NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series
Summit Motorsports Park’s annual “Cavalcade of Stars”
Norwalk, Ohio – May 15-17, 2015
Norwalk Ohio The Summit Motorsports Park’s annual “Cavalcade of Stars” show, featuring the NHRA Harley Davidson Drag Racing Series has concluded qualifying with a slightly shortened schedule due to rain delays. Only two qualifiers were allowed in all classes and on Saturday night, what would have been Q-3 became E-1, commencing eliminations. The weather forecast for today, Sunday, May 17, 2015, is questionable, so what will be, will be, hence the need to step up the program on Saturday night.
With qualifying concluded after Q-2, Tommy Grimes driving for Ray Price Harley Davidson sat in the #1 spot with a 6.30 at 228.5mph. This earned him a by run in the opening round of eliminations.
Before E-1 commenced, Ray asked Tommy, “Do you want to go out first or last this round?” Because they were low qualifier they had the option to lead the round or be last out. Tommy replied, “The Funny Cars and dragsters were just out there before us, so we won’t get a better race track. Let’s go out first.” Ray smiled and nodded his head, he know what to do with the tune-up. He put the boots to it.
Tommy quipped after the run, “I knew it would be a good run, I just didn’t know how good. So I just drove it hard as I could. I knew it would be a good number, I didn’t expect it to be a teen. An elapsed time of 6.171 @ 224.32 was the result and the team of Ray Price Harley Davidson announced they are more than ready to take on all comers.
The next pair out was Len Darnell vs. Jason Pridemore. Darnell got out by half a bike length at the launch and stayed ahead of Jason all the way down the track, his .073 reaction time to Jason’s .179 RT was the culprit. At the stripe, Jason’s quicker 6.32 to Len Darnell’s 6.35 was not enough to overcome the starting line deficit.
Len commented after the run “That pass was about what we expected, we knew we would run a good number. Now we have a bye run into the final round.”
Jason Pridemore was very pleased at his return to racing after his last trip to a race track resulted in a crash. “I’m so very pleased and blessed we had a good outing this race. Now I’ve only had two runs on the bike since our mishap, so to come out here, qualify and run our personal best elapsed time, wow. Let me tell you, it’s been so much work, so frustrating learning what this blower bike likes and don’t like, you just wouldn’t believe how much work this thing is. But suddenly when this thing comes to life and it runs the number and starts to show us what it can do – that makes it all worth it.”
His numbers reflect exactly what Jason is implying by his statement. His 1.083 sixty foot says he’s getting a handle on the clutch and his 4.02 @ 193mph at half track indicates clearly the bike was on a low six second run and is quite capable of running the first ever five second pass by a Top Fuel Harley. Mr. Pridemore and his team of ladies have every reason to be elated even though they went out first round.
In the final pair of Top Fuel Harley’s, Chris Streeter and Joey Sternotti went at it and Joey jumped out first with a .099 RT, to Streeter’s .143 reaction to the tree. Joey was on a good run and thought he had it, then came transmission problems. “I knew we could win it, but once I felt that tranny problem come it, that was it. The motor was not happy either, after the burn out and my wife Rose looked at me like – are you sure you want to do this – and of course I went for it. My out look is, if your not ready to blow the heads off the bike, why are you out here? If you’re not ready to go for it, then don’t even take the bike out of the trailer.”
Speaking of going for it, Chris Streeter driving for DJ had his own nitro-nightmares in progress. After working till 2AM the night before attending a torched head, they managed to beat Joey 6.52 @ 212 to Joey’s 7.20 @ 148, but once again DJ’s motor suffered piston ring issues and his front cylinder was mauled by piston damage. The number two ring land on the front cylinder was hammered down almost to the wrist pin, so that was all for that combination.
Right after E-1, Chris Streeter was off to a local machine shop to make repairs and he didn’t get back to the track till close to 4AM last night. Both DJ and Chris are hoping for enough time to get the bike back together for E-2 today.
After Chris beat Joey to the finish line, he had his hands full after a 212 mph run complete with an injured motor that was spewing oil everywhere from the trashed front cylinder. It took him a bit longer than normal to stop the bike, and like Len Darnell the day before, he too ended up in the sand trap. When asked later why he was going dirt bike racing with a Harley T/F bike he replied, “I got bored with the regular runs down the track and I figured I just make things interesting.” In reality, Chris did a hell of a job driving, kept the bike upright, and didn’t panic which saved the bike and made the best of a bad situation.
In Pro Fuel round one of eliminations, David Larson took out Janette Thornley from start to finish. David’s .030 reaction time to Janette’s .206 had her behind the eight-ball right out of the gate. This coupled with his 7.51 to her 7.69 elapsed time spelled the end of Janette’s racing weekend. David commented after the round “I was not sure how my tune-up would go, but I had to go for it. She had me covered by more than a tenth in qualifying so I knew I had to step things up. Fortunately for me, it all came together and that run was my personal best ever.”
David Larson will face number one qualifier Clint Pleasant in E-2 next round. When Clint was asked about his number one qualifying pass he responded with “The 7.39 at 171.47mph was good, but frankly I was looking for better numbers, I know it’s in there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with low qualifier, but I know I can get more out of this bike.” If Clint can take out David Larson in E-2, he will meet his dad Steve Pleasant, the “Clutch Duster” in the final round. They have met in final eliminations twice now and while he’s beat his dad both times; dad could not be more proud of his son.
The low part of racing this weekend: no Pro Gas bikes showed up for the race, and only two bikes in Hot Street, three bikes in Street Pro, four bikes in Draggin’ Bagger and one lone entry came for the Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Performance class. This is certainly not in the best interests of motorcycle drag racing relative to Harley Davidson’s participation in the sport. Every corporation is very careful where they spend their advertising dollars and with low bike counts and classes with no entries, this does not bode well for the future of these classes. Racers need to step up if they want Harley Davidson to continue to put the money up.
While it’s disappointing that there were no Pro Gas bikes here at this race, the two nitromethane burning classes are huge hits with the fans. Tee shirt sales are brisk and the fans flock for autographs at every turn from the racers. Entertaining the crowd and putting on a good race that puts fans in the seats is what professional drag racing is all about: maximum performance. And when it come to maximum performance no one does it better than Jet Cars.
Round 2 Eliminations
In a bizarre E-2 for both T/F and P/F: In T/F, Tommy Grimes chose to wait for Chris Streeter after the parachute deployed on DJ’s bike just after their burn outs. Kirby Apathy gathered up the chute while Streeter staged and launched.
As soon as the bikes launched, Tommy’s rear tire went up in smoke right away and in the left lane. Streeter’s bike was faltering as well. They got into a peddle fest and Chris Streeter came out on top, 7.44 to Tommy’s 8.97 elapsed time. Tommy had the jump with a .088 RT to Streeter’s .128, but other factors determined the outcome of this match up.
Len Darnell had an uneventful 6.60 on his bye run into the final round and will race Chris Streeter.
In P/F, the outcome was just as bizarre. Low qualifier Clint Pleasant lined up against David Larson and had and uncharacteristic red light start (.033) and then his bike was faltering & dead by mid track as David Larson thundered by for the win.
Steve Pleasant, who had a bye run, had his bike die just after launch and his bike was dead on the track about 800’ out. So David Larson will face Steve Pleasant in the final round.
Top Fuel Harley
Len Darnell, Vancover, Wash., ’01 Harley, 6.366, 217.46 def.
Chris Streeter, Cleveland, Ohio, ’10 Harley, 7.024, 201.82.
Pro Fuel Harley
David Larson, Topeka, Kan., dragster, 9.011, 151.85 def.
Steve Pleasant, Peru, Ind., ’14 Falcon, broke.
Draggin Bagger Harley
David Cartwright, Evansville, Ind., ’07 Road Glide, 11.393, 120.09 def.
Ken Winsor, Alexandria, Va., ’09 Street Glide, 11.792, 114.57.
Street Pro Harley
Charley Douglass, Staunton, Va., ’92 Sportster, 9.225, 158.45 def.
Ken Miller, Waynesburg, Ohio, ’15 FXR, 9.325, 146.16.
Hot Street Harley
John Toth, Twilight, Pa., ’12 HD, 9.825, 135.91 def.
Charley Douglass, Staunton, Va., ’92 Sportster, 10.261, 130.51.
Screamin’ Eagle Performance Harley
David Dennick, Eighty Four, Pa., ’00 Harley, 10.557, 131.52 def.
William R Rowe Jr, Hellertown, Pa., ’06 Destroyer, 10.353, 119.39.
Pro Gas Harley
William R Rowe Jr, Hellentown, Pa., ’06 Destroyer, 10.107, 138.77 was unopposed.
The jet funny cars and jet dragsters booked in for the weekend by Summit Motorsports Park did a great job of entertaining the big crowed that showed up on Saturday night. As can be seen in this photo, illuminated only by the flames from Jill Fazekas the “Queen of Diamonds” jet car, there were very few empty seats to be had by spectators at this race.
Tree Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk Ohio bills itself as “America’s Race Track.” In this author’s opinion, they have every right to do so. They go out of their way to make sure fans have a great experience, their staff is both courteous and efficient, and they put on a hell of show start to finish.
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Saturday Round 2 Qualifying in the Books
Q-2 qualifying session is in the books as the skies cleared up and racing for the professional classes resumed at 4pm. There will only be two qualifying sessions as rain delays have shortened the overall program for the event. If another round of professional racing occurs tonight, it will count as round 1 of final eliminations for the various HD-DRS machines.
As round two of qualifying kicked off, Jason Pridemore was not present as mechanical complications kept him out for the round. Chris Streeter, driving for DJ was the first bike out and Chris was able to get the bike down the track for DJ, but it’s clear they will be looking to improve come eliminations when they face Joey Sternotti.
Tommy Grimes driving for Ray Price Harley Davidson, is a happy guy, he improved to a 6.30 @ 223.58mph to lock down the number one qualifying position. Tommy will have a bye run in the first round.
Len Darnell had a fine pass on his number two qualifying attempt after hitting the sand trap last night. He will face Jason Pridemore in round one of eliminations.
In Pro Fuel, during the Q-2 here at Norwalk, Janette was paired with Dennis Fisher to complete the rained out finals of P/F from Virginia. Dennis trounced Janette with an excellent 7.394 @ 172.76mph to her troubled 8.09 pass. She broke traction early in the run and had a hand full for a bit, but she muscled the bike back into the groove and finished the run. Dennis looked like he was headed for low qualifier for a bit but that evaporated on the next pass.
Clint Pleasant got everyone’s attention in the last pair out as Clint laid down a 7.390 to steal Fisher’s thunder from down under. Steve Pleasant had a troubled run during Q-2, but should be ready for eliminations. Clint Pleasant has the bye run, Janette Thornley faces David Larson, and Dennis Fisher will face Steve Pleasant.
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Friday Night Qualifying
Racing today was delayed by rain showers till the afternoon when racing finally kicked off uninterrupted by Mother Nature for the remainder of the race day on Friday, May 15, 2015. Professional Q-1 was moved up to avoid any weather related complications to around 8PM, EST.
In Top Fuel Harley, Jason Pridemore of Ohio, was first out with a solo pass, his first since his crash last year. Jason did a test shot, just to check the bike out and as he pre determined, shut the bike off about 330’ out. “It felt fat and lazy, but that was the tune up I had in it” he quipped in a post run interview. “The good news is it felt good and all worked properly, so will take it up a notch for tomorrow.”
Joey Sternotti and Chris Streeter, driving for DJ, were the next pair out. Joey had a good launch in the right lane, while DJ’s bike pushed a head gasket out on the front cylinder about 80 feet out of the hole. The head suffered quite a torching where head gasket evaporated.
Tommy Grimes driving for Ray Price Harley Davidson was number one qualifier today in Q-1 with a 6.35 elapsed time at 228 MPH.
Len Darnell driving for Damian Cownden was on a good lap with a 6.43 @ 224mph till he ran out of race track. The bike went into the sand trap but only at low speed. No significant damage was done to the bike and Damian stated, “The bike and driver are fine, we’ll be ready for Q-2 tomorrow no problem.
Dennis Fisher who now owns Dale Nilles former championship Pro Fuel bike took the number one qualifier spot from Janette Thornley with his 7.46 @ 170.17mph run. Dale, who is here tuning the bike for Dennis commented, “We set it a little soft to establish a base line. You’ll see an improved number tomorrow.”
Ken Winsor in Draggin Bagger racing is looking good here in Friday evening action.
Aaron Goble of Indiana, a racer and race fan, worked a full day today, then drove four hours just to get a wiff of Harley Davidson nitro burning bike. He’s seen here with his daughter, who’s now attended her first drag race.
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Thursday Activity: Norwalk Cavalcade of Stars
Thursday of the NHRA Divisional race at Norwalk, Ohio, which Norwalk Motorsports Park refers to as their annual Cavalcade of Stars on May, 14th, 2014 is move in day and a chance for racers to get through Tech before the lines get crazy. The early set ups by teams make for easy entry into the race weekend and of course the racers in first get the prime parking spots. Hard work and proper preparation pays off for all parties.
There were no test passes made today as the Summit Motorsports Park team was in full swing scraping the track and adding touch up paint to where ever needed it. They know the stands will be packed on the weekend.
The Pits were open and Tech began at 7AM as promised. Some 12 hours later, I can now see the Tech line thinning out. This element of the pre-race will repeat again starting at 7AM Friday. With hundreds of cars expected in for the show, Tech is one busy place.
But today was a rewarding day for racers as for the third year in a row, there was a Racer Appreciation dinner served up buffet style, courtesy of KB Trailer Sales and Vintage Trailer Sales. There were burgers, franks and bench racing for about 100 of the faithful here at Norwalk.
Bryan Keller, of KB Trailer Sales, is an NHRA Top Dragster racer and Troy Stone, who races in NHRA Super Comp, enjoy hosting this pre-race feast each year. “It’s the beginning of the season , so it will be fun to hear what the other racers have done to their machines over the past winter” mentioned Bryan Keller.
The 9th Annual Mickey Mart Rewards, Cavalcade of Stars begins racing at 10AM Friday morning. The actual pre race ceremony begins at 6PM, EST with the first round of professional qualifying set to begin at 8PM.
(L) John Toth of Charlerio, PA, who races in H/St, and Greg Baugh of Hopwood, PA, who races in St/Pro took advantage of early Tech day today to begin their race preparations.
Damian Cowden Racing is ready for fire up. The bike is both immaculate and beautiful.
Jason Pridemore’s motorcycle makes a statement, even when it’s quiet.
Don Johnson, AKA the Nitro Santa is ready to rock with Chris Streeter in the house to drive the bike this race and Kirby Apathy assisting with the wrenching.
Jason Pridemore’s “Gunslinger” is cocked and loaded. This bike has a LOT of supercharged potential.
The KB Trailer Sales and Vintage Trailer Sales racer appreciation feast was well attended and very appreciated.
The Vintage Trailers rig is decked out to the max and their racing gear is just as sharp.
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