It was a motorcycle drag racing family reunion as NHDRO set up at beautiful U.S.131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, for the Mid-Season Nationals presented by Green Bay Anodizing on August 27-29.
Klemme’s weekday neighbors describe him as “Quiet…keeps to himself…” But his weekend trailer park friends know the professorial Klemme as a serial killer—a mass murderer of bracket racing hopes and dreams. Using the most ancient tools in the motorcycle drag racing arsenal, Klemme lays waste to entire pits full of hapless, tech-enabled victims.
And so it was on Friday as Klemme won the weekend’s biggest shootout, beating Robert “The” Mann in the all-Kawasaki dragbike final. Mann’s own Kawasaki is about a decade newer than Klemme’s and as sharply dressed as Z.Z. Top.
Kyron Drake’s wild rides to the Ryan Schnitz Racing Road Course win bode well for this class’s future as a racer and fan favorite. Riding a rough and ready, so old it had a MIRock sticker on the swingarm, all-black MSP Gen2 Suzuki Hayabusa, Drake started the excitement with an enormous dry hop wheelie in round 1. “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!” said NHDRO’s Brian Welch, his eyes as wide as Worldwide Bearings.
Drake’s pass was just as exciting after the finishline as it was before the start, as he misjudged U.S.131’s shutdown area. As you approach the gate to enter U.S.131, there’s a sign that reads “Pavement Ends,” and the same sign might be used before the track’s uphill gravel trap. It was late in the game that Drake realized it, in fact, wasn’t pavement.
“He was sitting up on the tank trying to get it stopped!” laughed MSP builder/tuner Joe Marasco as he replaced the bike’s brake fluid. “Up on the tank like a stunt rider!”
“What? You don’t care about me!” mocked a shocked Drake.
Drake’s wheelies weren’t over for the night. In the final round, opponent Nico Grier left way early (no times are released in this N/T class) and Drake put on a show, riding a huge wheelie at least halfway down the track for the win.
NHDRO boss Welch added a new layer of competition to the class, involving a Street Outlaws-style list, side bets, guardians, challenges, etc. “I think this new stuff that Brian has added is going to really appeal to racers,” said Chicago area racer/promoter Mark Mueller. “They’re really gonna like it.”
Mueller was there to help Grothus Dragbikes/Klemme Performance Motorcycles Pro Ultra 4.60 racer Dan McCarten, and at one point asked this photographer “How come Dan’s picture never gets posted?”
“He’s gotta win the race,” was the reply, and the team must have taken that simple wisdom to heart. McCarten qualified number one and did, in fact, win the race.
McCarten won both ends of the final against Les Stimac, hitting the tree with a .005 and the stripe at 4.609.
Best race of the day in any class might have been McCarten’s semifinal win over Joey Brandgard. Dan’s .010 light enabled his 4.6014 to best Brandgard’s 4.6000 because of Joey’s .041.
“Going into U.S.131, I was on the heels of several losses in Iowa totaling less than a hundredth of a second,” said McCarten. “On the positive side, the entire combination of man and machine was on the edge of success without the sprinkles. Sprinkles are for winners, family rule.
“Unloading in Michigan with confidence that had taken a beating for two years, it all came together. A couple of test hits revealed a failing clutch which was swapped out before Q1. The result yielded a too-quick 4.56. A slight tune-up adjustment for Q2 dropped it on a tight 4.612 out the back door. Good enough for the top spot at the moment. Another minimal tweak yielded another 4.5999 for Q3. Who says you can’t do that two events in a row?
“When Brian Welch granted the class a Q4 shot it was game-on. Changing nothing but riding techniques for Q4 and some dumb luck, we dropped a 4.604 to seal the number one spot for the event. Step one complete.
“Step two, don’t sh@t the bed in eliminations! Having found ‘the spot’ on the tree it was lights out on Sunday. Dropping .002, .010, and .005 lights, it was a major turning point from the series of -.00 beatings that had become the norm. Backing those up with 4.64, 4.601, 4.604 ET’s just solidified all the time, money and effort it took to regain a solid package.
“We finally got some damn sprinkles! It originally came fairly easy, then came a couple of years of struggles as the class took serious leaps in technology, commitment, and abilities across the board.
“I can’t thank my heart and soul Michelle Curtis enough for her faith in me to see it through when I’d had enough. For my go-to guy, Mark Mueller, for always having my back whenever he’s asked. And for the support and help from the Fast Time Motorsports family and Billy Vose for guidance with some critical areas.
“This was bigger than just a race win, it was a reward for never giving up. Nothing worth a damn comes easy, but the beating you take on the downside makes the rise so much more satisfying. We’re not done #keepgrinding #sendit!”
Like McCarten in 4.60, Eric Yost won the start and the stripe in the M2.Shocks 8.70 Quick Street final. Neither number was stellar, but both enough to do the job. Yost’s .056 light gave him and his Kawasaki ZX14 a .009 advantage over Marty White at the start, and his 8.81 was .017 was closer to the 8.70 index.
“It was a long time coming, and its proof it takes a team to win!” said Yost. “My team is the best, they push and support me through everything on and off the track.
“I’d like to thank MedPro for the sponsorship; Rowe Racing—if you want to win you need them; Port-Tech for the engine setup; Dave Page for the rebuild; Matt Savage, my crew chief; Gina, Toni, and Maryann for keeping us racers fed; my mom, my biggest cheerleader; my uncle John watching over me from above with my dad; most of all my wife Karen. She lets me do what I need and spend what I want while she holds the fort down! So many more people I need to thank! Like I said, ‘team’ is what it takes to win!”
Yost beat number one qualifier Phillip Humphrey in round three.
Saturday night’s highlight was the Stock Wheelbase Shootout, another no-time class which saw Road Course winner Drake in another final on another MSP ‘Busa. His opponent was Indy racer Dustin “I used to be Naked Boy” Clark on a borrowed Kawasaki ZX14.
Clark was slow to launch, but Drake had to short-shift out of a wheelie in the first 60 feet and Clark was able to drive around for the win.
“I would like to thank RSR for loaning me a bike, Tim Hailey for giving us the best coverage, and Brian Welch for putting on the class,” said Clark. “I wish more people were into stock wheelbase racing so we could have a big turnout.”
Schnitz Racing Top Gas 8.20 racer “Kounselor” Kenny Schwartz will get to hold on to the $500 bonus he’s paying to the Top Gas winner, as it was one of two classes that didn’t finish when a sudden shower thoroughly soaked the track and knocked out power to the tower late Sunday afternoon.
Hey Kenny, what’s the interest on $500 for three weeks?
Advanced Sleeve Dirty 30 9.30 is the other class that didn’t finish, and Joe Klemme and Rylan Rowe will also race that final in Norwalk. Jim Swanger was the Dirty 30 number one qualifier.
Joe Klemme was going a lot of rounds in many classes on Sunday. “He’s holding up the family honor,” quipped his brother Tom, whose success for the weekend was largely over after Friday
And when the tree came down for the BB Racing Super Comp 8.90 final with Greg Mallett, Joe’s chances were looking good. His .018 light bested Mallet’s .033, but a 9.08 wasn’t going to cut it against Mallett’s 8.99
“While talking with Jim Underhill on Friday, I mentioned that I had never won anything at U.S.131 despite that’s it’s one of my favorite tracks,” said Mallett. “So it was cool to finally get a win here. Plus, Niki and Brian put on great events and their money is guaranteed!”
Top Gas finalist Beshara was also the BB Racing Super Comp number one qualifier. He lost to Jeremy Teasley in round two.
But Beshara wasn’t finished, and did ride his burnt orange “Frankenstein” ‘Busa to Saturday’s MPS Pro ET win. David’s.002 light vs. Jack Foster’s .049 pretty well sealed the deal in the final, finished off when he ran 8.91 on his 8.89 dial while Foster ran 9.13 on a 9.11.
“Let’s start by saying it was hot as hell this past weekend,” said Beshara. “I had my wife with me to help with the bikes and she did more then I thought was possible. She rode both bikes back all weekend as I pushed them back to the pit. She put fuel in both bikes and helped me stay cool in the staging lanes with an umbrella. Without her, I would have been lost.
“Friday’s Shootout didn’t go as planned. Second round I raced my teammate Jeremy Teasley. I had a bad light to Jeremy’s almost perfect light and lost.
“Now it’s Saturday and it’s a new race day. I made it to victory lane and it was great to have my wife at the track to take it all in. It takes a lot of work just to get to the race. She sees me out in the shop many nights between races working and preparing to go race and this is the first time for us to be in the winners circle together. That was worth all the hard work.
“By Sunday I was so over the heat and humidity, but as racers do we kept pushing. I lost to Mike Mullendore in the quarterfinals in Pro ET. Top Gas was a whole new experience for me this past weekend. I have been working on the new bike that was added just for Top Gas for the last two seasons. With last year being a shortened season due to COVID, I didn’t learn much about the new bike, outfitted with a Maxx ECU. We finally have a tune-up that works for Top Gas, and Doug Fisher and I will run the finals in Norwalk.”
After beating Beshara, Mullendore went on to beat Joe Klemme in Sunday’s MPS Pro ET final—yet another final for Klemme.
The race started out close enough. Klemme left first with an .026, bested a bit by Mullendore’s .021. It was just as tight at the finish as well, with Klemme posting a 9.316 on a 9,30, and Mullendore lighting the winlight with an 8.906 on his 8.89.
“First and foremost, all the glory goes to God!” said Mullendore. “We had a great weekend at NHDRO. Brian and Niki Welch, I can’t thank you enough! You’ve always treated us very well, even if I was a little full of attitude. Sorry Brian!
“To all my family and friends that have helped, supported, and cheered for us, it means so very much!
“This is our first all-bike event win and to win against Joe Klemme makes it sweeter! And even sweeter still ‘cause Shawna Robinson celebrated her birthday and she told me she wanted a win for her birthday, so this one’s for her!
“So many tough competitors to face and it feels awesome to know we can be competitive with the best of best!”
Mullendore then thanked a vast list, including but not limited to his mom, dad, sister and her family, Jay Eshbach and Team APE, Dustin Lee’ Hard Times Parts & Service, David Liguori and Liguori Drag Racing, Tim Robinson and Robinson Industries, Carrillo Rods, MTC Engineering, Web Cams, Marcus McBain of M2.Shocks, Greg Mallett and the Mallett Magnet, and many, many more.
Life-long Hoosier Todd “Bounty Hunter” Smith expressed great pride last June when he was able to get to the U.S.131 winners circle against the NHDRO field. He did it again on Saturday night, beating one of the absolute best of the best— Kevin Adams—in the Kevin Dennis Insurance Street ET final.
Kevin’s unusually poor .073 light set the stage for Smith’s .020 to open up a win. Todd made it exciting, running a 9.26 on his 9.20 while Adams was only one number over with a 9.37 on a 9.36.
“At times I feel like I’m living a working man’s dream,” said Smith. “I’m totally grateful. My adult son had made the last-minute decision to come up and race, and that meant the world to me to have him in the winners’ circle. You live for the short moments in life. The pictures and memories of this past weekend will never be forgotten. Thank you to the Brian Welch family for working so hard and putting on a great event.
Leaving first, Justin Blackford had a better reaction time (.024) vs. Jeremy Teasley’s .046 in Sunday’s Street ET final. But OH! Blackford broke out with a 9.31 on his 9.33 dial while Teasley ran an easy 8.97 on his 8.94.
“It was a HOT but great race by NHDRO. Brian, and Niki,” said Teasley.
“For the first time my bike wasn’t fast enough. Never had to turn it up that much. Was really focused on Top Gas and Super Comp, got in Street ET just to get some laps and somehow won!
“Then Saturday I had a grudge race with Alex Schnitz with scooters—he beat up on me! Looking forward to Norwalk, haven’t been there in a few years.”
Skylar Bremer won Hard Times Parts & Service Jr. Dragster over Eli Edwards, and “Rowdy” Rhonda Jones won the Scooter race over Steve “Uzzi” Uzl.
VooDoo Grudge saw some wild, freeform action in between all the Shootouts and late-night bracket racing.
From one fabulous facility to another, Brian and Niki Welch look forward to welcoming the NHDRO family to everyone’s favorite track—Summit Motorsports Park at Norwalk, Ohio on September 17-19.
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, Ryan Schnitz Racing, and Advanced Sleeve.
story and photos by Tim Hailey