Although he only rode for one, Ryan Peery left North Carolina’s Rockingham Dragway and AHDRA’s Nitro Summer Nationals with two wins. The other win came with rider Chris Smith aboard Peery’s Hawaya Racing Nitro Funnybike.
Peery himself rode for the TKR & Associates Top Fuel win—his second in as many AHDRA races that he’s attended this season. Peery used a combination of quickness and consistency to qualify number one and race through the field to beat “Doctor” Jimmy McMillan in the final.
With heat the theme of the weekend, defending AHDRA champion Rich Vreeland lead the first qualifying round with a 6.800 at 200 mph—nice round numbers for the always-consistent Pennsylvania Harley-Davidson dealer.
Vreeland stepped up in round two, but Peery climbed over him with a 6.53 at 215. Then Ryan really delivered in the twilight with a 6.39 at nearly 218.
It was an intensively competitive field, with North Carolina hero Jay Turner just bumping his way into the field in the final round. Cecil County winner Tracy Kile slipped in on the bump spot, just behind two-time NHRA champion Tii Tharpe. The bottom half of the field was loaded!
Case in point: both McMillan and Turner struggled for grip early in their round one match-up, but McMillan was able to better recover for the upset. Peery ran a 6.33 in blazing heat to bolt past Kile.
Turner’s teammate Tharpe struggled in the semi and McMillan found himself headed to the final.
Peery caught a lucky break on the other side of the ladder when his .271 light gave up .188 to Tim Kerrigan. Kerrigan’s program made great strides with both of his bikes over the weekend, although he qualified on his older bike. But he was one stride short this time around and Peery’s 6.61 at 215 was good enough to just clip him at the line.
The final with McMillan was close at the tree, but the performance was all Peery’s and he took the win.
“The weekend was a hot one!” said Peery. “Temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and track temps upwards of 130+ made it really difficult to get down the track in Q1. But somehow we turned the right screws and made the right adjustments and both my bikes were on fire from there, and we put down some good numbers all weekend.”
Smith started off third with a 7.22 in Q1 behind Jim Doyle (7.02) and Atlanta winner Michael Balch (7.06). But just as Peery said, the Nitro Funnybike responded to changes and lit up Q2 with a 6.65 at 204. It was TF numbers from then on, with a 6.59 at 207 in Q3.
Smith ran two unopposed rounds in the 6.60s before meeting Doyle in the final. He stayed consistent with a 6.65 for the win while Doyle faltered.
“Chris did an excellent job riding and we were able to run some .50s and .60s on ‘Big Nasty,’ and it came together for my Top Fuel bike ‘Eleanor’ as well, dipping into the .30s a couple times. And yeah, we name our bikes.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘You’re making it look easy,’ but I assure you it ain’t. There’s a lot of hard work even before you ever get to the racetrack. And for that I gotta thank Buddy Johnson, Rex Harris, Brett and Eli, and Jay and Dorothy with Jay Turner Racing.
“Chris and I have been running together for about two years and always wanted a double winner circle photo and we finally got it.”
“We had a fantastic weekend,” agreed Smith. “It was really cool that Ryan and I were both number one qualifiers and won the race. It’s funny I wasn’t even going to be able to make this race, then when I found out there was a belt (from Lumbee Racing) on the line I wanted to really try and see if Ryan and I could get both belts, since he had just won the Top Fuel one in Atlanta.
“The bike is working incredible right now. Out of six passes our fastest was a .59 and or slowest was a .68, which is pretty crazy considering how bad the air was and how hot it was. So being able to stay on that tune was really cool.
“It was great to see so many Funnybikes show up this weekend. Really just want to thank Ryan and Buddy so much for all their help.”
Tharpe took active part in a unique ritual during qualifying—spreading ashes down Rockingham’s quarter mile aboard his Samson Exhaust/Spevco bike. “I got involved in AHDRA in ‘98 when we bought a Pro Mod from Scot Wood and Country Maines,” said Tharpe. “I soon realized I didn’t have a clue how to do this and asked them if they would be interested in teaming up.
“From there we went on to set some records and win the national championship in ‘99. We progressed together through the classes and had the Top Fuel bike built in ‘02. We all obviously became good friends and I even moved to Goldsboro and lived in a camper in Country’s yard for years.
“A few years back, he (Country) was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia and passed in 2020. The Woodpile was the name of the fan base I inherited with the bike and team. This past weekend, we all gathered together to remember Country and have fellowship.
“We also spread his ashes during qualifying. This was a unique experience, as we made a contraption to mount to the wheelie bar to hopefully spread Country down the 1/4 mile. You don’t get to do so much R&D with this type of thing, especially between a TF bike and someone’s ashes. It mostly blew out at the starting line, but we all enjoyed the weekend and I believe Country would be happy. It was great having the group together and the food was unbelievable!”
Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel champion Preston “President” Bartlett has now started the season with three straight wins, beating number one qualifier Jim Martin (7.48) in a great 7.46 to 7.68 final.
With seven PF bikes in the race (there were 26 nitro bikes entered in the event), Bartlett had to race past Keith Kelley and Sam White (another great race) to reach Martin in the final.
“It all started off great qualifying number two,” said Preston. “After the third qualifying round we had to feed our HRP Derringer Motor a piston and change out the cylinder, and put in the Lucas Oil and went one round at a time.
“Every one being close rounds: Keith Kelly in the first round, Sam White in the semifinals—always a tough battle—and Jim Martin in the finals, again going down to the wire.
“I would like to thank everyone that helps make this possible: Lucas Oil, Hawaya Racing, Worldwide Bearings, Sterling Home Inspections, Cheyenne Saloon, Trade Winds Lounge, VP Racing Fuels, JT Norton, O’Reilly Auto Parts, JT’s Auto & Cycle, The Family Shoe Store, Beck Nissan, G&H Underground Construction, Bill Miner AKA Sparky, Bookie and Sharon, B&K Honeycutt, H&M Estrin, Murray Performance, Mark and Mary, and anyone who believes in our team—thank you all for support. Bill Rowe and crew of the AHDRA, the Rockingham crew. my wife and Walter’s wife, and Jack Stuteville, who could not be there—this one’s for you—all our family friends, and Paul Watson for that badass belt!”
While nitro certainly makes the most noise at the track, there might have been no class that made more noise online than GMS Racing Pro Open. That’s because Andy Simon Sr. blew the Bagger record away with a 7.88 at 177.28 mph to qualify number one on his turbocharged Bagger.
Then Simon broke a gear in the transmission in round one of eliminations, and without a spare, he was done for the weekend.
His rival Mike Motto struggled with a broken pulley in qualifying—suitably repaired—and a crank sensor bracket that would twist under power. That left Motto and his nitrous bike vulnerable and ultimately defeated in round one.
The result was an unlikely win for local racer Kevin Campbell, running 11 second laps with reaction times of .560 and .656.
The winner in the court of public attention, though, was clearly Simon. “My son (Andy Jr.) and I are really happy with the 7.88 we put down this weekend,” said Andy Sr. “We’ve worked really hard to get the bike sorted out and we have also had a lot of help from other people out there. It really takes a team of people to do this and be successful.
“Bill Rowe is doing an amazing job with the AHDRA and we plan on racing much more with them. We also were fortunate enough to have Rob Bush from 190hookup come on board to help support our racing this year, as he is getting into some Harley business. We look forward to the next race and seeing all the great fans again soon!”
Cecil County Zippers Performance Pro Modified winner Shane Pendergrast qualified number one with an 8.58 at Rockingham, but Gary Douglass took the tree (.083 to .167) and the 8.66 to 8.64 holeshot win against Pendergrast in the final.
“Been struggling with sixty foots for a long time and still am,” said Douglass. “This time I got lucky and cut a decent light, which was the deciding factor in the win. The last win I had was at The Rock in 2015, so this one was sweet and long overdue.
“Douglass Racing consists of my son Charley and myself. We generally run four heads-up classes, which keeps us very busy between rounds. Charley had a problem with his Hot Street bike and only made one pass. This enabled him to spend more time on my stuff.”
Which was important, because Gary was also still alive in Pingel Modified—scheduled to meet number one qualifier Kimberly Deshields (9.21) in the final—when rain cut that class and others shy of completion. Points and purse were split.
“In Pingel Modified I qualified third, having the same issues of terrible sixty foots,” continued Gary. “We made some changes Saturday evening and they worked. First round 9.26 and second round 9.15, which would have been a record but wasn’t able to run the final round, so I couldn’t back it up. Rain is good but not for drag racing.
“A big thank you goes out to my son Charley for hanging with me. Without him, I don’t think I could have done it. Thanks to our long time sponsor Energy One. Also Lynchburg H-D, Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson, and CP-Carrillo. Thanks goes out to Zippers Performance for sponsoring the Pro Mod class and to Pingel for sponsoring the Modified class. Thanks to AHDRA, Bill and family. Look for Douglass Racing, for changes are a coming.”
Gary also thanked this writer/photographer for “Keeping the sport alive.”
Law Tigers Pro Bagger was also cut short by rain, with Seth Locklear and number one qualifier Justin Demery (9.91 at 137) destined for the final.
Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 9.90 number one qualifier Elijah Agnor redlit just before the rain, sending Robert Willis to meet Keith Carper in the final that wasn’t run.
Willis was also still alive in Sunday’s Mad Monkey Motorsports Eliminator, along with Saturday winner J.P. Henderzak and Junebug Leford.
Henderzak was also still in 11.50 index, where he was scheduled to face defending class champ Kevin Winters.
9.30 index number one qualifier Ken Strauss nailed an .016 light to fellow finalist Freddy Frazier’s .099. That was more than enough to cause Frazier to break out and give Strauss, who also won in Atlanta, the win.
Cecil County winner Nate Carnahan gave up the tree (.099 to .074) but ran closer to the number (10.34 to 10.40) to win the 10.30 index final over Brad Reiss Jr. Jason Leeper was number one qualifier.
“Very exciting with back-to-back wins,” said Carnahan. “Competition was tough. All the class was running close to the number. We were fighting the entire day for the win.”
Reiss Jr. was set to run another final—Universal Fleet & Tire 10.90—one of those that was rained out. Brad would have faced Cecil County winner Loren Potter. Julius DeManss was number one qualifier.
DeManss was able to win Horsepower Inc. Hot Street unopposed when number one qualifier Charley Douglass broke “something in the rear cylinder” in qualifying.
“I guess a win is a win,” laughed DeManss, a full-time Havre de Grace, Maryland, firefighter and part-time Harley-Davison dealership mechanic. “I wasn’t signed up (for Hot Street) until (Charley) Douglass asked me if I could foot-shift it. My bike is an ‘04 V-Rod with a transmission I have to foot-shift into second gear because it’s busted. Then he broke and was the first person to congratulate me.
“Sunday was good and bad for me. I won Hot Street and was number one qualifier in 10:90. I had the first round bye but broke in the burnout box in round two.
“But all in all had a great weekend with AHDRA. So glad Bill Rowe and his family got it going again!”
T-Man Performance Bagger Eliminator winner Joe D. Gladden rode out one of the most impressive wheelies ever seen on a big Harley while qualifying on Saturday. On Sunday, he rode to the win over Brent Carlisle.
“Just want to thank my dad big Joe, my wife Faith, and Michael Beland of A1 Cycles for always supporting me! Shout out to A1 Cycles for always keeping my bikes competitive and in the winners circle!”
Trophy was able to finish before the rain, with Jeremy Cullen taking the win over redlighting “Rooster.”
And with that, another great AHDRA event was complete. Bill Rowe, his family, and the hardest working, all-American motorcycle drag racing organization in the business will be back at it June 19-20 at storied National Trail Raceway just east of Columbus, Ohio.
AHDRA is owned by Pulse Marketing, the Hellertown, Pennsylvania-based motorsports promotion company run by veteran drag racer Rowe and his family.
AHDRA thanks Cox Double Eagle Harley-Davidson , Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson , Gainesville Harley-Davidson , MTC Engineering , Hawaya Racing , Pingel , GMS Racing Engines , T-Man Performance , Zippers Performance , Horsepower Inc. , Mad Monkey Motorsports , Vanson Leathers , Law Tigers , Universal Fleet & Tire , and Racers For Christ
Story and photos by Tim Hailey