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AHDRA Opens Season at Soon-to-Close Atlanta Dragway

The AHDRA All-American motorcycle drag racing series gave Atlanta Dragway a flaming, thundering, nitro Harley send-off, as the AHDRA opened its 2021 campaign at the soon-to-be-razed Commerce, Georgia speed facility on April 17-18,

TKR & Associates Top Fuel

The biggest thunder in Georgia was brewed up by the big nitro V-Twins of TKR & Associates Top Fuel. Ryan Peery’s quickness nailed down number one Top Fuel qualifier on Saturday, and remarkable consistency carried him all the way to the final on Sunday. “We were the quickest on qualifying day, which paid off and gave us a bye run in the first round, and we needed it,” said Peery, who didn’t really. His 6.55 was third quickest of the round.

Jay Turner’s path to the final included low ET (6.412) and high MPH (224.28), but The Bulldog chewed up a cam in the semi and couldn’t make the final against Peery—guaranteeing Ryan the win.

“We weren’t the quickest on elimination day but we ran consistent, and consistent passes will win races,” said Peery. “We also had a little luck too, and that trumps everything. When you gotta run The Bulldog, let alone in the finals, you need some luck as he’s tough. And then we heard he broke a cam at the end of the round before and that ended up giving us the win. Not the way I want to win as I prefer to run side-by-side.”

So Peery had the opportunity to ease up or go for broke in the final, and broke is what happened. “We still wanted to put on a good show for the fans so we left a good tune-up in it, but unfortunately we ended up torching the front head (at about half track) on our finals pass.

“All in all it was a great weekend. The last TFH race at Atlanta became my first ever TFH win. Thanks to Midwest Construction, P&C Johnson Trucking, everyone at Jay Turner Racing, and nitro Harley’s biggest fan—Maddy!”

Peery’s consistency is generally exhibited by Rich Vreeland, and is what carried the Pennsylvania Harley-Davidson dealer to last year’s championship. But Vreeland had problems in Atlanta.

“We struggled with the fuel system all day Saturday but did manage to qualify eighth out of thirteen,” said Rich. “Sunday we overpowered the track and spun the tire. We didn’t have the results we wanted, but the team worked together and overcame a bunch of issues. The weather was great and we got to hang out with friends we hadn’t seen in a year—God is good!”

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Ryan Peery

Other semifinalists were Tracy Kile and Robert “Ziggy” Stewart. Kile had his Bad Apple Racing bike on kill, and nailed a killer .018 light on Turner. But that wasn’t enough to keep Jay’s 6.41 from taking the stripe.

Ziggy was going rounds, beating Frank Capone in E1, getting a bye when “Doctor” Jim McMillan’s bike shut off after the burnout, and then falling to Peery.

Two-time NHRA champ Tii Tharpe’s Samson Exhaust bike dropped a hole at the hit in E1, Michael Beland had the light with a .009 but not the bike in an E1 loss to Kile, and Tim Kerrigan fell short against Turner in E1.

Atlanta saw the long-awaited return of Mark Conner to the seat of a Top Fuel Harley—in this case, Red Rhea’s bike that Mitch Brown rides at NHRA races. The bike has had its struggles, and Conner has the knowledge to help straighten things out. As Rhea said, “This is the first time I ever had someone riding for me that knows as much about my bike as I do.”

Even with over six years away from riding, Conner brought all of his seat experience to bear when the bike’s right axle adjuster broke in round one against McMillin. After an .028 light, Conner fought the bike away from the centerline and mostly stayed in it until the last 320 feet. Let’s hope we see Mark at lots more AHDRA races this year.

Hawaya Racing Nitro Funnybike

Rhea’s other bike experienced better luck, taking the Hawaya Racing Nitro Funnybike win with brand new rider Mike Baulch aboard.

Number one qualifier Armon Furr “Just got beat,” according to Furr, when he met Baulch in the final.

“It was absolutely perfect,” Baulch said about his first win. “I just kept the throttle open and stayed in it. The tune-up Red put together gave me the ability to look good with a poor (.256) reaction time. That win belongs to Red.

“I could not have scripted a better weekend. Honestly, I’m blown away that I won this event. I’m a nitro fan before I am a racer, I’ve looked up to the Furrs, Tii, Jay Turner, Bob Spina, Larry McBride, and Jason Pridemore for years. I’m just blessed to be in the position to race with these people.”

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Mike Baulch

Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel

Preston “President” Bartlett started his Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel championship defense with a win in a stout seven bike field for the carbureted nitro class, but his name wasn’t at the top of the charts until the final round win.

Kirby Apathy qualified number one with a 7.32, but “Experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure in the semis” against Bartlett, who beat champion Rocky Jackson in round 1.

Preston faced steady Jim Martin in the final, where Martin’s back tire kicked towards the wall at about 150 feet. Jim was forced to back out and Preston—already with a .120 advantage at the tree—ran his best of the weekend (7.391) for the win.

“It was a tough weekend,” reported Bartlett. “We hurt the motor during the third qualifier, so we scrambled till 2:00 in the morning, then stopped ‘cause everybody was tired. We finished up in the morning, then went one round at a time.

“I’d like to thank Bookie Rigsby for all the help he gave Walter (Halonski) and I.”

Preston Bartlett

GMS Racing Pro Open

Last year’s Extreme Gas and Outlaw Street are now GMS Racing Pro Open. Mike Motto won both of those last year and started this one off with a win in the new class.

But before Sunday’s win came perhaps Motto’s biggest win of the weekend—a match with Richard Gadson, who was on hand to make laps on Mike Beland’s turbocharged Meth Beth bagger. Make no mistake about it—both combinations were aiming to put 7s on the board.

“We rolled the bike off the trailer with some new changes for this year,” said Motto. “We needed some runs to test so we got down to business. We were not sure what the bike would run with the new changes, but we were hoping for 7.60s at 175-180 mph. The bike ran great but fell a little short of the numbers we expected.”

Then came the race with Gadson—a huge rivalry between Mottos’ builder GMS and Beland’s A1. “It was a great race!” said Motto.

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Gadson was on hand specifically to try for a 7 second pass on the Beland bagger, and the “race” happened in round 2 of qualifying. “It was a race?” Gadson asked later.

“There were people side-betting on the sidelines everywhere,” remembered Motto. “A lot of people bouncing around and pointing when we pulled up to stage. I assume they were betting, but I was in my zone so no telling what else was going on around me!”

Motto left like it was a race, with an .070, while Gadson left like he was focusing on laying down a perfect pass, with a .173. After that it was all turbo pumping and nitrous spraying (or would be…turns out Motto’s solenoid was broke) to the stripe.  “I beat him with an 8.12 to his 8.18 in a very close race!” said Motto, who noted that his bike ran 7.92 at 169 last year.

“He treed me and beat the snot out of me, that’s for sure” agreed Gadson. “A good old ass-kicking.”

“I’m pretty excited to be able to line up next to a legend like Gadson and pull off a win,” said Motto. “GMS power, baby!”

Mike Motto

That “Grudge” win held up for number one qualifier for Motto, who went on to handily beat Kevin Campbell for the win in the final. Without the kind of conditions for a 7, Gadson was already well on the road to Pennsylvania to work on the nitrous Suzuki GS Pro Street bike he rides for Brad Mummert when eliminations began in Atlanta.

“When you’re running with the best team in Harley drag racing, anything is possible!” said Motto.  “Thank you Gregg Dahl, Damon Kuskie, Steve Rominski, and the entire GMS Racing staff for all your help and support!

“We will get back to testing in the next couple weeks so that we can meet our goals. Stay tuned because we have some new things happening at GMS Racing that are going to set the Harley no-bar racing world on fire!

“Special thanks to my wife Jennifer, who is always by my side and assists with the tuning; my brother-in-law Chris Hoppe for all his help in the staging lanes; our entire race family; Bill Rowe and the AHDRA for giving us a great place to race; and our go-fast helpers—Fuel Tech systems, Energy 1 clutches, R&D Racing Transmissions, and Renegade Fuels. These companies supply the products that help our machines fly! See you at the races!”

Zippers Performance Pro Modified

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Shane Pendergrast swept Zippers Performance Pro Modified, qualifying number one, setting low ET (8.546) and high MPH (158.99) and winning the final against George Futch III.

“Just thank the AHDRA for a good event and my sponsors Hotshotz, SA Racing, and Pope’s Automotive.” Pendergrast also thanked this author “For taking the time to write something for us.”

Pingel Modified

Jeff Workman is another defending champion who opened the season with a win—in this case, Pingel Modified.

Workman had to beat number one qualifier Gary Douglass in the final, and it took low ET (9.376) to do the job after Douglass halved Workman’s reaction time (.046 to .092).

“It was some very close racing all weekend long,” said Jeff. “I know it would be a very difficult task to keep my belt, but I pulled it off!

“I’d like to thank AHDRA and Bill Rowe for a great event, Atlanta Dragway for hosting it, POWERMIST racing fuel, REBEL GEARS, DBR fabrication, family and friends for helping me along the way. Fantastic weekend of racing.”

Horsepower Inc. Hot Street

Gary Douglass may have lost the Pingel Modified final, but his son Charley sealed the deal in Horsepower Inc. Hot Street. Charley’s .030 light set the stage for the 9.68 to 9.87 win over number one qualifier, and defending champion, Scott Shenckel.

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“Felt good to get back to the track,” said Charley. “We only went to four races last year and one of those got rained out, so I was beyond rusty as a rider. I didn’t even get to blast down the road before loading the trailer.

“First round of qualifying was my first time riding this year. It was ugly for sure. We have to foot shift these bikes in Horsepower Inc. Hot Street, and I didn’t get a clean pass in qualifying.

“Sunday during eliminations I felt much more at one with my bike. I won the semifinal with a 9.84 and went on to win the finals with a 9.680.

“I traveled this weekend with my best friend, crew chief, and he just so happens to also be my dad. Normally we travel with several members of our family and they were missed. My wife is my biggest fan and she is unable to attend the races, because she is a full time stay at home caregiver for her mom.

“Energy One clutches has been a long time supporter of Douglass Racing. Lynchburg H-D and Vreelands H-D both also help with discounts on parts, thank you goes out to them. Thank you Bill Rowe for putting on such a great event. Special thank you to Jesus for saving my soul and keeping us all safe!”

Charley Douglass

Law Tigers Pro Bagger

In addition to Gadson, there was another Suzuki Pro Street racer sending a bagger in Atlanta. Victor Gotay picked up a last minute ride and swept Law Tigers Pro Bagger—qualifying number one, setting low ET (9.423) and high MPH (144.38) and then winning the final round against redlighting (-.010) Orlando Williams of Street Kings.

Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90

Brad Reiss Jr. won a stirring Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 final against Crosby Blair. Both bikes ran identical 9.952s, but the winning difference came at the tree with Brad’s .094 light obliterating Blair’s .171.

Vance Houdyshell qualified number one with a perfect 9.90 but lost a double breakout quarterfinal to Blair.

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Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 

Reiss followed up his Vreeland’s 9.90 success with a Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 win. Brad caught a little bit of a break when double defending champion, final round opponent, Kevin Winters took the tree by .011 but still broke out by .012. Reiss’ 10.904 lit the winlight.

Number one qualifier Jason Leeper lost early with a .197 reaction time.

10.30 index and T-Man Performance Bagger Eliminator

Reiss wasn’t the only double winner on Sunday, as Scott Tomsu won 10.30 index and T-Man Performance Bagger Eliminator.

“Wow, what a great weekend at the AHDRA Georgia Peach Nationals,” said Tomsu. “We won two classes, but I am pumped about the Super Pro 10.30 win. That is the closest side-by-side racing I have ever been a part of. Also, I was the only bagger in class, I had no electronics (2-step, delay boxes, or air-shifter), and no wheelie bar. The racers in that class are very experienced as well, so every round was tough.”

Especially Tomsu’s 10.30 final round opponent—9.70 number one plateholder John Shotts. Tomsu took the tree by a full .102 against wheelie bar racer Shotts in a double breakout race. Vance Houdyshell qualified number one with a near-perfect 10.302 and lost to Shotts in the quarterfinals.

Tomsu won Bagger Eliminator when final round opponent Brett Carlisle redlit.

“Dragbag also went 141 mph! I believe that is the fastest of any naturally aspirated Harley-Davidson with stock cases EVER! Just more proof that has the best pistons, rods, drop-on kits currently on market.

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“I also want to thank my race family for the support this weekend—A1, Street Kings, and Casey Smith.

“These trophies are special because the track is getting bulldozed. Seems unreal because I have been to this track many times as a spectator.”

Joe D. Gladden won Bagger Eliminator on Saturday.

Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator and Trophy Street

Reiss and Tomsu may have one two, but Drew Queen won THREE races last weekend in Atlanta. Queen won Trophy Street both days and Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator on Saturday. Jeff Jennings was the Sunday Trophy runner-up.

Terry Mason won Sunday’s Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator race, beating champion Kevin Winters in a double redlight final round.

Drew Queen

9.30 index

Ken Strauss parlayed his 9.30 index number one qualifier into the win on Sunday, beating Greg Hower handily at the tree (.062 to .293) and maintaining a cushion to the stripe.

11.50 index

Last but not least is 11.50 index, won by the ubiquitous 27X champ Donnie Huffman. He beat Eliminator winner Mason by running closer to the number (11.52) after losing the tree .093 to .038.

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Donnie was on his 2004 Sportster, not his Livewire—which clicks off 11:50s so steadily that it is not legal for the class. “Me and Chad Rawlings was going to the finals on the Livewires in Eliminator, but the redeye got us in the semis,” reported Huffman.

Shutdown Area

And with that, AHDRA closed the door on their way out of Atlanta Dragway. The veteran and friendly Atlanta Dragway staff posed for one more photo in front of the iconic track tower.

But the AHDRA lives on. Bill Rowe, his family, and the hardest working, all-American motorcycle drag racing organization in the business look forward to welcoming racers and fans to Cecil County Dragway on May 21-23 in Rising Sun, Maryland

This story was originally published on April 23, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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