AHDRA Gainesville Spectacular Finishes Off 2020
When Bill Rowe purchased the assets of the inert AHDRA All-American motorcycle drag racing series late in 2019, the challenges before him and his family staff were daunting enough. But when 2020 came along and the event landscape went haywire, Rowe put his head down and completed a schedule for AHDRA racers at some of the best tracks in the world—finishing the season at legendary Gainesville Raceway on November 6-8.
Raceday started off with a rousing, live National Anthem by Rebecca Daniels and was topped off Monday’s true, classic racing banquet with great food and drinks in a suitably classy atmosphere. Champions get gold cards, jackets, great framed Moto-Lenz montages, and of course—#1 plates.
Pro Dragster and Pro Fuel/Nitro Funnybike
Few people were happier in the Gainesville Raceway winners circle than veteran racer Sam White. That’s because Sam had a lotta plaques to hold—for Pro Dragster wins from both Orlando and Gainesville, Gainesville number one qualifier, and Gainesville Pro Fuel/Nitro Funnybike winner.
The Pro Dragster class opted to run their Orlando eliminations during Saturday qualifying, and White—riding the iconic, yellow, former Johnny Vickers Hawaya Racing bike—took that win over Jim Martin.
Second verse, same as the first as the Saturday result repeated on Sunday. Martin took the tree by .030 this time but that yellow bike always seems to find a way to win. White’s 7.34 at 171 drove around Martin’s 7.39 at 166.
Florida’s own Preston “President” Bartlett won his fourth Pro Dragster championship across multiple series. “I’m very humbled,” said Bartlett. “Still trying to wrap my head around this. Thanks to all our sponsors who make this happen.”
White also won Pro Fuel when champion Rocky Jackson no-showed for the final. Jackson detonated his motor spectacularly in qualifying and was finished in the class for the weekend..
Rich Vreeland bookended this first AHDRA season, winning Top Fuel in the Cordova opener and then again at the finals in Gainesville.
Vreeland wasn’t so confident heading into the Gainesville final, and was openly saying he’d feel bad being champion if he only had the one win. And with Bob “Opie” Malloy as his opponent, Vreeland had every reason to contemplate that outcome.
Numidia winner and NHRA Top Fuel Harley record-holder Malloy qualified number one in Orlando and again in Gainesville—this time with a 6.31 that left quite a gap between him and the rest of the field.
Malloy advanced to the final when Robert “Ziggy” Stewart couldn’t get started in the semi, then Malloy ran a very off-performance solo pass that—as it turned out—damaged a piston that left him wounded for the final with Vreeland. “I knew something wasn’t right but a lot of times it still runs fine,” said Bob, who wasn’t under power for 60 feet against Rich, who ran his usual, consistent pass—a 6.73 at 206 miles per hour—for the win.
“I just what to thank my girlfriend and my team for giving me a consistent bike all year, and especially this weekend,” said Vreeland. “I also want to thank Advanced Sleeve and Worldwide Bearings.
“I am humbled to have my name added to the list of AHDRA Top Fuel champions like Ray Price, Jim McClure, Jay Turner, Tommy Grimes.”
T-Man Performance Pro Mod
John Price swept all the T-Man Performance Pro Mod honors at Gainesville—qualifying number one, winning the race, and netting the championship. Runner-up Loreto Presce gave a game effort, taking the tree by a whopping .076. Price’s 8.65 at 150.68 mph was enough to drive around Presce’s 8.82.
Zippers Performance Modified
Jeff Workman polished off a great year, winning Zippers Performance Modified and the championship. Like Presce in Pro Mod, runner-up Gary DeGrange (also the number one qualifier) took the tree (.140 to .169) but slowed to an 11.03 while Workman worked it on by with a 9.55 at 135.
“It was a battle, a repeat of Numidia,” said Workman. “DeGrange was running the same numbers with me, (we were both) battling a strong headwind.
“To win the Modified championship is the highlight of my career. I’ve been chasing it for ten years with most of the same racers, been runner-up several times, but finally got it done. Special thanks to Powermist racing fuel and Harley-Davidson of Bowling Green. They kept me running strong and fast.”
GMS Racing Engines Extreme Gas and Outlaw Street
To his motto be true, Mike Motto again won two—GMS Racing Engines Extreme Gas and Outlaw Street. The no-bar FuelTech racer doubled up at Numidia and Atlanta, qualified number one in both classes at Orlando, and did it all again in Gainesville.
Motto beat Rylan Mason in Outlaw and Andie Rawlings (riding Donnie Huffman’s Buell) in X Gas. Motto took the X Gas championship while Mason won the Outlaw season title.
“It’s been a crazy year in the drag race world with all this COVID crap going on,” said Motto. “I think that we are all grateful to Bill Rowe and his newly resurrected AHDRA to give us all a place race our machines! There’s a great saying: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ This is a great ‘Motto’ to live by!
“Winning a championship in Extreme Gas and a runner-up Outlaw Street championship in the same year is something I never expected, but am grateful for. We have had a tough few years prior to this year but we pushed harder and harder and every time we failed it made us stronger! I have a strong will to persist and quitting is just not in my DNA.
“We were number qualifier at every event we entered, set multiple AHDRA records and won every race! This was a result of a lot of testing and a lot of hard work. Being a part of the GMS Racing Team has made these results possible. My friends Gregg Dahl, Damon Kuskie and the rest of the team at GMS were relentless in helping me to achieve this extraordinary racing year!
“We have now dipped into the 7 second quarter mile at speeds of 170+ mph. GMS Racing Engines and their superior tuning program have just begun! GMS has developed and produced the new ‘War Head’ program and these heads are in full production and for sale by GMS to race teams looking for an advantage in the 2021 race season.
“We believe that we will break the into the low 7 to high 6 second range next year, and Gregg and Damon will not rest until we meet the challenge. I’m excited to see what we can do with these beasts next year!
“I cannot say enough about GMS Racing and the support and friendship that they extended to me. Thank you GMS, Energy One clutches, FuelTech, MTC Engineering, Renegade Fuels, R&D Transmissions, AHDRA, Moto Lenz Photos, and my entire race family and friends.
“I would especially like to thank my beautiful wife, who travels to every race with me. She assists me with set-up, tuning, and maintenance between every round, always keeps my head straight, and most of all tolerates my insatiable need for speed! This would not be possible without her! I love that woman! See you all at the races!”
Horsepower Inc. Hot Street and Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.70 Super Gas
Scott Schenkel also won two at Gainesville—Horsepower Inc. Hot Street and Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.70 Super Gas.
Schenkel won the Hot Street championship, too. Scott and his V-Rod took the Super Gas win when runner-up Vance Houdyshell redlit by -.073. John Schotts scored the 9.70 championship.
“Of course, thanks to Bill Rowe and AHDRA for giving us a season when things looked grim with this pandemic,” said Schenkel. “It was a great season and to get two wins in 9.70 Vreelands Super Gas is awesome. Second place in points is great, this year was the most effort I put in since I started racing and it paid off. Anytime to win one of these races is a great accomplishment because the competition is super tough.
“The Hot Street win was my first of season—the rest of them I was runner-up. The win was bittersweet to finish the season with and take the championship.
“Chad Hart, owner/operator of xlxbhorsepower, comes through making this little 76 incher fly. He’s the go-to shop for making these XL-base platforms make power. Do need to thank Cliff Lick Jr. Trucking and Salvage for partnering up and helping me get to these last few races. Being so far from Pennsylvania, they came through in a big way with travel costs for the southern swing.
“Next season it’s not gonna come easy. I’m sure many of the veteran players will be back out in force and we are all gonna be super competitive, but until then I’m gonna enjoy my limelight.”
“It’s been a stressful year for my brother Jimmy and I,” said 9.70 champ Schotts. “I’ve been drag racing motorcycles off and on my whole life and I never got a championship, and at my age (62) it was one of the things on my bucket list. We put 8000 miles on the motorhome this year going to AHDRA races and it paid off. So when I think about this championship, all I really can say is that dreams really do come true.”
Pro Eliminator 10.90 and Big Money $5000 Eliminator Shootout
Justin Collier was yet another double winner, taking Pro Eliminator 10.90 and—more importantly—the Big Money $5000 Eliminator Shootout on Saturday night. Chris Robbie’s light would have been very competitive to Collier’s in the .400 reaction time era, but in this era it was .340 behind. That made him a nearly instant runner-up. Collier celebrated with a monster burnout.
Paul Watson was the 10.90 runner-up. Natural-born promoter Watson is quick with his social media posts but wasn’t so quick at the tree against Collier, with a .122 vs. Justin’s sharp .016. That pretty much tells you all you need to know.
Collier drove to Gainesville early Saturday morning after deciding to race as late as 3:00 on Friday. “I had to use a borrowed bike, as my personal bike broke the motor bad in Atlanta a few weekends ago,” said Justin. “My plan for the entire weekend was to not worry about anyone in the other lane. Each and every pass I raced myself. It was up to the opponent in the other lane to beat me.
“Saturday in the Shootout, the bike was dead-on. The 60-foot times moved .008 between five passes. That allowed me to just go do my job.
“Sunday morning my wife Kristin drove up. I hadn’t felt any pressure all weekend till first round in 10.90. I thought to myself ‘Oh crap. The wife drove up, I sure as hell better not lose!’ Luckily again, the bike and me where able to do our job better than the rest of the field and land in the winners circle!
“Huge ‘Thank You’ To Gil and Debra for loaning me the bike. Giant Thanks to Bill Rowe and the entire AHDRA staff for sticking it out this tough year and making sure we all had somewhere to race!”
Brad Reiss Jr. snagged 10.90 number one qualifier and the championship.
Crete’s Performance Street Eliminator and Sunday Eliminator
There’s a very good chance that Kevin Winters would have doubled up—again. Winters won Crete’s Performance Street Eliminator and was in Sunday’s Eliminator final against Darrell Smith when one rain shower too many ended the event one final short of completion.
Charlie Walker finished up the season with the unfortunate distinction of Runner-Up King. Walker redlit by -.009 against Winters in the 11:50 final. Kevin also won the 11:50 and Eliminator championships.
“I raced at Gainesville in ‘06, ‘07, ’08 and ‘12, was never able to get a win,” said Winters. “I finally did it this weekend. Atlanta was the same way.
“What can I say about this season, it was a lot of fun! I only ran five out of the seven races, had ET locked up going into Gainesville, and had to go one round for 11.50. I was just happy to be racing this year with the pandemic and all. I want to thank Energy One clutches—best clutches in the business!”
Mad Monkey Motorsports Draggin’ Bagger
Numidia Mad Monkey Motorsports Draggin’ Bagger winner Branon White qualified number one in Atlanta, then did it again at Orlando, and one last time in Gainesville. Add all that up and more and it spelled “Championship” before Gainesville eliminations even started.
White redlit and let the Gainesville final slip away to teammate Travis Groff. “This weekend was challenging to say the least,” said Groff. “We struggled in qualifying with the hurricane coming in and the air constantly changing, and 20 mph headwinds. But, what we did not struggle with was determination to figure it out and keep our number two position in the race for the points.
“We honestly hoped we would end up in the finals with my teammate and mentor Branon, but we could not bet on it. We for sure were not going to bet I would win against him!
“Branon is one hell of a racer and friend, but when it comes to the win, it’s business. Bottom line, we knew we would have to be more focused than ever to beat him. All in all, we did it and we put on one hell of a show doing it. I also made a personal best pass at 10.06 at 130 mph.
“There’s going to be ups and downs. Not everyday is going to be a win. But we worked our butts off since May and we made second place in points for the 2020 AHDRA season, won the World Finals in Gainesville, and lastly, Rookie of the Year. Needless to say, this weekend was an emotionally and physically challenging weekend, but I would not trade it for a second!
“I’ve gotta thank Branon and Mad Monkey Motorsports, Robert Snipes with Snipes Machine, John MaGee with Bandit Machine Works, Rick Byrun with Raptor Performance, and Rodney and Melissa Shrum at Revolution Performance. Lastly, my wife and best friend Suzanne Groff for helping me live out my dream. Without these folks, we could not do this.”
White also had some ‘Thanks’ to dish out. “I’d like to give a special thanks to Andy Simon for his input and advice during the 2020 season,” said Branon. “We struggled more in 2019 than any other season in my life. It seemed nothing was ever just right—constant engine failures, electrical gremlins, and anything you could think of happened. It was time for a change with our engine program.
“Andy and I have raced in the AHDRA for over 20 years together and I’m no stranger to his accomplishments. After many talks and time with the engine, Andy found the issues and It has been smooth sailing since then. Now if I can just do my job!”
White also thanked RC Components, Sprocket Specialists, Backyardbaggers, Fox Suspension, Barnett Tool, Vanson Leathers, Competition Cams, C&S Machine Works, Raptor Performance, RW Mason Roofing, Lumbee Racing, Second Shift Cycles, Law Tigers, Sunoco Fuel, Worldwide Bearings, and friends and family.
Greg Quinn nailed down the Extreme Bagger win and championship on his ProCharged, former Tii Tharpe bike, then waxed poetic about the experience.
“The racing world conforms unity, to see different nationalities come together and be like family,” said Quinn. “There is differences in many lives. Humbleness, passion and offerings without expecting to receive is abundant within the racing world. To hold the title ‘World Champion’ is a revelation to shoot for the moon and never give up on your dreams! Never think it makes you better than anyone but be humble and know it was part of God’s plan! Thanks to all whom help me on this journey! If you are reading this message, hope to see you in the stands in the near future.”
Super Pro 10.30 Index
Vance Houdyshell took the Super Pro 10.30 Index win, all but sealed when runner-up Tom Krava ceded .045 to Houdyshell at the tree. Vance need only measure his approach to the stripe at that point. But Krava—the number one qualifier—won the championship battle.
“The AHDRA Gainesville finals was a joyous success for me,” said Houdyshell. “Gainesville is like a homecoming three-fold due to that I’m a Gator Grad, NHRA Division 2 racer, and that it was an AHDRA event. Winning 10.30 and taking second in 9.7 was a victorious homecoming. Go Gators!”
“Thank you to all that made it happen!” said champion Krava. “I’m just thrilled about the whole thing. I’m so happy that Bill Rowe got the AHDRA going again! Looking forward to next season too, I’m going to do it again! You know I had to do better than I did at Cordova!” Krava qualified number one there and got knocked out early.
Donnie Huffman and his clockwork Livewire were two for two in Trophy races, beating Manny “Flyin’ Taco” Carrasquillo in one and Jeremy Cullen in the other. Cullen gas a bigly .156 advantage at the tree but broke out anyway.
Shutdown Area and Return Road
The hardest working, All-American motorcycle drag racing organization in the business never lets up and is nailing down the schedule for 2021.
Currently the series is slated for April 16-18 at Atlanta Dragway, May 21-23 at Rockingham Dragway, August 8-10 at Sturgis Dragway, October 1-3 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, November 5-7 Gainesville Raceway followed by the banquet in Gainesville at the Gateway Grand Hotel and Conference Center. More to announce soon!
AHDRA’s Bill Rowe, his family and crew thank all the racers and sponsors for making this first season back on track a successful one. They wish everyone a great off-season and look forward to welcoming all the racers and fans back for an even better 2021.
Story and photos by Tim Hailey