Are Pushrods for Pussies? Nitro Harley Studs say “No”

story and photos by Steven Moxley and Tim Hailey, videos by Hailey.

Tak Shigematsu and Tii Tharpe on Tak’s 6.02, #1 qualifying run (Tim Hailey photo)

Japanese Harley-Davidson dealer Takeshi Shigematsu rode his Don “DJ” Johnson-built-and-tuned Pro-Charged nitro Harley to the quickest time by a V-Twin on U.S. soil with a stunning 6.021 at only 190 mph on the magical Friday night of qualifying. Shigematsu would likely have run the configuration’s first 5 had a handlebar not broken off on the throttle side and sent Tak into the wall on the big end!

Nitro Santa Claus Don “DJ” Johnson in the foreground, Harley dealer and Top Fuel stud Mike Lehman in the back (Tim Hailey photo)
Tii Tharpe (Steven Moxley photo)

Tii Tharpe ran a personal best of 6.178 for number two spot in the other lane. When he saw Tak at the end of the track he noticed that Shigematsu was missing his right boot. “Where’s your boot Tak?”

Tak Shigematsu (Tim Hailey photo)

“I hit wall! Boot’s on track!” Bike and rider were mostly OK, but were unable to harness that lightning-in-a-bottle moment again the rest of the weekend.

Tommy Grimes on Per Bengtsson’s “The Beast” (Steven Moxley photo)

Reigning Pro MC Nordic SuperTwins champion Tommy Grimes—riding Per Bengtsson’s parallel twin “The Beast”—recorded the bike’s best ever 6.221 at 236.13 to become Europe’s fastest SuperTwin.

Jay Turner (Steven Moxley photo)

NHRA Top Fuel Harley Champion Jay Turner was next with 6.298 at 227.88 while NHRA runner-up Rickey House qualified in fifth with a 6.341 at 224.51.

Ricky House (Steven Moxley photo)

Next was Bad Apples Racing’s Tracy Kile, who ran his first full pass on his new bike at 6.344-223.99. Kile has had a few issues and during qualifying he had the crankshaft break, which put him out of the show.

Anders Hornstrom (Steven Moxley photo)

Sweden’s Anders Hornstrom is riding an ex-Jay Turner bike, and during qualifying ran personal bests of 6.53, 6.41, and qualified with a 6.391-223.95 to become Europe’s quickest normally aspirated V-Twin.

Lyle Newton spraying fuel from a leaky pump (Steven Moxley photo)

Lyle Newton had a trying time in qualifying, breaking the cases on the motor and then springing a leak from the fuel pump. But he managed to qualify with a 6.765-190.90.

Gregor Johansson (Steven Moxley photo)

Newcomer to the class David Larson was riding Mike Bahnmaier’s bike and ran a personal best of 6.772. Gregor Johansson had clutch issues over the weekend, changed the front sprocket during qualifying, and ran a best of 7.001-177.51.

Jaska Salakari waves at photographer Steven Moxley after his burnout

Back in September, Finland’s Jaska Salakari sent a shock wave around the world when he ran 6.010 on his Nitro KTM Duke at Alastaro to become the world’s quickest V-Twin. Thursday night during testing, Salakari fired up the motor and people rushed trackside with their phones to get a photo of this unique bike. With huge header flames, Salakari ran a 6.78 check-out pass on one cylinder, due to cam timing. He qualified with a 7.035 at 139, his crew spending a lot of time rebuilding in the pits.

Mike Beland on Red Reah’s bike (Steven Moxley photo)

Mike Beland was riding Red Reah’s bike, had some traction problems, and ran a best of 7.503-183.27. Jake Stordeur ran a best of 9.785, and Jim Page had a pushrod fail and was on the bump spot with 10.957.

Jake Stordeur (Tim Hailey photo)
Jim Page (Steven Moxley photo)

The Europeans faired well in round one of eliminations, with Johansson running a personal best 6.750 to knock out House. Hornstrom also made it to the next round when he beat Newton. Grimes had a chain break mid-track but won against Beland, who had problems off the start line. Salakari lost to Turner when he went up in smoke at 30 feet, and then stormed down the track running 7.560 at 190.08. Shigematsu had a problem at ¾ track and lost to Page on a holeshot—7.260 to 7.155. Larson ran a p/b 6.732 on a bye run.

Jaska Salakari smokes it (Steven Moxley photo)
Tak Shigematsu (Steven Moxley photo)
Jim Page (Tim Hailey photo)

Round two saw Page with a bye run and his best of the meet—6.572 at 213.37. Turner ended Johansson’s racing with a 6.225 to Gregor’s losing 8.976. Tharpe knocked out Hornstrom 6.275 to 6.396. Grimes beat a troubled Larson 6.539 to 10.263.

Tommy Grimes (Tim Hailey photo)

In the first semifinal, Grimes put an .051 to .094 holeshot over Tharpe, but it was Tharpe who took the winlight in a close race with a p/b of 6.164 to Grimes’ 6.253. Turner turned the wick up and ran 6.207 at 226.62 to reach the final, knocking out Page’s 6.945.

Spevco’s Tii Tharpe and Dorothy Olsen (Tim Hailey photo)
Spevco’s Tii Tharpe (Tim Hailey photo)

It was an all-Turner Racing final and The Bulldog led from start to finish with his best of the meeting—6.198 at 222.55 against Tharpe’s 6.310-216.38.

Jay Turner (Tim Hailey photo)

The all-pushrod final capped off a war of words and stickers between the “American” style V-Twins and their Euro overhead cam cousins. Check out this action-packed “Are Pushrods for Pussies?” video with commentary by British subject Chris “Cannon” Hannam and interviews with Turner and Tharpe:

Jasko Salakari (Tim Hailey photo)
Larry McBride with Salakari and crew (Tim Hailey photo)
Tommy Grimes and The Beast team (Steven Moxley photo)
Grimes and his man Eric getting ready to blow it out (Tim Hailey photo)
Gregor Johansson and crew (Steven Moxley photo)



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