Beau in the Top Fuel Harley Fast Layne

The opening Pomona round left everyone thinking the 2019 NHRA Top Fuel Harley championship would be a replay of last year’s down-to-the-last-320-feet battle between Tii Tharpe and Doug Vancil.

But then Beau Layne scored a breakthrough win over Vancil in the Phoenix final, and Gainesville saw both Vancil and Tharpe done in round one.

After beating Mike Scott, Layne benefitted when number one qualifier Tak Shigematsu no-showed in E2 following side-by-side explosions with Jake Stordeur. “After E1 (when Layne ran 6.29 to beat Mike Scott) my bike was hurt,” said Layne. “I slowed to a 6.38 on E2, but Tak was broke so it was good enough.”

Bob “Opie” Malloy’s consistent improvement is what got him past Tharpe in E1, while just getting down track at a reasonable pace got him past Rickey “Sharkey” House and into the final against Layne.

Beau Layne and the Dixxon Flannel TF Harley

Both bikes ran 6.40s in the semis, but Beau had lane choice over Opie by about 6/100ths. Both riders left within .002 of each other in the final, with Malloy’s bike out 60 footing Layne’s by a wide 1.09 to 1.15 margin. But while Malloy struggled mid-track, Layne laid down another pass in the .40s (6.473 at 217.42 mph) for his second straight win and the points lead. “We threw everything at it,” said Layne. “It slowed to a 6.47 but something went wrong with Malloy.

“We had three goals for the weekend that we hadn’t yet accomplished: run into the .20s, go over 230, and qualify in the top half. We met everyone.” And then some.

Beau Layne

Did Layne expect to be leading points after three events? “Not at all,” said Beau. “My goal was to be in a position to make a run for the championship at mid-season. I think I might be in a good position early.”

Layne is getting places by making good decisions. After a couple races in lower classes, he found out his size required a bigger platform. “Realized I wasn’t going too go far being 230 pounds, so I stepped up to Top Fuel Harley. It’s never boring!”

Jack Romine

Layne also hooked up with Jack Romine for his tuning. “Plus a lot more,” said Beau. “He’s like nobody I ever met. Jack’s our leader, and he’s put us through the School of Jack. There’s no diploma, but it’s a great school.

“The Romines (Jack’s brother Mike tunes for Vancil and built Layne’s bike) are the best. I couldn’t be (learning) under better people.”

Yet Layne also knows that a certain amount of racing luck doesn’t hurt. “Sometimes having the best team isn’t enough, other things need to fall into place to win.”

Like a good sponsor. Layne made a business leap by landing one from outside the sport— Dixxon Flannel. “I reached out to them when I was in Phoenix testing. They’ve been a great partner, and got us where we needed to be to bring home the Wally.” Or two.

Sullivan Drilling and Al’s Saw Shop also help Layne pay the bills.

When he’s not racing, Californian Layne customizes cars and bikes at his Whitey’s Kustom Speed Shop. That’s the same line of work that multi-time champ Vancil does, and now the self-proclaimed “Nobody” Layne is vying with Doug for an NHRA championship. “Shows anyone can do it,” Layne says with a wink.

Mike Romine and Bob “Opie” Malloy

“We’ll see what the track’ll hold,” Don “DJ” Johnson said as his rider Tak Shigematsu headed out for Q2 at the Gators
Tak pondering what kind of beast DJ has unleashed
What the track could hold for Tak was an NHRA track record 6.10. His hamster cage blew up in E1.

Like many, Tii Tharpe blew the tire off in Q1
Tharpe rebounded to qualify third
Here’s Tii with new co-sponsor Mike Baverstock and the Spevco/Samson Exhaust, Jay Turner Racing bike

Rickey “Sharky” House lost to Malloy in the semis
Jake Stordeur’s bike blew with a mighty “POP!” in E1 alongside Shigematsu, who also blew up. As the JumboTron showed the replay, Joe Amato turned to Don Schumacher and said “That’s what we should do, Don. We should get us a couple of those and race each other!” Now THAT I would pay to see!

Doug Vancil qualified #2 with a 6.18 at 237 but lost in E1
Julie Vancil, calm in the chaos of the Gainesville staging lanes

Mike Scott lost to Layne in E1
Jay Turner’s blower bike blew something that couldn’t be fixed in time for Q4. Turner threw a Hail Mary by making his final attempt on the entered but untested bike of Randall Andras. It didn’t work.

Despite looking strong right here, Tracy Kile failed to qualify
Chris Smith’s chute popped early in this attempt on Red Rhea’s bike
Billy Jack balanced on a spinning back tire. That wasn’t a way to be quick and Billy failed to qualify

story and photos by Tim Hailey

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