HomeSanctionsAMRAAMRA: Emotional Father’s Day Wins at US 131

AMRA: Emotional Father’s Day Wins at US 131

American Motorcycle Racing Association
PennGrade1 AMRA Michigan Nitro Nationals
U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan
June 14-16, 2024

Emotional Father’s Day Wins for AMRA Harleys at US 131

Report by Tim Hailey,

Like many sports, drag racing is often passed down through generations. The father-son bond was on full display as the PennGrade1 American Motorcycle Racing Association (AMRA) Harley-Davidson motorcycle series raced on Father’s Day in the Michigan Nitro Nationals at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan on June 14-16.

Jay Turner
Jay Turner

Circle M Ranch/Dove Fuels Top Fuel

Jay “Bulldog” Turner turns into a puppy in certain circumstances, and winning Circle M Ranch/Dove Fuels Top Fuel on Father’s Day was one of them. This was the first Father’s Day since the passing of Jay’s dad, legendary Piedmont Dragway owner Jim Turner. Coupled with the recent passing of his longtime sponsor Jay Eshbach of APE Raceparts, there were sure to be tears from the tough champion and North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Famer in the U.S. 131 winner’s circle.

None of those puppylike qualities surfaced on the track, however, as Jay qualified number one with a 6.41 at 217 mph and beat teammate Tii Tharpe in the final. Tharpe almost went to the Emergency Room on Saturday with severe abdominal pains, but regrouped to qualify second on his Spevco bike.

Tii Tharpe
Tii Tharpe

Tii may still have had cramps on the mind as he gave up .052 to Turner at the tree, then watched from a growing distance as Jay thundered to the win with a 6.44 at 216.

“I feel like that’s about as good as you can run on 130 plus degree track with 3000 and some feet of air,” said Turner. “It was hot, which is our first real taste of hot this year, and we ran real good.

“Hats off to the Peterson family and the staff for the racetrack. There’s not too many places that you can even go down a racetrack when it’s this hot, and the track was good, like it was excellent. No R and D. It’s been a few years since I’ve been up here to Martin. I’m friends with the family. Glad to be here, looking forward to coming back up here again.

“I’ve been on the road for a while doing some other stuff and I was a little bit behind, so we were in catch-up mode from the time we got here. Luckily, it didn’t bite us in the ass, and it paid off. The ultimate goal is to get all bikes into the next round, and then get two bikes in the final.

“First round, we dropped a hole down track. It was single, we had a bye run, so we were just kind of pushing it to see where the edge was, and then we made the adjustments from there.

“We were a little short staffed, but we worked hard and got all three bikes (J.T. Toth being the third) in the semifinals, which was great. We had a really good effort from the whole crew. Dorothy, JT and Marianne, Rex did a great job. Dave Pellegrini, and his wife, Johna. Tii Tharpe, Spevco, Randal Andras, Bobby Buckley, Benny and Brenda—all of my people. It’s a group effort,

“Hopefully this will carry over to Bristol because, you know, Tii’s spanked my ass at Bristol on Father’s Day more times than I can count. And Bristol’s the only racetrack that we have raced at repeatedly that I’ve never won, so maybe I’ll finally break that streak too. Bristol is my Achilles heel.”

Nitro Funnybike

Sturgis, Michigan, Nitro Harley legends Mike and Jack Romine rarely struggle on the racetrack, but the Nitro Funnybike they tune for owner Phil Lower and rider Jordan Peterson has barely made it off the starting line all season. The Romines poured over the clutch time and again with the same result until one day Mike literally woke up with the solution. A deep dive into an injector found a screw that would work itself loose between the burnout box and starting line, repeatedly rendering the big bike powerless.

Jordan Peterson
Jordan Peterson

With that fixed and finally having something to ride beyond the 60 foot, Peterson qualified second behind Bad Apple Racing rider Cameron Gunter’s 6.88 at 193 mph. Those two met in the final, where both bikes slowed into the 7s. Gunter gave Peterson a serious .231 to .029 break at the starting line, and Jordan’s 7.09 carried him to the win against Cameron’s 7.21.

“This one was for Phil and Jennie,” said Peterson “After everything they went through after his crash in Norwalk, they were my motivation to win at their home track in Michigan. You won’t meet a nicer two people at the racetrack. All credit goes to them, and Romine racing.

“Once again, Mike, Jack, and Patty. They worked their fingers to the bone. There is no such thing as good enough with that group. If it’s questionable or can be improved in the smallest way, it is corrected. I can never thank them enough for all they have done for me. If you’re in the Nitro Harley game or wanting to be and you’re not associating yourself with Romine Racing, you should be.

“I was able to bring my dad out with me on this Father’s Day weekend, so that made the win that much better.”

Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel

Champion Sam White overcame a recent dry spell to win a very competitive Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel race. Norwalk winner Curt Sexton qualified number one with a sharp 7.28 at 163 mph to lead the strong 10 bike field.

“The cool part of all this is that in the past, only eight bikes qualified and had the opportunity to race on Sunday. Now all bikes that qualify (up to 16) on Saturday have an opportunity to take out a national champion,” said White, who’s been taken out often enough lately to know.

Sam White
Sam White

“On Saturday, we had one of the quickest Pro Fuel fields in years. Curt at 7.28, me at 7.33, Paul (Anderson) 7.34, and Mary (Bad Apple Dangrow) 7.35. This race was up for grabs, any team could win it.” Truth!

As it boiled down, Sexton had a problem against Anderson in the semis, and Anderson went on to face White in the final. Sam eased away with a .229 vs. Paul’s .070, but ran a winning 7.36 against Anderson’s 7.53.

“The best moment for me during this race weekend was on the return road with Jay Urban in E1. Jay ran his quickest pass this year at 7.66 and he told me it was an honor to race against me. We’re halfway through this season with our new format that all qualified bikes race on Sunday and the Pro Fuel teams have put on a great show for AMRA and the fans. We give a big shout-out to all of the Pro Fuel teams and your commitment to overcome the challenges and race!

“Paul Anderson, the last few words are for you. I know you had a lot of family and friends there, and coming in second sucks. Buddy, I know the feeling, it has happened to me at Rockingham—our home track, But, I did give you a head start at the tree….Hope I don’t do that again!

“Thank you to my sponsors Hawaya Racing Products and Johnny Vickers, Matt Coleman, Walter Halonski, new crew chief in training Lynn Rogers, Cathy Rogers (statistician), and my wife April, who runs the MaxxECU, the weather station, cooks, cleans, and most importantly wipes the tire!”

Zipper’s Performance Pro Bagger

Zipper’s Performance Pro Bagger was every bit as competitive at U.S. 131 as Pro Fuel. Indiana Bagger stud Jeremy Williamson qualified number one with a 7.97 at 174 mph and claimed the first-ever 7 second pass for a Milwaukee 8 combination.

But Williamson lost to one of his own pieces, losing in the semis to transmission wildman Bert Baker on a bike he bought from Jeremy.

Bert ran up against former NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chaz Kennedy in the final and fell behind .219 to .087 at the hit. Kennedy laid down an 8.44 to 8.87 for the win. All of these top three Baggers were turbocharged.

“I knew I had my hands full in the finals with Bert,” said Kennedy. “That bike is fast and he was flying all weekend. I treed him and around the 330 cone he passed me already, but my bike back half’s hard and I caught him just after the eighth mile before he had issues and had to lift, giving me the win.

Chaz Kennedy
Chaz Kennedy

“What a crazy weekend! I definitely didn’t expect to do anything but improve on my personal best run and leave with the bike in one piece. I have been testing at my local track every week since March and it’s finally paying off.

“I was very lucky in E1 against Shannon Poor. He caught me sleeping on the tree and I drove around him for the win by .07 margin of victory.

“I’ve got to thank my sponsors and friends that have helped me get to this point. Eric with MTC, Harley Feeley HF Machining, Chuck Kennedy, Jeremy Williamson, Jeremy Justice, Michael Beland, Todd Pearson, and Andy Leslie—thank you guys! I can’t wait for Bristol!”

Outlaw Street

Charley Douglass and his bagless turbo bike are back at full speed, qualifying number one and taking the Outlaw Street final against Kolman Gerencer. With plenty of power in hand, Douglass gave up .125 at the tree before running Gerencer down with a 7.78 at 185 for the win. That was Douglass’ best pass of the weekend and far outran Gerencer’s 8.44 at 158.

Charley Douglass
Charley Douglass

“I had a problem this weekend that I had never experienced before,” noted Douglass. “My turbo bike was accelerating so hard, I was letting out of the throttle by the 1000 foot every pass. I only had one full pass and that was in the finals, where I ran my personal best.

“I got to hang out with my dad at the race track on Fathers Day, how cool is that? I want to thank my very supportive wife Angel and my dad for everything they do for me.

“Thank you to everyone that supports Douglass Racing. Thanks to Jesse Brown for tuning on the MaxxECU. Thanks Kent Foltz of Energy One Clutches, H-D of Lynchburg, Chad Hart, Steve Allstaedt, Andy Simon Sr., The Ken Browne family, Tom Stevens, Dave Fernandez, and everyone at the track that had positive words to say.

“Thank you God for safety, wisdom, skill, and saving my soul. Got Jesus?”

Thundermax Street Bagger

Thundermax Street Bagger number one qualifier Jimmy Maikranz has recently taken up letting his teammates leave with the break, and it cost him against Dave “Paco” Cartwright in the semis—a battle of the two skinniest guys at the track. Maikranz mailed in his .777 reaction time after watching Paco post a .096. Jimmy’s 9.08 wasn’t enough to overcome Paco’s 9.75.

Cartwright didn’t exactly give Keith Evans the break in the final, but he did leave with a .272 to .089 disadvantage. His bike also smoked the tire sideways at the hit, and Evans was long gone with a 9.86 to 10.55 win.

Keith Evans
Keith Evans

“Man, what a Father’s Day weekend,” said Evans. “I wanna thank Darren Sheffer from Sheffer performance Shop for letting me pilot ‘Ole Blue’ for him. Darren is the best around when it comes to building and tuning Harley motors, and I couldn’t be more happy to be riding for him.

“We made a few tweaks to the bike after the Ohio race and man they worked out for us. We kept chopping ET off all weekend and set our personal best on top of getting our second win. Hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling on into Bristol.”

Axtell Cylinders Hot Street

Jason Crisp was the Axtell Cylinders Hot Street number one qualifier (9.17 at 142.63 mph), but came up short against Clayton Danford in the final. Crisp nailed Danford to the tree .055 to .102, but spun to a 9.29 while Clayton matched Jason’s qualifying number 9.17 for the win.

“From catching the bike on fire in Louisiana two and a half months ago to my first ever Hot Street win is damn awesome!” said Danford. “All the work has paid off! I was pumped to do it on Fathers Day at my favorite track in the country!

Clayton Danford
Clayton Danford

“I can’t thank the family that stands behind me enough: Kevin Danford, Licia Danford, Bill Harper, Dan Bennet, Talon Harper, Travis Danford, and Kim DeShields.

“I owe a lot of this win to Dan Daffner of Axtell Cylinders. The engine in the frame rails is his own. It makes some mean horsepower and he has entrusted me to put it to use.

“Thanks to Tim Daffner of Hawg Werks in Dayton for sponsorship, shop and dyno usage. Thanks to Jason Crisp of 141 Speed and Cycle all the help, dyno time, parts and advice!”

Pro Modified

A consortium of sponsors has banded together to help grow the Pro Modified class back to its former health, boosting the purse and offering free entry. They are General RV Center, Doug Jurgens State Farm, Grand Rapids H-D, Progressive Building Services, Darkside Concepts, Stehouwer Auto Sales, Zippers Performance, J&R Engineering, Dark Horse, Extreme Graffix, and Brutal Baggers.

Boosted purse? Free entry? You’d think racers would be trying to enter their lawnmowers, but the U.S. 131 event still saw only two entries.

While some potential entrants complained that Martin, Michigan, was too far north for them to travel, Billy Doherty came all the way from his Lake Charles, Louisiana H-D dealership to qualify number one (8.46 at 152) and beat Gary Douglass for the win. Gary is no fool, collecting a cool $800 (with no entry) to make one 10 second lap on Sunday.

Billy Doherty
Billy Doherty

“Gary is a great competitor, always enjoy racing him,” said Doherty. “Larry Pratt and Larry Klunder worked since last race to get sponsors for the Pro Mod class for the race. They got enough money to pay entry for racers and add $1000 for first place and $600 on top of what AMRA was paying. They are now working on paying entry fee for Pro Mod racers at the next race in Bristol.

“I cannot say any more of how great U.S. 131 prepped that track,” Doherty added, echoing the sentiments of many. “My bike was running great all weekend.”

Zippers Performance Modified

Gary Douglass rebounded for the Zippers Performance Modified win. He had some serious competition this weekend in number one qualifier (9.03) Russ Johnson. But 75 year-old Douglass (Outlaw Street winner Charley’s dad) nailed a .009 light to Johnson’s .111 in the final, and outran him 9.13 to 9.14

Gary Douglass
Gary Douglass

“Hats off to the crew at both ends of the track at 131 Raceway Park. Thank you!” said Douglass. “I ran some good times this weekend. Still not getting my 60’s down, but I’m working on it. Reaction times have greatly improved and that’s saying something for an old fella like me. Now if I can combine all the good stuff together at one time, things will get a lot better.

“Thanks to Zippers Performance for sponsoring the Mod Class. Thanks to family and friends for their continued support and encouragement. Thanks to Energy One Clutches, CP-Carrillo, LinetoLine Coatings, H-D of Lynchburg, Jerry Johnson, and Billy Mathias. Thank you Tim Hailey and Tom McCarthy.

“Just wanted to give a huge shout-out to all the sponsors of Pro Mod this weekend at 131 Raceway. Your generosity was greatly appreciated. General RV Center, Doug Jurgens State Farm, Grand Rapids H-D, Progressive Building Services, Darkside Concepts, Stehouwer Auto Sales, Zippers Performance, J&R Engineering, Dark Horse, Extreme Graffix, and Brutal Baggers. Thank You!”

Top Eliminator 9.30

Neither racer set the tree on fire in the Top Eliminator 9.30 index final, but Charlie Gerencer’s .178 was a fair piece better than Canadian Chris “Crank” Lanktree’s .226. Gerencer’s winning 9.32 also hugged the number much better than Lanktree’s 9.50.

“We had a great time at the AMRA race in Martin,” said Gerencer. “The crew at U.S, 131 is always on top of their game, and they provide a beautiful racetrack. Luckily, it’s just over an hour from home. It’s nice being able to wake up in your own bed on race day.

Charlie Gerence
Charlie Gerence

“Going into the weekend, I knew my bike was going to be quick for the 9.30 class. I had a good first run in qualifying (9.37), followed by 9.17 and 9.21. I ended the day qualifying number two out of seven.

“Going into Sunday, I knew we’d have a good chance. I made it through and ran my personal best time for the class in the final round with a 9.32. Everything went perfect and we brought home the win. It meant a lot to win on Father’s Day with my dad spinning the wrenches. He builds some badass bikes!”

Gerencer thanked his dad Lou—the bike owner and crew chief—and his sponsors Gerencer Motorsports, Re-Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern, Bellman Oil Company and Hoosier Harley-Davidson.

Super Gas 9.90

Donnie Huffman’s .216 catnap cost him in the Super Gas 9.90 final, wasting his beautiful 9.904 pass after Jeremy Wilson’s .074 allowed him to win with a 10.000. Number one qualifier Denny Nygran lost to Wilson in round 2.

Jeremy Wilson
Jeremy Wilson

“Figured someone needed to put a Bagger in the Super Gas class,” said Wilson, who added “First event with the bike in its current configuration.

“Thanks to Mike Beland at A-1, Fix Cycles, Dead End Cycles, and everyone that supports me.”

BK Electric Super Pro 10.30

The BK Electric Super Pro 10.30 final was a double redlight, with Chad Traynor going .037 and Dave Doremus .011. Dave dutifully stayed close to the index with a 10.34 while Trayner posted a 10.47. Number one qualifier Robert Mallory went massively -.306 red against Traynor in round two.

Dave Doremus
Dave Doremus

“We qualified in the top half but I couldn’t get it zeroed in,” said Doremus. “Sunday first round J.J. couldn’t make the call and from there on we had some close races. Thanks to David and Cori, our busy day went well. It was good to get a win in after the first three races.”

Pro Eliminator 10.90

Hoosier Bryce Creek took the Pro Eliminator 10.90 final in a good race with Chris Phipps. Creek took the tree by .028 and ran .034 closer to the index for the win. Number one qualifier William Grove lost to Creek in round three.

“We ended up racing Crosby Blair first round of Sunday eliminations, followed by Bill Grove and Cody Hayworth,” said Creek. “After working our way through the bracket to the finals we ended up side-by-side with our good friend and fierce competitor, Chris Phipps at Swamp Fox Racing.

Bryce Creek
Bryce Creek

“It’s a tough class with a tight field and you better be on your A game! I would like to thank my wife Athena first and foremost for putting up with me and taking care of our family, all while running and supporting a race program. A lot of time, money, and effort goes into this.

“I would like to thank my best friend Chad Trayner and the rest of the Shadetree Racing and Choppers crew for all the continued support and advice. We give each other a competitive edge and are constantly going back and forth on ideas.

“Thanks to my friend and mentor Jim Vanfleet for putting together our engine combo on Ruby and helping me dial it in the past year. Thanks to our parts suppliers and information gurus Dan Daffner at Axtell, Daytona Twin-Tec, Hammer Performance, XLXB horsepower, and Renegade Fuels. I’m sure I’m missing some folks.

“Special thanks to our sponsors: Huffman Racing and Performance, R&R Cycles, All Pro Contractors, Jimmy and April Hornback, On Blast Photography, Troy Bailey, and Chasity Bailey. We couldn’t do it without you guys! Much love!

“I can’t explain the amount of friends we’ve made racing with the American Motorcycle Racing Association. We are one big family! See you at a staging lane near you!”

Thundermax Street Eliminator 11.50

A .041 to .092 reaction time advantage set the stage for John Poett to take a double breakout Thundermax Street Eliminator 11.50 final round win against Aiden Pollworth.

John Poett
John Poett

“I think I just got lucky,” said Poett. “I’d like to thank my dad (Lil’ John Poett) for building the bike and sponsoring me. He owns East Motorcycle Parts in Indianapolis. And my girlfriend Sandra for putting up with my racing habit.”

Number one qualifier Donnie Huffman fell to Pollworth in the semis.

Eliminator Dial-in

Jim Clarke rode his big Bagger to the Eliminator Dial-in win, taking out Don White in the final. Clarke had a small .161 to .170 advantage at the tree, but that was enough to push White to a breakout 12.28 on his 12.44 dial. Clarke broke out less with a 10.85 on his 10.90.

According to Clarke, even with a local win and quarterfinal at Norwalk, he admitted to his team he was “Riding/racing like crap” and vowed to pull his “Head out of his ass and focus this weekend.”

Jim Clarke
Jim Clarke

This all came into jeopardy as the team was scrambling Sunday morning to secure the canopy in the wind and Jim headbutted the fifth wheel overhang on the trailer. Once his fog lifted it was time to focus on racing with a first round bye due to qualifying number one with a .000 perfect light. He was able to get another hit on the tree and tighten up his dial, and parlayed an average reaction time of .041 (including a .000 in round 3) through the first five rounds to advance to the final against old racing friend White.

“Don has hundreds of passes on his bike and was going to be a tough final for the two Baggers,” said Clarke. With a near dead heat on the starting line, this was going to the stripe and Jim was able to push Don through for the win.

After a few runner-ups and semifinals, Jim was able to finally shed his bridesmaid dress for his first AMRA national event win and an emotional Father’s Day one at that as tears flowed one last time in the winners circle. “Special thanks to Sean Clarke, my son/partner/friend, who without none of this is possible! Team support from Austin Hughes, Jeff Schwanke, Jesse Sweeney, Tom McCarthy Photography, AMRA, PennGrade 1 High Performance Oil, RayC’s Harley-Davidson of Lapeer, Foster Blue Water Oil, Detroit Battery Company, Line2Line Coatings, C.J.s Cycle & Marine, Jason Broski, and A&J Performance Cycle and Apparel. Barn Built Baggers Racing sponsored by Hyde Trucking and Excavating.”

Shutdown Area

The PennGrade1 AMRA series takes a short summer break before the next race August 16-18 at “Thunder Valley”—Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee. Greg and Julia Baugh, and John “JT” Toth and Marianne Miller look forward to welcoming the whole Harley-Davidson drag racing family to this beautiful track carved into the Smokie Mountains.

AMRA thanks PennGrade1 oil, Zipper’s Performance, Hawaya Racing, Axtell Cylinders, BK Electric, Johnny Mancuso’s Circle M Ranch, Dove Fuels and Thunder Max

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