The 2021 AHDRA all-American Motorcycle Nitro World Finals at Gainesville Raceway began in a Florida equivalent of a blizzard—high winds, pouring rain, and temperatures in the 40s. Friday’s testing and Saturday’s qualifying were completely wiped out.
But Florida got back to being Florida on Sunday, with sunny skies and warm temps. And although the weather left the track looking more like a peeling Florida sunburn than anything resembling a dragstrip, the Gainesville Raceway staff and AHDRA drag racers still found a record-setting groove for one full day of nitro-pounding, gasoline-humming action.
TKR & Associates Top Fuel
Milford, Ohio-based TKR & Associates Top Fuel racer Ryan Peery has had a multi-sanction season that most racers can only dream of: 11 number one qualifiers in 14 races; 8 wins in 11 final round appearances; 2 Wally’s, 2 national records, 2 national championships (AHDRA and AMRA), and NHRA national runner-up. Only Randal Andras’ strong start impeded Peery from winning the NHRA championship as well.
Peery’s domination continued right through the final race of the season, qualifying number one with a 6.30 at 219 miles per hour and running low ET of 6.26 and high MPH of 220 in his semifinal win over Rebel Glover (riding Jake Stordeur’s Knucklehead Racing bike). “Consistency wins races,” has been Peery’s mantra all year, but by the end he was damn quick as well.
“The rain and really cold weather was a little discouraging when we arrived in Florida, but Sunday’s forecast looked great,” said Peery. “The track was a little tricky, a lot of bikes were spinning the tire in testing, but I knew if the track crew could get it together we could run well with the air being as good as it was.
“With one round of qualifying we wanted to be strong off the trailer and we did. We slowed a little in the first round but picked up for E2 with a 6.26.”
Cecil County winner Tracy Kile had a good day, qualifying number two and racing past his Bad Apple teammates Dr. Jimmy “Mac” McMillan and Frank “Brother” Capone to reach the final against Peery.
“Going into the final, the sun was starting to set and the track temp and air was changing,” reported Peery. “So we made our tune-up adjustments accordingly and ran what we wanted—a mid 6.30.”
A 6.34 to be exact. Kile put .009 on Peery at the tree but Ryan was .010 quicker than Kile’s 6.44 to the stripe to take the win. “Tracey was right there with us but we got to the finishline first. It was icing on the cake to an unbelievable season.
“‘That’s how you finish strong!’ That’s the message my mother sent me when I got back to my phone after the final. She’s my biggest fan.”
Class co-sponsor Tim Kerrigan had to shut off after his E1 burnout with an intake cracked by tire shake in qualifying, and was disappointingly unable to compete.
Defending champ Rich Vreeland qualified third but spun the tire and dropped a hole against Capone in round 1, graciously handing over his number one plate in a peaceful transition of violent power.
“It’s going to be hard to duplicate the season and success I just had, so I’m going to enjoy it through the off-season while it lasts,” said Peery, who’s day job is building train bridges.
“I’m extremely grateful for the luck I’ve had and all the help I’ve had along the way,” finished Peery, who thanked Buddy Johnson, Chris Smith, Jay, Dorothy, Eli, Brett, and Rex with Jay Turner Racing, Mike and Jack Romine, Midwest Containers, RP Motorsports, and “Most of all my mom and dad.”
Hawaya Racing Nitro Funnybike
Michael Balch’s rise from Sportster rider to Hawaya Racing Nitro Funnybike champion reminds one of when Jimmy Brantley moved from Street ET on a Suzuki Hayabusa straight up to Top Fuel. Soon after, on a bike built by Larry McBride, Brantley was the second guy ever to run a five second motorcycle pass. And now first year nitro racer Balch is a champion.
“Talking about Larry McBride,” said Balch. “I was lucky enough to be on his pit crew last season for his 20th championship. I met Larry at Valdosta and he took a liking to me. I got to work with him and Steve and Roland, and Chucky and Charlie and, you know, it was a blessing to work with them.
“And Jason Pridemore took me with him a couple of times. Billy Jackson took me with him racing a couple times. I’m just blessed to be around all the great racers that I am and have their support.”
Teamwork makes the dream work, and between important racing associates and business owners willing to cut a check, Balch has assembled a winning team.
“I would like to thank all my sponsors, everybody that supports me: Pocono Mountain Harley-Davidson, John Herman Insurance Services, Jim Christman, Radical Wine, The Backyard Tavern, Fred Lesher from Country Inn and Suites, Mountain Adventure Canine Academy, A-OK Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and my uncle Mike—he’s a huge blessing. You know, everybody that just supports me and believes in me.
“My boss, Greg Dahl at GMS Racing Engines, supports me, lets me go out and do everything I want to do when it’s racing involved. And I’m just supported all around.
“I would really like to thank John Red Rhea for everything he’s done for me. I thought I knew how to ride these bikes when I got hooked up with Red, but I didn’t know much, you know. Red taught me everything that I needed to know to win a championship and I’m gonna put all that toward next year with more dedication than I did this year, because when you’re a champion, everyone’s coming after you and I need to be ready for that.
“When I first started drag racing, all I ran was a stock wheelbase Sportster. And then I met Tony Ruggiero and I went up to California, got my Nitro license, my NHRA license, on his bike. He taught me all the basics. He taught me all the safety stuff—how to ride a bike safely—and I owe a lot to Tony as well. He took a stock wheelbase Sportster guy and got him his NHRA Top Fuel Harley license.
“It was hard. This wasn’t easy. It costs a lot of money, it takes all your time and your dedication, and you got to put focus on it.”
That champion Balch is still new at this may account for him lifting when the wheel set down in E1 at Gainesville. With an .082 advantage over Don “DJ” Johnson’s man Tadoshi “Reggie” Saito at the tree, Balch slowed after a 4.33 eighth mile and Saito thundered past for the win and a seat in the final.
Neither Saito nor Armon Furr would brag about their lights in the final (.193 and .229 respectively), but this time Reggie struggled while Armon kept it pinned for a 6.70 at 196 mph for the win.
“It was nice to end the season on a higher note,” said owner/rider Furr. “Even though we struggled this year returning with our Funnybike, we did get better this last race in the middle of the track. Still looking to improve on our first 100-foot times.
“As far as a rider, I did a terrible job at this event but everything just went our way. I think I may be fired. Hopefully it will just be a strong reprimand and a pay cut….”
Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel
Preston “President” Bartlett’s Gainesville race was scripted similarly to Balch’s—maybe worse. Bartlett needed a little help to secure his second straight Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel championship.
It all started when he took out the top end cones in qualifying. With only one round to make the field, it wasn’t at first clear that Preston wasn’t DQed from the event. A deeper dig into the rules showed that with only one round to set the field, Bartlett was in.
If Preston’s bike appeared possessed in qualifying, eliminations weren’t much better. A days-long 60-foot time put the always-reliable combination out in first round and his championship fate was out of his hands.
At the turn-off, Preston literally lay on the ground and gazed heavenward. “I was looking in the sky wondering what just happened,” said the stunned rider. “Talking to the man up above, said a prayer and had to wait for the final to see who would win—Sam or Jim—that would determine the championship.”
Indeed, Sam White and Jim Martin met for what promised to be an awesome final, having won their semis with a 7.30 and 7.31, respectively. If White won, he’d be the champ. If Martin won, Bartlett’s points lead would be preserved.
Martin took the tree by .013 and ran a 7.36 to White’s 7.40—taking the win and crowning Bartlett.
“I was Preston’s hero, I was the spoiler today,” said Jim. “I made it possible for him to be the champion by taking Sam out.”
Martin and his bike have been a really reliable combination, but at several events this year the silver haired rider had to keep the bike off the wall. “Typically it went right. If it was going to go any direction it went to the right. It’s just that gremlin jumps up ever now and then. Probably the rider. But it went straight the last two passes. If it goes right it’s probably something I did. The bike tracks really well. Anyways, I had a really good season, won the championship in the AMRA.”
“Jim pulled it of and it sealed it for our sixth championship in five years,” said Preston, describing the record he shares with LSR teammate and co-rider Walter Halonski. “Three Man Cup, two AHDRA, one AMRA against the fastest competition in the world.
“Really I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many great folks that have been a big part of this success. First of all, the good lord Jesus Christ; My wife Susan Jeffries Bartlett; my man Jack Stuteville, who this championship goes out to. We missed him this year and continue to pray for his healing; My partner Walter for giving me the best tune-up in our 2017 Derringer motor from Johnny Vickers at Hawaya Racing Products; Lucas Oil Products, Worldwide Bearings, Trade Winds Lounge, Sterling Home Inspections Services, O’Reilly Auto Part’s, VP Racing Fuels, JT’s Auto & Cycle, Bill Miner aka SPARKY, The Family Shoe Store, Cheyenne Saloon East Palatka, Beck Nissan of Palatka, G&H Underground Construction, Bert Baker Transmissions, H & M Estrin, B & K Honeycutt, D & G Hand, Zeiger’s Auto Detailing, Murray Performance, Mary Kay Wurm and Mark, Bookie and Sharon, all our family, friends and fans that cheer, support, and follow us. We Love y’all.
“A special thanks to JT Norton, who does all our media, video and pictures for us. Try and keep up. To the AHDRA, AMRA, and Man Cup for giving us places to race safely and their staff. Dragbike.com, Eatmyink.com, Cycledrag.com, Moto Lenz Photos, Tom McCarthy, Mike Swanson, and Kenneth Charlton for the great coverage and hard work for the sport. And thank you to all the competitors for making us work so hard. Best of luck to all in 2022.”
GMS Racing Pro Open
Steady Kevin Campbell took the GMS Racing Pro Open championship and runner-upped to Andy Simon Sr. in the Gainesville final.
Simon pretty well stole the show with his record-setting, turbocharged Bagger. His assault on Bagger records was an impressive sight and kept the fans stirred all day.
“Our first pass in the morning was on a cold track after lots of ET bikes,” reported Andy Simon Jr. “We softened it up to try to get it down the race track, but as soon as the boost came in it quickly overpowered the rear tire and race track.
“The track really started to come around for our second pass, but we had a pushrod come loose and sheared all of the sprocket bolts off on the rear wheel and still ran a 8.35.
“We fixed everything and for our third pass we put a tune-up in the bike that we believed would run pretty well and we ran the 7.844 at 177.98.
“We were then allowed to make an exhibition pass. We looked at the data and came up with a tune-up that should have resulted in a good pass. I thought we could run a .69 and we ran a 7.706 at 182.03.” Boom!
Zippers Performance Pro Modified
Tennessee plumber Shane Pendergrast took the Zippers Performance Pro Modified win and championship on his Buell dragbike.
With only .003 separating them at the tree, Pendergrast outran NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Lance Bonham 8.59 to 8.84 to take the stripe in the final round.
“Just had a good year, it’s been fun,” said Pendergrast. “Every race was ‘Who’s gonna win that day?’ You know, it’s Pro Mod, that’s where it’s at. Just getting to all of them, that’s where we had to start.
“I just want to thank Steve Allstaedt for giving us the power that he’s gave us over the years and our sponsors—Hotshots and Pope’s Automotive.”
Pingel Pro Modified
Like Pendergrast, Gary Douglass also sealed his Pingel Pro Modified championship with a Gainesville win.
Douglass came to the event with a scant 22-point lead on defending champion Jeff Workman, and met Workman in the final. Gary put .006 on Jeff at the tree, but really had it working on track with a winning 9.16 to Workman’s 9.51.
“In order to win the Modified championship, I had to at least qualify second and runner-up at this event,” said Douglass.“Well I qualified second, one part down.
“I won the next two rounds and ended up in the finals, two parts down.
“I really wanted to win this event, so I made a little adjustment to the clutch. It worked big-time. The best 60-foot I have had all year. I won with a 9.16 and set the ET record. So I ended up with the event win, the championship, and the record. Not a bad weekend.
“A big ‘Thank you’ goes out to my son Charley, my daughter Jody Simpson, and grandson Jacob Bush. I could not have done it without them. Thanks to our long-time sponsor and friend Energy One Clutches. Thanks to SA Racing, H-D of Lynchburg, Vreelands H-D, CP-Carrillo, Jerry’s Engines, and Billy Mathias. Thank you Pingel for sponsoring the Modified class. To all the Modified racers, thank you for your sportsmanship and friendship. Thank you AHDRA for a venue to race our Harleys. Thank you Tim Hailey for what you do to help promote the sport of Harley drag racing.”
Law Tigers Pro Bagger
Victor Gotay also finished his Law Tigers Pro Bagger championship off with a win, ceding the tree to Paul Urrichio but driving around for the win.
“Man, what a year in Bagger racing—something new for me, whole different world, met so many new people,” said Gotay, a well-known jockey in the sportbike world.
“I would like to thank a couple of men that has made this all possible and it’s their championship. Without them I would not be doing this Bagger racing. Patrick Lynch, this is your championship. And Frank Delzingaro III,thank you for opening the doors for me.”
Gotay may be cool, but he’s not Dwayne Gee cool. The Conyers, Georgia-based Bagger racer smoked a cigarette in his burnout, flipped it to the center while burning towards the starting line, then flipped his modular down to compete in the MTC Bagger final.
Not stunned by Gee’s display, class champion Greg Quinn nailed a .070 bulb to Gee’s .260. But that was the highlight of Quinn’s final round, as Gee powered to a 9.17 at 150 for the win. Quinn nearly doubled Gee’s ET at one third the MPH as the belt broke on his ProCharger and he had to putter on motor alone. “I was devastated,” said Quinn.
“I arrived in Gainesville to race with some confidence and high hopes,” said Gee. “I had just secured my first championship the week before. My bike did her job and I did mine and we came away with the win. I’d like to thank the people that have supported me on this journey.”
But it was Quinn that scored his second AHDRA championship on his Kendall Johnson-built, 135 cubic inch beast formerly owned by 2X NHRA champ Tii Tharpe. “And it is awesome my buddy,” said Quinn. “Here I find myself humbled by winning another pro class with Tii’s old bike! It’s mind blowing. I’m lost for words!
“I’d like to thank God, first and foremost.As this year begun, I had no idea I’d be back-to-back world champion in AHDRA. I hope with the sanctions merging (agreeing to share rules on Bagger classes) it brings more bikes and more spectators.”
Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 and Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator
Instantly recognizable by his tall Mohawk, long goatee and matching dog “Buell,” Tennessee plumber Loren Potter can also be recognized by the amount of hardware he carried away from the AHDRA banquet. Potter scored both the Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90 and Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator championships, along with the 10.90 win. He beat Lumbee Racing stud Paul Watson in the 10.90 final.
“Man, I’ll tell you what, it’s been a great season,” said Potter. “Croz’s Custom Cycles really helped keep my POS together, which isn’t a small task because I beat the hell out of that thing. I run it in three to sometimes four classes, every race. We did 22 races this year.
“And yeah, I don’t think I can do that again, man, to be honest with you. But, in every single race, we were in the money except for one race the entire season. So we had a great season. Croz (Crosby Blair) and I just kicked, man, and to bring home two championships is absolutely insane. I never ever thought it would be possible. So it’s pretty cool.
“Croz, he got me into it. He got me started. I bought my Buell from him, and he keeps it together for me, man. And I’m telling you, we run it really hard, and it’s no easy task to keep that thing together. I had the Buell sold, but now it’s like I can’t sell it. So me and Croz is gonna tear it down, clean it up, freshen up the motor and run it again at AHDRA.
“I don’t think I’m gonna do E class, though. I think I’m really concentrating on the pro light, because eventually I’d like to be running a Pro Fuel bike. At least get my license, because otherwise I’ll always regret not going for it.
The Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator final went to THE Man Donnie Huffman. It was an all-Livewire final that saw runner-up Chad Rawlings electrify the redlight.
Huffman also won 11.50 at Gainesville on one of his gas bikes. “I was coming off the 2021 season with AMRA with three more championships there in 9.90 Super Gas, 11.50 Street Eliminator, and ET eliminator,” said the now 30 time national champion Huffman. “So I just wanted to have some more fun with AHDRA. Went to Gainesville and won 11.50 Street Eliminator class and Eliminator.”
Indianapolis mobile diesel mechanic Jason Leeper runner-upped to Donnie in the Gainesville 11.50 final, but he secured the championship—beating his son Jordan in the process.
“He did a good job,” Jason said about his boy. “And he had me all race season long he was winning. I come back at the last race and took it from him, basically.”
The Leepers caught the racing bug from their Indianapolis buddy Y.D. (Darrell Smith) of Fast Company Racing. “He actually brought me down to a race to watch in Bowling Green. When I got down there, I was mad I didn’t bring my bike. I was actually on Craigslist trying to find a bike to buy so I could race that weekend. But it was basically that. Ever since I went to that race in Bowling Green, I’ve been hooked.”
Jason rides a 10 inch stretched 2004 Dyna. “It started as an 88 and it’s actually a 113 now. It has got dual Mikuni carburetors that we just put on it. It was running 11.50s consistent, then we did dual Mikunis and got it to run in 10.90s consistent.
“I want to thank Universal Fleet and Tires and Fast Company racing out of Indianapolis, and everybody that races with us that makes all the races happen.’
As for next year, Jason plans on taking the nitro leap into Pro Fuel. “Jordan’s gonna be running all the other bikes that I ran this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to run E class next year too. I love to bracket race. That’s what got me in it, and I hate to give it up.”
Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson Super Gas 9.90
Brad Reiss Jr. came into this event with the possibility of winning three championships, and he ended up with one—Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson Super Gas 9.90.Is that a good or bad result?
“Yeah, well, it’s alright. Second, first place loser, you know,” said Reiss, who was third in 9.90 points heading into the weekend behind John Shotts and Robert Willis. “The 10.30 class, Nate (Carnahan) won. The track started getting dark, so the temperature cooled. I didn’t take enough air out of my tire, dumped the clutch, and it was like I was on glass. He ran right away from me.
“And then 10.90 class, I overestimated our time and I let the guy pass me thinking we’re gonna breakout, and we didn’t.”
But, Vreeland’s Pennsylvania neighbor Reiss took the championship in that class. “It was a tough season. A lot of good competitors, but came out on top. I was just a little better that day.”
Reiss works in the family business, Reiss Cycle in Walnutport. “My dad started the motorcycle shop in 1994. It’s just been a family shop since then. We primarily work on Harleys, but we work on everything.”
Then Brad dished out the thanks. “My buddy Nubs (David Miller), who I race with; my wife and she’s a big, big help for all this; my parents for watching the kids so I can go race; and Barnett Clutch.
“So we’ll see what happens next year. I got some things in the making. Not 100% sure that I want to reveal all yet, but I am going to run the 9.30 class next year, Super Gas, and 10.30. I’m not going to run the 10.90 again.
“Try to get Dave into the winner’s circle next year in Pro Bagger. He won two races and was also close to winning a championship this year in only his second year racing, first full season. He’s doing good. Good luck to my competitors next year.”
Reiss did not make the Gainesville 9.90 final, that honor went to Michael Best and Nathan Thayer. Best took the tree by an enormous .046 to .218 margin, and from then on it was a piece of cake for Best to take the win.
Super Pro 10.30
Nate Carnahan did in fact win the Super Pro 10.30 championship, and also took the Gainesville final round win over Gary “Busey” Burkley when Burkley redlit by a slim -.003.
“The Gainesville race was a tough lineup for us,” said Carnahan. “I knew I had to do well in order to maintain my points lead. I continued to win rounds and met Brad Reiss (number one qualifier)in the semifinals, who by the way was right there with me in points. I took the win and at that point had the championship.
“Went into the finals riding high, pulled off the win and that was the icing on the cake. It has been a blessed year, a fantastic year with four wins and the championship.
“I’m getting ready for next season in the hopes of doing just as well. I know it will not be easy. There are really great riders in the class coming for the number one plate.”
Top Eliminator 9.30
North Carolina HVAC man Ken Strauss swept the Top Eliminator 9.30 tables on his ProCharged Buell dragbike, qualifying number one, winning the race, and collecting the championship. Race runner-up Crosby Blair gave up a full .220 at the tree and was 9/10ths off the index.
T-Man Performance Bagger Eliminator.
Joe D. Gladden secured the T-Man Performance Bagger Eliminator championship without turning a wheel in Gainesville.
“I just wanna thank Michael Beland at A1 Cycles for always supplying with the set-ups to stay competitive,” said Gladden. “And to my dad Joe Sr. for always tagging along and helping, and my wife and son for all the support!”
Indian Scout rider Tim Morse won Trophy, nailing Chuck Bothe to the tree .058 to .114 to set the stage for the win.
Speaking of stages, Friday’s crappy weather didn’t keep the Local Traffic Band off of theirs, as they entertained the Gainesville pits with live music.
The weekend and season ended with a full-blown banquet at the Gateway Grand Hotel and Conference Center, featuring mercifully short speeches from all the champions and convivial conferencing in the hotel bar before and after the event—even if Peery didn’t get that last round of Patron he ordered.
Bill Rowe and his family thank the whole AHDRA community and look forward to welcoming racers and fans back to fast and fearless 2022 season.