blair (10.78), Baker Drive Train Street Eliminator – Terry Matson, Thundermax Eliminator – Kevin Winters, Pro Eliminator – Glen Sutton and VP Fuels Trophy class on Saturday was won by Randy Hammons.
When the action began on Sunday, it was fast and furious with the class of Top Fuel leading the charge.
Jay Turner Racing was in the house for this event. The AMRA does not run the class of T/F at all of their events, but at the Orlando Speed World Nationals in 2019, the power of Top Fuel motorcycles was heard and felt by all. During qualifying, Jay encountered serious problems with his “Lucky 7” new Pro Charger bike and it was sidelined after one qualifying pass. This enabled Jay to concentrate fully on Randal Andras and his T/F bike. Randal qualified number two, right behind Armon Furr with a 6.59 and he was paired up with Jay for E-1, but Jay’s bike was down, so Randal took the competition solo for the win. Randal then took out Juha Hintukainen of Sweden. This set up the final between Armon Furr and Randal Andras for the race and the championship points lead in Top Fuel.
When Armon and Randal faced off, the fans were in the stands and lining the fences awaiting the thunder. Armon jumped off strong, but his tire broke traction and Randal just roared right down Broadway for the win. This being the second of a seven-race season for the AMRA, Randal is now in the points lead for the class. He was the AMRA Nitro Funny Bike class champion in 2010, let there be no doubt he’s now going to look for his first #1 plate in Top Fuel.
In Nitro Funny Bike class racing, Johnny “Red” Rhea brought his Powder Tech Services, Nitro Funny Bike (NFB) with a new pilot, an old friend; Gary Stroud of Valparaiso, Indiana, to take on the heavy hitters in NFB. Gary is well known for his championships in upper gas classes, also in Pro Fuel, but this was Gary’s first race with a six second, nitro funny bike. His weekend was one to remember for a lifetime.
Gary qualified #2 with a 6.72 @ 207mph and was matched up with Rocky Jackson in round one. Rocky encountered heavy tire shake on his launch and Stroud was off like a shot for his first-round win. He then defeated national #1 plate holder Rich Vreeland in E-2, to advance to his first ever final round matchup against Ryan Perry who is growing weary of the #2 plate he owns: he’s ready for an upgrade.
The final was set to be a good one and there was no doubt about it: this was Gary Stroud’s race. Ryan launched well but drifted right and he had to correct, which he did in masterful form. But in the short time it took to get the bike back in the groove: Stroud was gone. The new team of John “Red” Rhea and Gary Stroud may be a new combination, but they are a strong one. Hal Cort had a strong performance as did Rich Vreeland, Ryan Perry, and Jake Stordeur. The 2019 AMRA NFB teams will battle long and hard this year. It’s anyone’s championship to win at this point.
For the Stab & Steer crowd, the Pro Fuel motorcycles, there was no question that with the world’s quickest P/F bike on the property, Kirby Apathy was the man to beat. His 7.24 in qualifying was a wake-up call to the rest of the field; if his bike behaves, look out. But the gremlins returned and Walter Halonski took out Kirby in round one. On the other side of the ladder, Dennis Waldron, driving for Rich Vreeland took out Jim Martin and Janette Thornley (broke E-2)), advancing to his first final of 2019. The question loomed large for two evenly match racers, Walter and Dennis: who had the combination to win it?
It was a close one with the win going to Dennis Waldron. He commented after the race “We didn’t know who won really. We didn’t know till we were on the return road.” Walter’s bike was a bit lethargic in the 60’ and that hurt him, but they were wheel to wheel and gave the fans their money’s worth.
In Pro Mod, Billy Doherty won his second consecutive event with a victory over Richard Boone. These eight-second monsters are terrors to watch and we all wish there were more of them for AMRA competition.
Pro Gas had two strong competitors as well at the Orlando Speed World Nationals. Keith Richner and Donnie Huffman went at it with Huffman coming out on top.
Sportsman Class Winners
- VP Fuels Trophy Sunday – Rusty Crist
- VP Fuels Trophy Saturday – Randy Hammons
- ThunderMax Eliminator – Randy Hammons
- Energy One Dresser Class – Crosby Blair
- Baker Drive Train Street Eliminator – Donnie Huffman
- Zipper’s Performance Super Street – Brian Conely Jr
- Pro/Elim – Glenn Sutton
- Horsepower Inc Hot Street – Dave Cartwright
- Super Pro – Ricky Lynn
- Brock’s Performance Outlaw Street – Tim Grindle
- Vreeland’s HD Super Gas – Bob Drapp
- Modified – Gary Douglas
- Vreeland’s HD Top Eliminator – Ken Strauss
- Super Comp – Donnie Huffman
The Next event for the AMRA will be on June 29-30 at Bowling Green, KY for the AMRA Summer Shootout and Rally Drags, hope to see you there!
For more information visit www.amralive.com
April 27-28 / Spring Rally & Drags / Beechbend Raceway Park
May 18-19 / Orlando Nationals / Orlando Dragway
June 29-30 / Summer Shootout & Rally / Beechbend Raceway Park
July 27-28 / Michigan Nationals Race & Rally / US 131 Motorsports Park
Aug 24-25 / Liberty Nitro Nationals / Numidia Dragway
Sept 21-22 / Clay Jones Memorial Race & Rally / Beechbend Raceway Park
Oct 12-13 / Jim McClure Memorial Harley Nitro Nationals / Rockingham Dragway