Jay Turner—AKA “The Bulldog”—is both a local North Carolina hero and a worldwide Top Fuel Harley riding/building/tuning legend. “We’ve been racing here a long time,” said Turner. “And you know, North Carolina is a race friendly place. And I’m proud to be from North Carolina. It’s just a respect thing both ways. I respect them and they respect me.”
So it’s only fitting that he and his team dominated the Ray Price Top Fuel Challenge at Rockingham Dragway’s 31st annual Jim McClure Memorial All-Harley Nationals. Turner posted quick time and top speed of the combined AMRA and AHDRA event.
A 2X NHRA, 2X IHRA Harley world champion, and most recent winner of the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Turner beat No. 1 qualifier (6.343) Randal “Fast Coonass” Andras of Louisiana.
Qualifying was a bit controversial, as several top draws—including 2X NHRA champ Tii Tharpe of Pfafftown, NC—were left out after only two rounds were fit in on Saturday due to weather. A Saturday night meeting amongst the competitors and AMRA saw a decision made to run one more round of qualifying on Sunday morning.
But Sunday saw a different decision made, and the class became an all-run field. That was great for the fans, photographers, and the four unqualified competitors, but not so great for some who finished round 2 qualified and saw a ladder printed, only to find a more difficult scenario on raceday.
None was more affected than the man who went into the event as the AHDRA points leader—“Dr. Jimmy Mac” McMillan. He had a tough draw as it was with only 4/100ths qualifying advantage over originally laddered opponent Billy “Jack” Jackson. But now he would face Tharpe, with a full night’s opportunity for JTR to get Tii’s bike dialed in.
And they did. McMillian duplicated the 6.75 he qualified with, but Tharpe stepped up big time with a 6.34 at 222 mph for the round win. McMillian refused to whine, but couldn’t help pointing out that “I lost to a guy that didn’t qualify.” And by the end of the day, he’d also lost his AHDRA points lead.
Billy Jack improved 3/100ths to a .76, but that wasn’t enough to beat Turner or originally laddered opponent McMillan. Jay only qualified eighth, but greatly improved to a 6.31 to beat Billy.
Retiring 2020 AHDRA champ Rich Vreeland beat Ziggy Stewart to extend his career one more round, Mike Beland broke and no-showed against Tracy Kile, defending event winner Ryan Perry beat J.T. Toth, and Andras beat Finnish racer Samu Kempainnen.
Samu was riding Juha “Sushi” Hintukainen’s blower bike, and came back around later in Outlaw Nitro. Still with a soft 1.32 60 foot time, the bike finally made it down track under power, posting a 6.81. But that MPH though—248.43! Was it real? I’ve posted the ticket here for smarter minds (that’s you Bret Kepner) to consider.
JTR stepped up big time in E2, led by Jay’s 6.238 at 236.17 mph to beat Kile. Andras’ 6.28 put Vreeland out to pasture, and Tharpe’s 6.33 beat Peery.
Peery did, however, win the AHDRA rain-delayed Gainesville Top Fuel final, AMRA Top Fuel championship, and brand new, 45 degree “Dominator” cases donated in Don “DJ” Johnson’s memory by 2002 Top Fuel champ Ron Houniet and Fast Lane Racing. The incredible gift by the Canadian Houniet was much coveted by every racer in the class and had been left up for grabs since weepers shut down the Gainesville AHDRA opener.
Andras had the bye in the all-JTR semis, improving to a 6.22 at 232. But Jay improved further still to a 6.20 that put Spevco trailer-builder Tharpe onto his own trailer when the chain broke.
“Tii was on a really good pass against me when the chain broke up,” said Turner. “That’s just a fluke thing, it wasn’t like it was an old chain or whatever. Shit happens.”
That left only the final, where Randal slapped an .036 light on Jay’s .062. Randal made it exciting the whole way, showering that last 320 feet with sparks as he struggled to keep the bike straight. His 6.40 showed him slowing to only 185 mph as Jay’s 6.24 at 232 lit the left lane winlight.
“Randal was really strong,” said Turner. “He was a little bit in front of me. He had some issue where I think I think he might have got a little bit loose and it made a move on him, and he had to chop the throttle.
“It was a great effort. We struggled yesterday. Yesterday was a tough day for everybody—for the sanction, for the racers, for the spectators—for everybody.
“I was confident about running today. We just needed another run. Everything was weird yesterday with the weather and then today, we ran really good. All the bikes ran good.
“I think I ran 230 Every pass today, or a little bit better. We would rocket out the back. We couldn’t quite get the right ratio off the start line, but it was going good. It wasn’t a turd.
“It was really cool, for me personally, to win the last race that Steve Earwood was at. He was friends with my dad. I wasn’t racing, but I I was around when he bought the track. So I was kind of here at the beginning, and I was definitely here at the end.
“I wanna thank J.T. Toth and Marianne Miller, Dorothy Olson, Lucas Oil. Jeremy Hoy was great—glad to have Jeremy back. Justin Heinle. When Justin is working on your bike, you don’t have to worry about anything. You just do what you have to do and you don’t have to worry about the rest of it because it’s managed. Rex Harris, the Nitro Hobo, Don and Kathy for driving the truck. And thanks to Eatmyink for putting us out out there.
“It was a good day. I’m glad we got the race in, I’m glad the weather got a little bit better. Didn’t get what we were hoping for. You know, it was a great day, and I’m happy. And it’s gonna make for a good winter. This is our last race of the season for our team, and it is good to go out with a win and a strong show by all our bikes.”
RAY PRICE TOP FUEL CHALLENGE results
Qualifying – 1. Randal Adras, Amelia, La., 6.343, 216.72 mph; 2. Tracy Kile, Asheville, 6.472, 216.65 mplh; 3. Ryan Peery, Milford, Ohio, 6.634, 218.23 mph; 4. Jimmy MacMillan, Deland, Fla., 6.752, 208.23 mph; 5. Bill “Billy Jack” Jackson, Honey Brook, Pa., 6.792, 206.51 mph; 6. Robert Stewart, Gloucester, Va., 6.924, 197.57 mph; 7. Rich Vreeland, Danville, Pa., 7.013, 178.50 mph; 8. Jay Turner, Julian, 7.058, 148.99 mph; 9. Tii Tharpe, Pfafftown, 7.1890, 148.46 mph; 10. John Toth, Twilight, Pa., 7.533, 147.67 mph; 11. Mike Beland, Maiden, 11.172, 134.08 mph; 12. Samu Kemppaihen, Palm Coast, Fla., 15.490, 73.17 mph.
Watch Rich Vreeland demonstrate measuring nitro percentage with new bike owner Cameron Gunter in this video:
Round 1 – Rich Vreeland, Danville, Pa., .128, 6.803, 199.58 mph, def. Robert Stewart, Gloucester, Va., .143, 6.909, 190.14 mph; Jay Turner, Julian, .081, 6.315, 231.60 mph, def. Bill Jackson, Honey Brook, Pa., .108, 6.768, 218.55 mph; Tii Tharpe, Pfafftown, .115, 6.342, 222.62 mph, def. Jimmy MacMillan, Deland, Fla., .103, 6.750, 209.59 mph; Ryan Peery, Milford, Ohio, .080, 6.534, 218.48 mph, def. John Toth, Twilight, Pa., .128, 7.002, 173.63 mph; Tracy Kile, Asheville, .555, 6.489, 202.12 mph, def. Mike Beland, Maiden, no time; Randal Andras, Amelia, La., .062, 6.313, 226.66 mph, def. Samu Kemppaihen, Palm Coast, Fla., .235, 8.424, 117.29 mph.
Round 2 – Tharpe, .098, 6.333, 217.07 mph, def. Peery, .061, 6.415, 227.65 mph; Turner, .109, 6.238, 236.17 mph, def. Kile, .086, 6.394, 192.03 mph; Andras, 6.284, 223.54 mph, def. Vreeland, .070, 7.061, 155.63 mph.
Semifinals – Turner, .112, 6.207, 218.05 mph, def. Tharpe, .052, 9.237, 95.46 mph; Andras, 6.224, 232.31 mph, bye.
FINAL – Jay Turner, Julian, .062, 6.244, 232.39 mph, def. Randal Andras, Amelia, La., .036, 6.400, 185.08 mph.
story, photos and video by Tim Hailey