The AHDRA/AMA All-American motorcycle drag racing series took its first look at the recently upgraded Kuhnle Motorsports Park in Thompson, Ohio, and local hero Jason Pridemore came out on top in the marquee Top Fuel class at the Advanced Sleeve All-Harley Nitro Buckeye Nationals.
“I was very happy to participate in AHDRA’s inaugural event at Kuhnle, which is about 45 minutes from my house,” said Pridemore, whose unique blown, nitro Harley-Davidson “Gunslinger” is a self-engineered, home-built, one-off piece of art.
Even with his proximity to the track, Pridemore was unsure that he would make the event. “It was a challenge to get there. Three weeks earlier I broke the engine and exploded the intake plenum on the bike.
“I put a spare short block in and welded up the cylinder heads. I finally got to test fire the engine Thursday night, loaded the rig, and showed up Friday afternoon and made it through tech and rested.
“Saturday we qualified in the number two spot, welded up some cracks in the exhaust pipes, reset the clutch, and came up with a tune-up and plan for Sunday. As we went through the rounds on Sunday, the plan worked on a very tricky track to get down.”
And no round was trickier than the final against Smokin’ Dean Comunal on a Bad Apple Racing bike. Comunal took an enormous .069 to .229 lead at the start. Both bikes looked on good passes until the transition from concrete to asphalt broke the tires loose. From then on it was a peddlefest between two riders looking for closure from dramatic incidents years earlier.
Pridemore had a terrible back half crash at Norwalk in 2014, while Comunal was very seriously injured in a Nitro Harley explosion in 2017. Now, both were on and off the throttle, trying to reach the stripe for a healing win. This particular afternoon belonged to Pridemore, whose low 157 mph at 6.82 shows just how much track this bike eats in the front half.
“It was a pleasure to run at a home town track with many fans and friends that shared in the experience and drama of Nitro Harley racing,” said Pridemore.
“I would like to thank my mom Ellie and crew Ron Williams and Terry Fryslinger for their help. Also, the good Lord above for the wisdom and blessings he has given me. And finally I would like to thank Tim Hailey for all he does for Nitro Harley.”
Ryan Peery made it two straight Nitro Funnybike wins on his “Big Nasty,” vanquishing Armon Furr in the final after Furr put out champion Michael Balch in round 1.
Peery and Furr left nearly lockstep together, with Furr having a .004 advantage. Peery had a 4/10ths ET advantage by half track and held on for the win.
“Well, I wish we could have put on a better show in Top Fuel but everyone struggled to get down the track,” said Peery. “Unfortunately the track had a bump at about 300’ feet and that’s where our clutches are really pulling. Every time I hit it I spun the tire—I couldn’t de-tune the bike enough.
“That’s not a knock on the track guys or ownership. They have a great facility and are putting a lot of money into it. I know they’re planning to redo the whole surface and I look forward to it when it’s ready.
“As for the Funnybike, she didn’t care what the track surface was, running quicker 6.70’s every pass in qualifying. I didn’t do that great of a job riding on elimination day, but she was still quick enough to take the win. She’s just a great, consistent running, badass motorcycle.”
Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel
Defending Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel champion Sam White has won all three AHDRA races this year, but “Bad Apple Mary” Dangrow didn’t make it easy in the Kuhnle final. Neither rider set the tree on fire, but White took an .070 advantage before struggling on the big end.
“I left the barn door open for ‘BAM’ to close,” said White. “The front end washed out because of rider error, but we pulled it out for the (7.53 to 7.57) win.”
White had some work to do before arriving at Kuhnle. “We left Norwalk with a broken bike and headed back to Hawaya Racing for repairs,” said Sam, who then went with Hawaya’s Johnny Vickers to Rockingham for an exhibition event for the Chamber of Commerce. “It was great to work with Johnny on the bike and get it down the track. It went really well for us and the new Rockingham owners. Hope they may get some funding for their continuing efforts to update The Rock!
“We made it to Thompson ready to go. After several flight delays, (crewman) Matt made it in Saturday morning. We completed Q1, but the ’T Too’ shut off before the finishline. We took the rest of the afternoon making changes, with Matt and Johnny (over the phone and online) reprogramming some parameters.
“In E1 the problem was handled and ’T Too’ ran fine.
“I would like to thank Johnny for the quick turn around on the repairs at Hawaya and as always, the White Lightning Racing crew!”
GMS Racing Engines Xtreme Outlaw
Charley Douglass took a knife to the GMS Racing Engines Xtreme Outlaw gunfight, which proved to be the tool for the job as Mike Motto’s bike could only fire bullets the first third of the track.
Douglass showed up to Kuhnle with his Hot Street bike because his turbo Outlaw bike wasn’t ready. So it would seem to be an “Easy Button” weekend for Motto and his nitrous bike. But Motto doesn’t have an “Easy Button” and stays locked into “New Record” mode, which sometimes results in finding the weak link in his combination. The weak link this week was the shifter, and Motto couldn’t make a full lap in anger—handing the win to Douglass and his knife
“I tried to get my turbocharged Extreme Outlaw bike ready for the race,” said Douglass. “I had a major rod bearing failure at my last race and just ran out of time. I do want to thank Brian at Line 2 Line Coatings for the very quick turn around and Andy Simon for trying to get my crankshaft ready.
“I decided to take my new motor combination Hot Street bike, and I was able to pull off a win when my competition had shifting troubles in the finals.
“I had a great weekend hanging with my dad at the track. I want to thank my loving and supportive wife Angel for all she does. Thanks also to my dad and some companies and people that have helped along the way: Energy One Clutches, SA Racing, Simon Competition, Dan Daffner and Axtell Cylinders, R&D Machine, Joe’s Parts, Victor Gotay Racing, CP-Carrillo, XLXB Horsepower, Chad Hart, Lynchburg H-D, and Advanced Sleeve.
“I want to give a special thanks to God for keeping us all safe and saving my soul! We are still pushing to get my turbo bike back to the track. See you soon and thanks for all of the support of Douglass Racing!”
Zipper’s Performance Products Pro Modified
John Price is having a good year so far in Zipper’s Performance Products Pro Modified, taking the Kuhnle final over Kimberly “K-Charm” Deshields. Kim had a slim .004 lead on Price at the start, but his 8.68 at 150 mph was miles ahead at the stripe.
“Another successful race,” said Price. “The bike ran consistent with no problems, and we beat the rain again.
“I would like to give a big shout-out to Kuhnle Motorsports Park. They went above and beyond what most tracks would have done when the local power went out Saturday evening and they kept things going. I was totally impressed with the amount of improvements they have and are going to make to the facility. I hope they have us back.
“Again I have to thank Zippers Performance for sponsoring the class and the help they give me. Gregg Dahl at GMS and Mike Shultz at HDFR for the help they have given me over the years. Thanks also to Keith Carper and my brothers David and Steve for their help.
“And as always, a big ‘Thank you’ to Bill and Chrissy Rowe for keeping the AHDRA alive. See you in Milan, Michigan.”
Axtell Cylinders Super Modified
Deshields may have lost the Pro Modified final, but she snagged the win in Axtell Cylinders Super Modified against Gary Douglass in the final.
“I’d like to say ‘Thank you’ to the AHDRA for another great race,” said Deshields. “Kuhnie race track did a great job at keeping the track fresh and sticky for our tires.
“My crew guys were awesome also. They kept the bike consistently running times of 9.1 and 9.2’s all weekend.
“The win this weekend meant a lot to me. Sunday was my Grandma’s birthday. She was an angel on my shoulder all weekend. I am her namesake. Her first name was Charm. It was given to me as my middle name.
“I’d also like to thank Axtell, they are a great class sponsor for the AHDRA. My personal sponsors, I’d like to thank L.E. Carroll Welding, Ladies Only Schnitz Racing, Bumpus Harley-Davidson, Hooligans and Rebel Gears.
“I am so excited about the rest of the race season. I hope we get lots of spectators at the next race in Milan, Michigan at the end of July.”
Kentuckian Jeff Workman took the Pingel Modified final, made easy when Dru Conner redlit.
“What a great weekend,” said Workman. “Hanging out with friends, beautiful weather, and excellent racing!
“I think everyone in the class was struggling a bit to find the right tune, and keeping their bikes together and to get a good light—my weak point! I kept blowing intake seals, but was able to get number one qualifier and was fortunate to hold up to get the win.
“Thanks to AHDRA and Kuhnle Motorsports Park. Fantastic upgrades to the track and great prep on the surface, and an amazing fireworks show. Special thanks to DBR Fab, Powermist Racing Fuels, and Rebel Gears. Can’t wait to race there again.”
Pro Bagger and Bagger Street
Louisianan Scott Tomsu took two Bagger wins at Kuhnle—Pro Bagger and Bagger Street—driving around Perry Paugh for the Street win.
“That is the first win on the turbo bike ‘Eddie,’ and I reset the records in the Street Bagger Class on ‘Dragbag,’” said Tomsu. “It is nice to see hard work finally pay some dividends. STFU Motorcyles has proven that we can challenge for wins in naturally aspirated, as well as poweradder classes. Tons of fun too!”
MTC Pro Comp Outlaw Bagger
Bagger Street runner-up Perry Paugh rebounded with the MTC Pro Comp Outlaw Bagger win on his 2000 Street Glide.
“It’s a 128 engine with a best ET of 11.81 at 111.00 mph—not too bad for a total weight just under 1,000 pounds,” said big man Paugh.
“The USA Army theme is dedicated to all the veterans, and I dedicated the win to my dad and my uncle that just passed.”
Paugh called out Ken “Chopper Man” Koby online for this event, but Koby didn’t show. Maybe Milan….
9.30 index and Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90
Ken Strauss lived at the edge of the Kuhnle track before moving to North Carolina, and he made his Thompson homecoming extra special by doubling up in 9.30 and Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90.
The 9.30 win came at the expense of runner-up Chris Hoppe, who took the tree but was unable to run the number.
Strauss’ Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 final round opponent was Gary DeZee. Strauss took the tree by a very wide margin and was able to ease up at the stripe for the win.
“It was good to see a few old friends come out to watch that raced points with me at Thompson Dragway in the ’80’s and ’90’s, along with some family good times in Ohio.” said Strauss.
“I want to thank Grothus Dragbikes for making sure I got my parts in time, even calling to make sure all was good. And XLXBhorsepower.”
9.30 winner Chris Hoppe came back around in 10.30 index, taking the final round tree by a wide margin and maintaining his edge for the win.
“I want to thank GMS for giving me everything I need to be my best, and thank you Damon for helping me through my electrical issues,” said Hoppe. “Also, a special thanks to my father—my number one fan—for always being there ready to help me at the drop of a hat! Love you Dad and Happy Father’s Day!”
Hoppe also won Eliminator class both days for a triple!
Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90
Cody Hayworth continues to come up with a win pretty much every time he hits the track. He took the Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 win against Larry Stevens in the final
“Another good weekend for us,” said Hayworth. “Didn’t really qualify great but the ‘OG’ came through on raceday.
“Had a decent day on the new bike as well. Semifinals in both 10.30 and 9.90. Qualifying went well there but redlights in both classes sent me packing.
“Want to give a huge thanks to my dad, mom, wifey and the kids for making this a wonderful weekend!”
Racin’ Ray Robinson continues to tear up the track on his rough and ready, short wheelbase Buell. Robinson won the 11.50 index final by taking the tree and pushing Erik Nelson to break out.
“First off I would like to thank Big Train and all the people that work for Universal Fleet and Tire for making this race team a reality,” said Racin’ Ray. “Also Thanks to Bill Rowe for putting on a great event and one helluva fireworks show Saturday night. The Buell ran awesome and my clutch hand was on point.”
Jaden Hines won Junior Junior Dragbike both days at Kuhnle, with Blake Harper the runner-up both days. Jaden’s brother Michael Hines Jr. won Junior Senior on Saturday but was shut out of Sunday’s winners circle by Kylie Himmelreich.
“We got to the track Friday and saw it was a real nice place and a big track” said Michael Hines Sr. “Saturday we found out we were racing Saturday and Sunday—more points!
“Saturday, both boys were racing for Gene Shakespeare, who passed away three weeks before and always liked or said something on Hines Racing every race for the boys.
“So on Sunday, Michael Jr. had way too much gas at line. I knew he was going to redlight and he did. When I showed him the timeslip, how close he was to his dial, he said he was going for a perfect reaction time. I just cracked up and said ‘Well, next time go for it on a qualifying run!’
“It was a great weekend. Both Hines brothers got a lots of points and after half the season, they are both in first place and hope to kept it going.
“We’d like to send a big ‘Thank you’ to the track for a great fireworks show Saturday night for us, and hats off to all the racers. See everyone in Michigan at Milan Dragway!”
Kylie’s father Jared “Radar” Himmelreich talked about her Sunday win. “Well, she qualified last with a bad light,” said Jared. “E1 she won. She was in the left lane and the right lane went red.
“Went into the finals knowing her bike dies off mid-to-late day. I dialed her in at a 13.60. She was in the right lane, and the left lane left first ‘cause he was slower. She had to run him down, but we all know how it is getting chased so he broke out and she ran a 13.71 to win.
“It’s a great way to spend time together doing what we both love. I have been racing short tracks for over ten years and she has been racing for three years. This is only her second AHDRA race that she competed in and she won!
“It’s a great way to keep the sport of drag racing alive and we are currently looking for sponsors to fulfill our racing career.”
John Pace won Trophy class both days.
Bill and Chrissy Rowe look forward to welcoming the AHDRA/AMA family back for their second trip to Milan Dragway in Milan, Michigan, July 29-30, for the Second Annual Southern Michigan Bikefest.