AHDRA/AMA All-American motorcycle drag racing put the new Rockingham Dragway racing surface to the test on April 28-30 and found it smooth and quick. The new Rockingham owners and staff delivered a first class weekend for both AHDRA’s nitro stars and sportsman backbone for a race shortened to one day by a dismal Sunday forecast.
Californian Tim Kerrigan dominated AHDRA Nitro Funnybike in the early 2000s, winning two straight championships. But life got in the way, and Kerrigan parked his bike after his last win in 2002.
“I had two daughters,” said Kerrigan. “I had to raise my kids. And then when I got done doing that, that’s when I decided, ‘You know what? I’m gonna do something for myself.’”
But Kerrigan also had a very serious cancer battle in that period, starting 19 years ago. “The only good thing about the cancer is because I kept my NHRA license active, that’s basically how they found it—by getting a physical. Otherwise, I would probably be screwed. I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Recovered, his kids grown, and ready to go racing, Kerrigan hired Johnny Vickers of Hawaya Racing to build him a unique Top Fuel bike. We all know how the delays of Top Fuel builds can be, so Tim had Larry and Steve McBride freshen up the Funnybike they built for his championship run. “Larry went through the old bike and got that running so that I could get some seat time.”
But now Kerrigan has his Hawaya bike, and brought it to Rockingham to race AHDRA’s best.
2021 Top Fuel champion Ryan Perry qualified number one with a 6.40 at 216 mph, showing that the new Rockingham concrete was getting dialed in well.
Peery had the first round bye, slowing slightly to a 6.45 at 208. Defending champ Tracy Kile eased past John “J.T.” Toth, while Kerrigan put up a stout 6.50 to oust North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Famer Jay Turner’s awesome-but-inconsistent ProCharged bike.
In the other E1 pairing, 2X NHRA champ Tii Tharpe had to gather his mount back up to barely catch Larry “Grey Ghost” Stanley. Sadly, that was The Ghost’s last pass ever as veteran racer Stanley died suddenly days later of an apparent heart attack. Condolences to his wife Diane McIntyre and Stanley’s legions of friends and fans after decades of nitro Harley racing.
Tharpe would go no further, as Kerrigan was on a streak of killer reaction times and solid passes, and advanced to the final at Tii’s expense. Kile beat Peery at the tree and on track to advance to meet Kerrigan in the final.
Kerrigan’s bulb prowess continued as he slapped a mean .020 on Kile and held on 6.50 to 6.59 to take his first win in 20 years, both bikes under power at night for a dramatic, flaming race to the finish.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Kerrigan. “You know, it gives you a little spark when you know you do something good. I mean, it’s hard to win.
“I’d like to thank all the guys I raced against, because it’s not so much about winning. It is but I mean, it’s like—Tracy Kyle. I got down to the end of the track and he was as happy as I was.
“And obviously my team: Bob Alten and Alten Construction, Mike Salinas and Team Scrappers, Mark Beatty and Red Line Oil, Steven Vickers and DayStar Machine & Cycle Concepts, Roman Enriquez and Strong Shirt Printing, Joey Enriquez and Strong Tattoo, Ray Simms and Modifeye Vision, Johnny and Leanne Vickers at Hawaya Racing, CT Racing, Chris Maguire, Mike Calhoun and Renegade Cycles, Fast Frank, Craig, Rob, Vince, Steve, Rich, Bob, Jean, and Maddy.”
Kile also runner-upped earlier in the day during the postponed North Florida Don “D.J.” Johnson Memorial Top Fuel final that was run during the final qualifying session, with the defending AHDRA champion taking on 2021 champ Peery. This time Kile took the tree with a .110 to Peery’s .164, but smoked the tire between the 60 and 330, while Peery thundered to a 6.60 at 212 for the win.
“We were fortunate to run the finals of the Florida race earlier in the day and we were on our game,” said Peery. “It’s an honor to win the D.J. race for a second straight year.
In addition to his Top Fuel bike, Peery was riding his “Big Nasty” Nitro Funnybike. “Running a one day event with just one bike with a small crew is really tough, running it with two bikes is just plain crazy,” said Peery. “As the day went on and rounds started turning quicker and quicker, we struggled. Buddy (Johnson) and I worked out butts off just to make it up in time.
“Overall we had a great weekend though. Both bikes ran great and we qualified number one with both. It was great to be back on the Big Nasty, back in competition and hauling ass. It was also good to see Tii and the JTR team bring a funny bike to the race. Tii and I discussed how we’d like to see more bikes in that class and Jay Turner Racing had one at their shop, and mine was sitting there at home, so we said ‘Screw it, let’s get-’em together and let’s go.’”
Tharpe agreed. “After the Florida AHDRA race, we—Jay, Ryan, and I—got to talking about running Funnybike as the count has gotten low. I got excited to run Funnybike and Top Fuel, however I didn’t anticipate a one day event! I was somewhat regretful on Saturday after Q1 and the reality of fielding two fuel bikes set in. The Top Fuel bike was very familiar and came off the trailer strong, but I struggled on the Funnybike about all day and just was riding it poorly in general.
“We had an early exit in the semis in Top Fuel, as something loosened up around the fuel pump and I got a ride back to the pits in my underwear—it got warm on the sensitive parts.”
“As luck has it, we both made it to the finals in Funnybike,” said Peery. “Unfortunately, my bike had some fuel pressure issues and we didn’t put up much of a fight.”
Tharpe put up a good fight at the starting line with an .070 to Peery’s .165 and put it all together with a 6.61 at 211 for the win.
“Before the final round in Funnybike, Jay had a word with me and pointed out I had a wrist issue and I had to fix it. The bike performed so much better when you actually ride it. I wish I had gotten acclimated sooner as we could have gone much quicker. I’m very happy we found the winners circle and a big thank you to the crew and sponsors.”
“Congrats to Tii on his win, it was a lot of fun,” added Peery.
Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel
Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel also had a North Florida final to make up, and defending champion San White won both of them. His North Florida opponent “Bad Ass Mary” Dangrow broke her motor in that final, and he drove around his Rockingham opponent Jim “Bad Influence” Martin after giving up over a tenth at the tree. White’s bike was in top form and posted a 7.29 at 171 to Martin’s 7.56 at 164.
“This weekend was all about the clutch,” said White. “Johnny Vickers now has a working clutch dyno at Hawaya, for nitro Harleys—or any Harley, any bike with a slipper clutch. So he was able he was able to watch for the first time where my clutch primaries and secondaries activated and when they were at full lock-up, and he reset the entire clutch tune-up back to zero. Everything we thought we knew we, weren’t right. And he fixed all that.
“So the whole race on Saturday was about him trying to adjust or tune in the clutch on the motorcycle, which did yield that run you saw in the final.
“This service is now open to everyone, and I extremely recommend anyone riding a Top Fuel bike, Funnybike, or a carburetor bike in the nitro class, should have their clutches run on a clutch dyno so you know what you’re actually doing.
“We’re now ready to keep the motorcycle hopefully adjusted and keep it tuned-up so it can run good numbers, because that’s hard to do. It took five passes. but we improved every split time with the last pass.
“Tim’s Top Fuel bike is the same design chassis, so I think Hawaya Racing did a good job with those It put both of us in a winner’s circle and we had the quickest ETs. Johnny said ‘We finally got to watch my chassis actually work.’
“So it was a good feeling, a good win, but I hated to see Mary damage her engine.
“I’d like to thank some real good friends that came down to watch: Mike Saunders, Alvin Crider, and Matt Gillespie. Alvin’s brother Jay passed away about 3-4 weeks ago, and he got these guys started coming to Rockingham for these races. Jay was always in my corner and we miss him. Our families grew up with Jay.”
GMS Racing Engines Xtreme Outlaw
GMS Racing Engines Xtreme Outlaw came down to a classic nitrous vs. turbo battle, but the nitrous bike no-showed when the fuel pump failed. That would be the record-setting bike of Mike Motto, leaving Charley Douglass and his turbo bike inheriting the win.
“Racing AHDRA at the Rock!” exclaimed Douglass. “The new owners have done a fabulous job on the racing surface.
“This was our first race of the 2023 race season with no testing in the off season. I am continuing to struggle with tuning enough power out of my turbo bike to get down the track. My first test pass Friday went well, but I had a noise and it was only running on one cylinder as I pulled off the track. The front intake rocker arm had loosened up and spit the push rod out. I fixed it but missed the rest of the test session.
“I was hoping the new clutch set-up was the reason for my good 60 foot and not because I was down on power due to the loose rocker arm. In Q1 the bike left good, then about 12 feet out it smoked the tire and wouldn’t shift. I made a clutch adjustment for Q2. It went out good again, then smoked the tire, hooked, then smoked again. But I was able to shift it and get it down the track to take the number one qualifier spot.
“Since rain was coming in on Sunday, we only had two qualifying passes and then we raced Saturday. My competition, Mike Motto, was not able to make the call due to a mechanical failure of his fuel pump. I made another power adjustment at launch and went up to make my pass. My bike left really good then started to wheelie quickly and I rolled out of it.
“I want to thank everyone that cheers the Extreme Outlaw/Outlaw street racers on. We are all working hard to get these new combinations figured out to be able to put on a very exciting show. Very fast side-by side-action will be coming to a track near you, don’t miss it!
“I want to thank my very understanding, supportive, and loving wife Angel for all she does. My dad, teammate and best friend for all he does. My sister and nephew for all they do. Some of the people and companies that also help are: long time supporters Energy One Clutches. CP-Carrillo, Advanced Sleeve, Joe’s Parts and Joe Perry, SA racing and Steve Allstaedt, XLXBHORSEPOWER and Chad Hart, R&D machine, Dan Daffner and Axtell Cylinders, H-D of Lynchburg, Justin Collier, and Victor Gotay Racing helped me all weekend with tuning on the Maxx ECU, clutch and chassis. I also want to give honor to God for blessing me, keeping me and saving me.
“We learned a lot this weekend and look forward to the next time we are at the track. Douglass Racing—a father and son Harley dragbike team based in Staunton, Virginia, supported by our family and friends.”
Zipper’s Performance Products Pro Modified and Eliminator
Motto’s brother-in-law Chris Hoppe took the tree .049 to .089 against John Price in the Zipper’s Performance Products Pro Modified final, but didn’t have the beans to keep the advantage. Price’s 8.63 at 152 drove around Hoppe’s 9.48 at 136 for the win.
“Had a great time and beat the rain this past weekend at Rockingham Dragway,” said Price. “This was my first race of the season, so I was a little rusty and messed up a couple of runs, but everything fell into place for the rounds that counted.
“It was nice to see a couple of new faces in the Pro Mod class this year.
“I want to thank Zippers Performance for sponsoring the class and all the help they give me, Gregg Dahl at GMS and Mike Shultz at Harley-Davidson of Frederick Racing for the help they have given me over the years. Thanks to Keith Carper and my brothers David and Steve for their help.
“Big thanks to Rockingham Dragway and AHDRA’s Bill and Chrissy Rowe.”
Hoppe went on to race past Calloway Ledford for the Eliminator win.
Axtell Cylinders Super Modified
Kimberly “K-Charm” Deshields slapped a perfect light on Gary Douglass, winning Axtell Cylinders Super Modified on a holeshot with a 9.2091 at 139 mph vs. Douglass’ 9.2069 at 141 in a dynamite race.
“I’d like to thank the race circuit (AHDRA) and track (Rockingham Dragway). The class sponsor (Axtell Cylinders) has gone above and beyond any sponsor I have ever had.”
Deshields then spread some more thanks around. “My awesome crew and bike owner. The Douglass family—great competitors—I love racing with them. They are a great family.
“This was an awesome win. I had back-to-back perfect lights. Once I realized this happened, it felt like I had won the Super Bowl. I couldn’t stop smiling and jumping up and down.
“This is my second win this year with the AHDRA. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Keith Carper put a big .037 to .199 jump on Jeff Workman at the tree and ran quicker on track, too (10.03 at 130 vs. 10.59 at 90) to win the Pingel Modified final.
“The weekend was great, knowing that there was only two rounds of qualifying and everything had to count,” said Carper.
He reports “Making major changes in jetting. Q1 put me on a 9.80 pass for number two qualifier, with second round no better than 9.92.
“Semifinals round ended in a win, with smooth shifting and great 60 foot. Going up against the number one qualifier in the final round with a 9.59 meant I had my work cut out for me. With a little air pressure adjustments and a good light, hopefully I’d be able to keep up.
“It seemed to work out. A good light got me out ahead, but Mr. Workman was not very far behind and had caught me just after the eighth. Just then he loses all power and I continue to take the stripe at a 9.90 flat. Wow, what a win!
“Thanks John Price, Zippers Performance, and Greg Dahl at GMS Race Engines.”
MTC Pro Comp Outlaw Bagger
Chris Wood took both the tree (.088 to .139) and the track (9.88 at 131 vs. 12.57 at 124) against final round opponent Perry Paugh for the MTC Pro Comp Outlaw Bagger win.
“Was still trying to get clutch set correct,” said Paugh. “On the hit, the clutch pulled the engine down and didn’t recover till it was too late. And of course, my opponent’s primary belt shot off about 1100 feet. It’s racing, we will try to have a better clutch tune-up next time.”
“I was very grateful for the win, even though it was a small bike field do to another race going on the same day,” said Wood. “We were just using the day for tuning and ended up with a win.
“We were in the Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 class as well, running 9.70s and .80s all day, but cracked the transmission housing and couldn’t make the next call.
“Rockingham is my favorite track by far. It is our team’s home track, being we only live two hours away, and it’s always a great weekend spent around my race family.
“Give a special thanks to Russel and Jackie Smith of FMJ Racing for letting me pilot their beautiful and fast bagger, and always Wood Cycles for the experience my father has instilled on me to have the knowledge and experience to have grown up in such a amazing sport and lifestyle.”
Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 and 9.30
Buckeye-turned-Tar Heel Ken Strauss doubled up with two wins on two different bikes. Strauss took a big .071 to .233 bite out of Freddy Frazier at the start of the 9.30 final, pushing Frazier to break out.
The Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 final found Strauss .031 behind Cody Hayworth’s razor sharp .003 light, but Strauss ran closer to the number with a 9.93 to Hayworth’s 10.05.
“Well, since it was a close-to-home race and only one day due to the rain coming in, my only crew/wife decided to stay home and play with her horse,” said Strauss. “With some help from Manny Carrasquillo (AKA Taco), we slowed the Supercharged V-Rod down from 9.01 on the first pass to 9.31 for number one qualifier and a win. Slowed down my spare 9.30 Sportster to run in Super Gas for that win.
“All in all a great weekend. All I had to do was add fuel all weekend.”
Many AHDRA members and fans followed the online efforts of Karen Pellegrini’s search for a dragbike for her husband Daryl. She ended up buying AHDRA owner Bill Rowe’s own V-Rod Destroyer, and Daryl wrote the next chapter of the story by winning 10.30 index at The Rock.
Pellegrini’s final round opponent Stoney Westbrook took the tree .050 to .180, but failed to run the number and Daryl drove around with a 10.66 for the win.
“So my wife went online and did a ton of research with the help of Kurt “Squirt” Stebner, and that’s how they came across the bike I have now,” said Pellegrini. “And I should let you know she got the bike for me as a surprise birthday present.
“So I would first like to thank my wife Karen for pushing me to follow a dream, from turning table talk into reality. Without her I would still be talking and dreaming.
“Second, I want to thank my crew chief and mentor Squirt for guiding my wife through this whole process. Third I would like to thank my support team in helping get me to the tracks.
“The back story starts with me growing up on motorcycles and snowmobiles just like most people. However, I had a need to always go faster so I got introduced into snowmobile drag racing on snow, grass, ice and asphalt. However, that just didn’t cut it for me for personal reasons.
“Then a friend took me under his wing and let me go racing with him, only this was Harley drags. He let me take my stock Sporty down the track and I fell in love. Then he let me take his dragbike down the track and that was it, I was hooked and he knew it and my wife knew it. So they got together and decided to get me into the sport. I was gonna build a bike but they decided to get me one ready to go so I didn’t have to wait on the build.”
Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90
AHDRA champion Cody Hayworth scored a win at The Rock, taking the Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 final over fellow champ Chris Ussery.
“We had a great weekend, starting with the number one qualifier in the 9.90 class and going to the finals,” said Hayworth. “A redlight in the semis of 10.30 cut my day a little short in that class.
“So making up for everything was a win in the 10.90 class. As defending champ of 10.30/10.90, I try real hard to be competitive in all of them. So with that being said we are ready to defend my championships from last year!
“Big thanks to my dad for keeping the bikes in top shape, and the rest of my family for all the support.”
Champion Brad Croneberger also found the Rockingham winners circle, winning the 11.50 final against Gentleman Charlie Walker.
“This win marked three wins in a row at The Rock in the 11.50 class,” said Croneberger. “This one kind of snuck up on me with the one day event and being busy with my son running Junior class. Before I knew it, it was down to the finals.
“Glad I could pull off the win in this class because I didn’t run how I had hoped at the first race in Florida. Want to thank my wife for all her help, AHDRA for putting on the races, and Eatmyink for the media coverage.”
The Hines brothers—Michael Jr. and Jaden—continued their domination of Junior Dragbikes.
“Jaden got first place qualifier in two rounds of qualifying with an .02 and won Junior Juniors,” said Michael Sr., the boys’ father. “Funny part is, Jaden won but broke out. Jaden’s dial-in was 10.77 for the finial round. He got an .06 reaction time and ran 10.73, but the other racer broke more so Jaden got the win to stay in first place in Junior Juniors after the first two races of the season.
Michael J Hines Jr. qualified second in Junior Seniors with an .08. Michael was on fire in his last three rounds. Had his dial-in at 10.26 and he had a 10.28 with an .08 light. Next round had him at 10.26 and he had a 10.30.
“So into the final round and I ask him ‘Hey, you want to move your dial from 10.26? You been so close to it.’ He says ‘Yes, put me in at 10.27.’ I said ‘You’re nuts!’ He laughed at me and said ‘Keep it at 10.26 then.’”
“Well, he gets a .08 reaction and lays down a 10.27! He comes back to the starting line and says ‘See, I told you to put me at 10.27. I would have had a perfect time!’ l didn’t say a word back to him, just laughed. So, Michael Jr. for the win in Junior Seniors and first place after two races.
“This was the first time for Hines Racing to be at The Rock and we had a great time—love the place! The boys signed the rock in the middle of the track after their wins. And to top off a great weekend, we were in the middle with the starting guys to watch all three races at the end of night—Top Fuel, Funnybikes and Pro Fuel. The Hines brothers were in heaven.
“Micheal and Jaden can’t wait to get to Ohio for the next race and see everyone there!”
Steve Garner won the Trophy final over runner-up Jim Messina.
Bill and Chrissy Rowe look forward to welcoming the AHDRA/AMA family to their first ever stop at Kuhnle Motorsports Park in Thompson, Ohio for the Advanced Sleeve All-Harley Buckeye Nationals,