They say “March comes in like a Lion,” perhaps this I true relative to our sport. A lot happened in motorcycle drag racing this weekend, so I believe a quick news review is in order for the fans and racers.
The 46th running of the NHRA Gator Nationals took place in Gainesville, Florida, courtesy in part by sponsor Amalie Motor Oil, featuring the class of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle (P/S M). 23 bikes entered the race for sixteen spots on the ladder to race on Sunday, March 15, 2015. The number one qualifier was Matt Smith (MSR Racing) with a 6.867 @ 194 mph. The MSR team of Matt Smith and his wife Angie debuted into competition their new Victory styled Pro Stock bikes and to take the #1 qualifier spot first race out speaks well for the team.
Hot on the heels of Matt was Angelle Sampey, with a 6.872 @ 194mph. Angelle is racing once again for Star Racing this season and the team is out to contend for another NHRA P/S motorcycle championship. But at the moment, the team, despite the fact that they are the most popular and visible team in the class, is without major sponsorship. Team owner George Bryce has stated, “We are giving this our best shot, but we only have funding for the first three races of the NHRA P/S motorcycle season. If we cannot secure proper funding to race this season, we will park the bike after the NHRA Southern Nationals.”
The winner of the NHRA Gators, was Karen Stoffer who defeated, three time NHRA P/S motorcycle champion Eddie Krawiec. In the final round of racing, Eddie had a better reaction time (.053 vs. .069) and had the race in the bag till almost half-track. Something went wrong with the Vance & Hines – Harley Davidson sponsored bike by half-track causing Eddie to kill the run and Karen went on to win her second career NHRA Gator Nationals event. This was her seventh NHRA national event win.
Karen was quoted in a post race interview “We don’t have a big budget, but we have a lot of heart. The team worked till midnight every night to give us a good race bike for Sunday.” Karen has been racing in the class since 1996 and achieved her first NHRA national event win in Houston in 2004.
The next race up for the NHRA Pro Stock bikes will be the NHRA Four Wide Nationals, in Charlotte, N.C. on March 27-29. There are ten races prior to the NHRA Count Down to the Championship. Six races will remain for teams that contend for the NHRA crown. Things are getting interesting in NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle drag racing this season. Andrew Hines won it all for VHR last year but right now, it’s anyone’s ball game.
This past weekend also had a major event in Nitro Harley Top Fuel racing. The IHRA “Nitro Jam” series of drag racing entrainment took to the track at State Capitol Dragway in Port Allen, Louisiana for the Mardi Gras Nationals. Eight nitro Harley’s lead by Jay “Bull Dog” Turner of Julian, N.C. qualified for the event. Jay’s 6.47 @ 209 was top dog, followed by Alvin Kobernusz who posted a 6.77 elapsed time. Tracy Kile 6.97, Brian Jernigan 7.01, Jim Fagan 7.09, Rocky Jackson 7.42, hometown favorite Randal Andras 7.75 and Rickey House at 7.84 rounded out the eight racers putting on the show for the low country fans.
On race day, Tracy Kile, of Asheville, N.C. defeated Rocky Jackson, Alvin Kobernusz and Brian Jernigan on his way to win his first IHRA Iron Man of the 2015 season. Tracy commented in a post race interview “We race every race to win, it’s going to be another tough year of racing in the IHRA ranks.” Tracy also had a big thank you for his crew “I’d like to thank Lamar Ard and Frank Capone for their hard work this weekend.” Capone, an accomplished racer from Boston Massachusetts, is new to the Nitro Harley Top Fuel ranks and will be racing Tracy’s “Bad Apple Racing” machine in the coming Manufacturers Cup race.
On the last pass of the IHRA Mardi Gras Nationals event, when Tracy Kile and Brian Jernigan crossed the finish line 6.56 @ 205 to 6.96 @ 210, Brian Jernigan incurred a mishap during shut down and came off his bike at high speed. Brian was transported to the local hospital and his injuries are reported to be non-life threatening.
Jay Turner, who was low qualifier at the Mardi Gras Nationals, won the first race of the IHRA Nitro Jam season just a few weeks ago and this racing series is off to a great start. The fans still run to the fences whenever the Nitro Harley’s fire up. IHRA President Scott Gardner mentioned to me in a preseason interview, “Of course we’re having the Nitro Harley’s with us in 2015. The fans can’t get enough of these guys, they storm the fences every time.” He’s right about that. With 200mph charges down the quarter mile every pass on just the rear tire, front tire dangling in the air, flames belching from the pipes – what’s not to like?
In more recent Nitro News: Greg Pollard has sold the Pollard Nitrosports Top Fuel bike to Dave Vantine who now owns the machine outright. This is the great machine that while match racing with his Top Fuel bike mentor, Larry McBride, recorded the sports first ever side-by-side five-second elapsed time runs on Sunday July 27th, 2014. They were doing exhibition passes during the MIROCK WPGC Bike Fest race at MIR in Budds Creek, MD. Larry stopped the timing clocks with a fine 5.791 elapsed time with Dave Vantine right on his tail with a 5.974. Expect big things from Vantine Racing in 2015.
Rumor has it: Larry McBride posted a photo recently on social media showing his latest Top Fuel motorcycle creation is now in full primer. There is little doubt the bike is headed for final paint in the not too distant future.
The Top Fuel motorcycle creation of John Alwine also was started this past weekend and rumor has the Alwine’s and Korry Hogan are searching for date to go testing.
The first race of the season is 22 days away: coincidence?
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