Here’s What’s Going On with Top Fuel Harley at NHRA

Many you have seen that Top Fuel Harley is off of the NHRA Gatornationals schedule. This is all about sponsorship—or the lack there-of—and is not likely to be an isolated incidence.

The class has been in flux ever since Mickey Thompson’s sponsorship wasn’t renewed—a victim of mass-market Goodyear’s purchase and reorganization of the specialty tire manufacturer.

Last year’s Gators saw the class racing for no purse despite paying entry fees. The rest of the season was patched together by individual event sponsorships paid for by the businesses of the racers themselves—Tii Tharpe’s Spevco, Mike Baverstock’s Samson Exhaust, Randal Andras’ oil platform servicing business, Tim Kerrigan and friends, J.T.’s Auto Service, etc.

Efforts to secure a new season-long sponsor have received enthusiastic interest but no commitments. In the breach, NHRA sent a letter to competitors detailing how the class would run in 2022 with no sponsor. This included an $800 entry fee per bike due at registration and $750 service fee paid in advance of the event. That service fee would provide 100% of the purse. “No one has said they would be willing to race under these conditions,” one racer told me.

Which is where we sit now. Clearly, NHRA got the feedback that few if any racers would show up for the class given the no-sponsor structure listed above and decided to remove the class from the Gainesville schedule.

There also seems little enthusiasm amongst the competitors to self-sponsor events like they did in 2021. They have two other series to race in, after all, in AHDRA and AMRA.

It doesn’t take a dramatic crash like Beau Layne’s for TFH videos to go viral:

Top Fuel Harley is an eye-catching, fan-favorite, exciting class at NHRA events, on their broadcasts, and social media. Even in the tough guy sport of drag racing, these riders are a cut above in their macho image and represent a unique opportunity for matching any product or service to that image. And maybe most importantly, a potential sponsor gets to place their company’s name right next to Harley without paying The Motor Company a dime. Or, if you’re Polaris, you can replace Harley totally and call it Top Fuel Indian. Or—more provocatively—Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Ducati, or any other V-Twin manufacturer.

The class sponsorship is a bargain and I am happy to evangelize on the subject to any interested party that contacts me. In the meantime, as reader and crewman Griz Lee points out, “Grassroots racing is in for a great fuel bike season!”

story and photo by Tim Hailey, video by NHRA

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