Once the Top Fuel Harley action got going at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, it REALLY got going. But with rain delays and the NHRA’s tendency to kick the nitro bikes around more than a soccer ball on a Brazilian playground, it took QUITE a while.
Actually, the first qualifying round was only about 50 minutes late and was feast or famine for the competitors. Jay Turner feasted with a session-leading, solid 6.35 at 228 mph. On the famine end, veteran Pro Dragster racer Jim Martin’s chute popped out in the burnout box and he was unable to make his first ever NHRA TFH qualifying attempt. NHRA TFH record-holder Bob “Opie” Malloy and defending season champ Randal Andras both blew the tire off early and failed to post representative times. Here are the complete order and notes for the round.
Saturday, though, saw plenty of rain and plenty of time for conversation, like this one with Swedish Top Fuel Car and former Super Street Bike star Ida Zetterstrom and Malloy. Would Ida ever ride a Top Fuel Harley?
If you have any trouble with the audio on this or any of the other videos, let me know.
Also, conversations like this one with Maddy Lehman and Frank Velasco:
Lin “The Real Deal” Neal alerted me that World of Outlaws sprint car legend Sammy Swindell was in the house, and during the delay I toured Sammy around the TFH pits.
John J.T. Toth laid down a strong lap Friday night, and talked about that, rain delays, and the AMRA in this video:
It was after 10:30 pm when Top Fuel Harley was back out for Q2, and what turned out to be their final session, and it was ugly. Normally the quickest staging and running class on the property, TFH in this round fueled a global rise in foam rubber stocks. Not really, but it’s hard to recall a class anywhere that sent more foam blocks tumbling in one session. Martin, Toth, Ryan Peery and Michael Balch hit blocks in four separate passes—Peery with a frame-scraping shower of sparks and Balch with a near collision with Billy “Jack” Jackson.
Billy Jack was pissed. Not only did he see his life flash before his eyes as Balch crossed over directly in front of him, but Balch’s error while riding Red Rhea’s bike also DQ’d Jackson’s run and he failed to make the field. This was AHDRA Funnybike champ Balch’s first time at an NHRA Top Fuel Harley race, and as far as Jackson was concerned it was too soon. According to a social media post by Balch, the two have since talked it out and made peace.
As for the studs that made the field, Malloy rebounded to go #1 with a 6.22 at 204 mph. Turner got bumped to second with a 6.35, but his 228 mph trap speed was far faster than anyone else. Here’s the final order and notes from the session.
The raceday forecast for Malloy turned out to be “Started off poorly with a big stroke of luck.” The poor start was a torched head at the hit, but as Malloy coasted helplessly to a stop, Toth carried on the Q2 trend and took out more blocks—sending Opie on to round 2.
Here’s a video of Malloy shortly after he got back to his pit:
McKinney Motorsports-backed Jake Stordeur also suffered some bum round 1 luck, as his bike refused to start. In the other lane, Turner lowered his ET to a .29 at 222. Andras beat Rickey “Sharky” House in a good race while Samson Exhaust’s Tii Tharpe beat defending U.S. Nationals champ Peery in an even better one.
Tharpe and Peery had identical reaction times, with Tharpe’s 6.33 at 215 taking the stripe ahead of Peery’s 6.38 at 209. “I’m happy to get the bike down the track and have it running like it should,” said Peery, who also had to deal with IRP’s dreaded staging lane apex flood zone all weekend. Here are results and notes from E1.
With Turner and teammate Tharpe both still in and on opposite sides of the ladder, what would a final between these two hardened veterans look like? They talk about that in this video:
E1 was complete at 10:46 am, while E2 didn’t run until after 3:30 pm and this time it was Tharpe’s turn to prematurely ejaculate his parachute. That gave Malloy a free pass, and after his between rounds rebuild he was probably relieved to have it. His 6.35 at only 194 was good, but that MPH revealed everything wasn’t perfect on the blue Boninfante bike.
In their pairing, Turner and Andras had excellent .043 and .041 lights, respectively. Jay got quicker again with a 6.27 to Randal’s .36—both at over 220 mph for a stirring round that sent Turner to the final against Malloy. Here are results and notes from E2.
Everyone in the pits agreed that this would be a U.S. Nationals final between two very deserving men, even if the huge Jay Turner Racing team did outnumber Malloy’s by a large margin. Here’s a warm-up video with Jay, Bob, Maddy and Velasco:
Both riders had good lights in the final, with Turner’s .053 taking the edge over Malloy’s .065. After that, Bob basically duplicated his semifinal lap with a 6.38 at 194 while Jay duplicated his raceday trend of improving every round with a winning 6.25 at 220.
I was fortunate to catch Amanda Busick’s top end interview with Jay on the Sunoco-vision jumbotron. Poor Amanda wasn’t ready for a teary Bulldog and didn’t really know how to carry the conversation in the emotional direction that Jay was headed. Here’s my follow-up interview with Jay Turner, NHRA U.S. Nationals champion:
And here’s what Malloy had to say about the final:
So all-in-all, it was an epic event for the best (Jay winning against stiff competition) and worst (long delays, foam block carnage) reasons for a class that could deliver dramatically for a sponsor, so hit me up if your company wants it’s name next to “Harley” without paying the Motor Company a dime (or change “Harley” to your V-Twin brand) and be associated with the toughest men (and women?) in motorsports.
Here’s a slideshow of all my TFH pics from the weekend:
story, photos and video by Tim Hailey