Spiderman’s Man Cup Comeback Continues at The Rock

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Rockingham Dragway

Spiderman’s Man Cup Comeback Continues at The Rock

McBride Chasing Defending Event Champion Vantine in Bid for 20th Series Title

Larry “Spiderman” McBride, marvelous manipulator of the most manic motorcycle on Mother Earth, isn’t accustomed to coming from behind to win championships, but if he hopes to secure an unprecedented 20th title by season’s end, that’s exactly what he has to do.

A rare first-round loss at the opening event in the 2019 ManCup Series presented by Vance and Hines put the veteran from Newport News, Va., in a hole from which many believed he would be unable to extricate himself.





However, like his namesake, McBride doesn’t seem bound by normal human constraints and, as a result, returns to Rockingham Dragway (Oct. 26-27) with another title clearly in sight.

Although he still trails nemesis David Vantine in the Top Fuel standings, McBride’s win last month at Darlington put him back in control of his own destiny. All he has to do is keep winning.

Nevertheless, while he is riding the quickest and fastest bike in our universe, one that he wrestled through the quarter-mile in 5.677 seconds at 250.74 miles per hour last year at Bowling Green, Ky., success at The Rock isn’t a guarantee.

After winning three straight times on Rockingham’s high traction quarter-mile and lowering the track record to 5.828 seconds, McBride lost last year’s final to Vantine and, as a result, just barely hung on to win the championship by a scant four points.
Of course, a leaner, meaner “Spiderman,” down from 215 to 182 pounds thanks to a new diet and a regular gym regimen, can’t afford to focus solely on Vantine, who has finished second, third or fourth in ManCup points in each of the last six seasons.

Also expected to contest the Top Fuel title are Chris Hand of Navou, Ala., the winner of Rockingham’s spring race in 2016, veteran Sam Wills of Edmond, Okla., Mitch Brown of Clearwater, Kan., and international standout Sverre Dahl of Lorenskog, Norway, but the man who could pose the biggest problem for McBride is far more familiar to Rockingham race fans.

Tommy Grimes, who was almost unbeatable at The Rock astride the Top Fuel Harley of the late Ray Price, has been the man up on “The Beast” cycle since the bike’s creator and owner, Per Bengtsson of Klippan, Sweden, was forced to the sidelines by a mild stroke.

Four times “The Beast” has reigned as European Top Fuel Champion (1999, 2003, 2009 and 2011) and while this will be the bike’s fourth Atlantic crossing, it will be its first trip to The Rock.

While the Top Fuel bikes will attract the bulk of the attention, champions will be crowned in 12 other classes, notably Pro Fuel, Pro Street, Real Street, Pro Mod and Pro Open, the latter featuring 2017 Rock winner Niki “Niki Zak” Zakrzewski of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, fastest woman on two wheels after reaching 207.50 mph on a Pro Mod bike last November.

The Pro Fuel field also will be top-heavy with talent. In addition to point leader Preston Bartlett of St. Augustine, Fla., who is bidding for his third straight series title, the lineup will include 2016 series champ and 2018 race winner Tyler Wilson of Walnut Cove, 2015 series champ Rocky Jackson of Arnaudville, La., two-time NHRA Harley Pro Fuel champion Janette Thornley of Statesville, past Rockingham winner Sam White of Chapin, S.C., and Kirby Apathy of Deland, Fla., who two weeks ago negotiated the same Rock quarter-mile in 7.128 seconds, setting an AMRA Pro Fuel record.

The two-wheel weekend begins Friday with a seven-hour test-and-tune session beginning at 12 noon. Pro qualifying at 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday will set the fields for Sunday eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. Final rounds in all categories are tentatively slated for a 5 p.m. start.

Spectator tickets are $25 Saturday and $20 Sunday although two-and-three-day combo passes are available at a discount. Children under six are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

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