NHDRO is a family owned and operated business, and when the Midwest’s largest motorcycle drag racing series made its first visit to beautiful U.S.131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, it was families that topped the results sheets. The Klemme, Schnitz, and Rowe names can be found in more than one final round at the Big Index Shootout presented by Vanson Leathers, and family connections played parts in other wins.
Few brothers can profit as much off of as little as Tom and Joe Klemme can. Tom won NHDRO’s first ever Index Shootout, pocketing a cool $5000 for a hot afternoon’s work. All index classes raced each other with a staggered tree, but it was the wily Iowa bracket racer that took the Big Money prize.
While the current trend in motorcycle drag racing is very quick, no-bar, late model sportsman bikes with all the latest technology, Klemme continues to win races with bikes that have been around since the his high school days in the ‘70s back in Davenport, Iowa.
Or in the case of the barn find, old school Suzuki GS1100E dragbike he won the Shootout with, the very early ’80s. “Bought it for $1000,” grinned Klemme, who’s collected enough NHDRO Big Checks to insulate his shop with them.
Klemme and final round opponent Doug Fisher (also from a racing family) both rolled up to the starting line with Advanced Sleeve Dirty 30 9.30 indexes on the board. Western Michigan legend Fisher took the tree .031 to Klemme’s .040, but broke out with a 9.27 while Klemme kept it cool with a 9.31 for the win.
Klemme’s blue Suzuki wouldn’t see another final at Martin, but Tom and his brother Joe would. In fact, both Klemme’s met in Saturday’s MPS Pro ET final. Or would have, had the tire on Tom’s pink Kawasaki KZ1000 not given up the ghost. “The rear tire was wore out and we didn’t have time to change it before the final,” said Joe, who benefitted with the automatic win with his KZ900. “We put a new tire on it Saturday night for Sunday’s race.”
That tire carried Tom’s pink Kaw all the way to another final—this time against 16 year-old, third-generation racer Trevor Schnitz in BB Racing Super Comp. This pairing had it all: youth vs. experience, and Trevor’s new style Suzuki GSXR1000 streetbike (featured photo at the top of this article) vs. Klemme’s old school Kawasaki dragbike.
Chalk this great race up to youth and streetbikes. Schnitz took the tree by a scant .011 to Klemme’s .015, then ran closer to the 8.90 index with an 8.8888 to Klemme’s 8.87 in the double breakout race for his first NHDRO win. Proud dad Ryan Schnitz pumped both fists in the air in a rare display of emotion for the famously cool superstar racer.
“It was really awesome to see my winlight come on in the finals,” said Trevor. “I had to work so hard to get the Big Check, beating great racers such as Tom Klemme, Jeremy Teasley, and Doug Fisher.
“So many people and I put in so much work for my first win, especially my father and grandfather, who has taught me so much about the sport. I would like to mention some brands that helped: Schnitz Racing, HTP Performance, Worldwide Bearings, and Monster Race Products.
“It will not be the last time you see me in the winners circle.”
“Very proud of Trev,” said his grandfather Dave, the founder of Schnitz Racing. “He had some really tough competition and stayed focused and pulled off the win.”
With two wins and two runner-ups, it was still a great weekend for the Klemme’s despite Tom’s Super Comp loss to Schnitz.
“We did have another exceptional weekend and we are having a very successful season up to this point,” agreed Joe Klemme. “I would like to attribute that to, besides all the hard that work we put in at the shop—but everyone out there works very hard. I think one of the biggest keys to our success is teamwork. We have myself, my brother Tom—who as everyone knows has been doing this for a long time—and our two friends John Mealy and Tim Genung, who all work together to reach common goals as a team. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we all make mistakes, but always work together as a team.
“Also a big thanks to Grothus Dragbikes for the parts and chassis components we use, and Klemme Performance Motorcycle for building and maintaining our engines and transmissions.”
Ryan Schnitz nearly had the chance to celebrate a second win for Trevor when he went to Sunday’s MPS Pro ET final against Mike Krueger. Another Suzuki streetbike vs. Kawasaki dragbike final, it was the dragbike’s turn for a win this time around when Trevor went -.008 red.
Ryan sort of took the blame for Trevor’s impatience. “His lights were starting to climb, so I encouraged him to push the tree,” said Ryan.
Krueger credited a Saturday loss to Joe Klemme, and subsequent advice from his father, for igniting his Sunday win. “Saturday, I sort of beat myself up after I met Joe in the fifth round,” said Krueger. “I had a .010 to his .020 and had him covered, but let him come back around on me. That hurt. Joe took the stripe .0058 and the winner of this round had a bye to the final.
“When I got back to the trailer, my dad Dave told me ’Don’t worry about it, tomorrow is another day.’
“Sunday started out good also, with getting by the second round again and did not have to buy back in. That is always a good day.
“I was seeing the tree good all weekend. In the third round I was paired against Jason Dranch. Jason had a .0063 light to my .0060. We both ran it out the backdoor and on a double breakout, I was less.
“In the fifth round I met up with Bruce Damewood. You always have one lucky pass and this was it. I had my worst light of the weekend, an .029. But Bruce redlit, which gave me the win.
“In the finals I paired up with Trevor, which was pretty wild since I remember Ryan when he was just a young kid. I had talked to Dave Schnitz on Saturday, who I haven’t seen in many years, and we were talking how time goes by. I wish I did not get the final round win due to a redlight, but it sure felt good.
“I would like to thank the crew from U.S.131 that had the track on point all weekend, and the NHDRO family for giving all us bike racers somewhere to race. And last but not least, I have to thank my dad that has been by my side for every race for the last 27 years. Thanks Dad!”
The family theme continued with Frankfort, Kentucky’s Rowe brothers—Rashad and Rylan. The brothers put their incredibly beautiful Kawasaki ZX14 streetbikes into three finals, with Rashad putting his name on one NHDRO Big Check.
That win came in M2.Shocks 8.70 Quick Street, where Rashad put .041 on veteran racer Dave Page at the tree. Page broke out by a scant .0005 with an 8.6995 while Rashad took the win with an 8.81.
“We are just thankful to have a great sanction to race at,” said Rowe. “We have made so many friends that we can call family now. It was my first national win and a hard fought one. The competition is tough at every race. Just blessed to be able to compete at this sport I love.”
If you’ve ever been to an NHDRO race, you’ve no doubt noticed the Rowe brothers’ two ‘14s. “Mine is a 2012 ZX14R that I pretty much tore apart and chromed everything I could from day one of owning it,” continued Rashad. “I wanted a bike that looked as good as it runs. We have always had chrome bikes dating back to when we couldn’t afford our own bikes and had to race our dad’s bike. Thankful our dad Robbie introduced us to this sport at an early age.
“The bike is tuned by Bill Deshong at Port Tech. It’s a pump gas nitrous bike, you don’t see a lot of that anymore. It’s what I call my budget bracket/sportsman bike. It has an M2 shock and the clutch was tuned by the best—Dustin Lee at Hard Times Parts and Service. His help this year with multiple bikes we own has been amazing and much appreciated.”
“Proud of my brother for his finals appearance,” added Rashad. “He pushes every race to be a better racer. Looking forward to Indy.”
“I was still in both classes late in the day,” Smith said about Sunday. “The bike was getting hot and I’m looking around with five racers. These are all guys I’ve watched for 30 plus years and was well aware of their long career of drag race resumes. At that point I was humbled to be in the presence of some of my mentors.
“At Indy last year (Smith’s only previous NHDRO race) I made it to the finals and was beat by Ron Arnold and I was wondering if I would ever have another shot. At that point I put myself in a different mindset. I didn’t hear anything anybody had to say.”
Smith credits that focus with the .057 starting line advantage that laid the groundwork for his win over Rylan Rowe in a double breakout race.
“.022 in the final,” continued Smith. “I saw the winlight and felt like I had finally made it, since I’ve only been a small local budget racer and father. Thank you NHDRO for helping fulfill the dream of an average blue-collar working man!”
In Saturday’s Kevin Dennis Insurance ET final, Rashad safely avoided the classic bracket racing mistake when his 9.18 dial-in paired with the much slower of Dee Durant’s 12.29. As Durant motored down track on his early ‘80s GS1100ES streetbike (there seems to be a theme here), Rowe waited for a good green light and actually put .036 on Durant at the tree. But Dee went dead-on with a .007 while Rashad was .059 over, putting Wisconsin racer Durant in the winners circle.
Gateway racer Phillip Humphrey put his ’14 in the Martin winners’ circle when Norwalk racer Joey Brandgard redlit on his BMW in Sunday’s Kevin Dennis Insurance Street ET final.
Schnitz Racing Top Gas 8.20 champion Joe “Big” Deck nailed a .013 light on Heather Wagner to push her out the backdoor worse than himself in a double breakout final.
“We started out Sunday morning with a time run in Pro ET, then first round of Pro ET and my bike was blowing oil out of the motor,” reported Deck. “At this point I was done for the day in Top Gas. I was freaking out and went and talked to Dave Page, my engine builder, and he came over and worked his magic. He then told me to just send it, and just go win Top Gas today. It was really cool that we had two of the Dave Page-powered Hayabusa bikes in the Top Gas final. My hat is off to Heather Wagner and her badass Top Gas bike being in the final with me.
“Thanks to Page Racing, Instant Karma Racing, Hard Times Parts & Service, Schnitz Racing, and Rob Bush Motorsports.”
Quicktime Motorsports made a complete comeback from their National Trail loss, with champion Brad Christian taking the win over his brother-in-law (and Quicktime boss) Rudy Sanzottera in an all-QT MTC Pro Street final. Brad took the tree by .012 and cruised to the victory when Rudy’s bike “Spit the trans out the back of the case.”
“It was a rough weekend for the whole Quicktime team,” noted Christian. “Lots of broken motors and transmissions, it wasn’t looking real good for us. The team thrashed all weekend and helped each other make this win happen. Made some changes with the bike and finally made it down the track. Pops’ bike liked the changes and ran consistent 7.0 passes.
“Sucks having to race Rudy, but no better place than the finals. Typically it has been in the first round. So no matter the outcome it was a team win.
“Couldn’t do it without the help of the Quicktime crew and all the sponsors—Quicktime Motorsports, A.I.Choppers, Wossner pistons and rods, Worldwide Bearings, Low Dollar Motorsports, Phoenix Fittings company, Midwest Turbo Center, DME and Dunlop tires, Western Powersports, Cometic Gaskets, Biker Kitty, M and M Powder works.”
We’ve saved the best race of the weekend for nearly last. Heath McQuinn put .017 on Jimmy Muntain at the tree in the Grothus Dragbikes/Klemme Performance Motorcycles Pro Ultra 4.60 final, then ran 4.6006 at 147 mph to Muntain’s to 4.602 at 150.
“Weekend started out a little rough with RV trouble, Top Gas bike trouble, and the brutal (hot and humid) weather,” said McQuinn. “Decided to ditch Top Gas and work on slowing down the 4.60 bike. And it paid off.
“Some big hitters in the class. Then met up with Jimmy Muntain in the finals, and a hell of a race with him. Great job Jimmy!
“I started building the bike about four years ago with the help of John Pearson. We kind of had some ideas on how we were going to approach the build, and with some help from fellow racers it became possible. The KZ-based Pro Ultra bike doesn’t have the biggest cc’s, but ended up being a great combo. I guess you can say it is old school. No fancy computers or fuel injection, just tuning from the hip.
“Thank you to John Pearson, Marcella Mcquinn, Shannon Hall, Donnie Emmerson, Joe Deck, and Ryan and Dan McCarten, and Jeff and Toni Arvin for all of the help. I’m blessed. Thank you Brian and Niki for what you do for us, and thank you Tim Hailey for the coverage.”
After a difficult weekend at National Trail, Muntain slowly turned it around at 131 with the help of a good friend. “We had a difficult time tuning the bike in the crappy weather,” said Muntain. “Decided to put it all in Mike Chongris’hands to set the tune-up.”
Chongris, you might remember, had a devastating turbo Funnybike crash at Valdosta in November, resulting in life threatening head injuries that he’s still recovering from. “And I just want everyone to know, he still has it in my opinion, and the best there is when it comes to these bikes. I said ‘We need a 4.60 tune-up’ and he was right on the money.
“We made it to the final, and never in my life would I think that a .027 reaction time with a 4.602 would lose a final round! Guess I should have done a better job on my end! Heath McQuinn sure put one on me! When I tell you it’s the happiest I’ve ever been losing, it’s the truth. We were like two kids at the end of the track, man it was awesome! Can’t wait to see everyone in Indy for the next race!”
Flint racer Mike Wright won the True Hand Clutch Shootout during Saturday night’s VooDoo Grudge session. “Was a awesome race,” said Wright. “I was nervous as hell racing legends like Ryan Schnitz and Jermey Teasley.
“This is my first year racing NHDRO and I be goin’ to every event they have. We be racing Ryan again in August for the tie breaker. We’re one and one—not bad for a local street racer.”
Wright’s bike “Big Worm” is an all-motor, THC, Gen1 ‘Busa. “Justin Fargo built the bike, it has a Ricks’ Custom Cycle-built motor. It’s 68” long and is a streetbike.”
Eli Edwards won Hard Times Parts & Service Jr. Dragster, and Monica Oleksy laid it all on the line to win Saturday’s scooter race.
Brian and Niki Welch loved their first race at U.S. 131 and can’t wait to welcome the NHDRO family back to Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis on July 30-August 1.
NHDRO thanks M2.Shocks, Kevin Dennis Insurance, MPS, Liguori Drag Racing , Schnitz Racing , Voodoo Custom Motorcycle Components, Vanson Leathers, BB Racing, Hard Times Parts and Service, 865 Racing , Grothus Dragbikes , Klemme Performance Motorcycles, Green Bay Anodizing, APE and Advanced Sleeve.
story and photos by Tim Hailey