The AMA/AHDRA All-American motorcycle drag racing series crowned its third year of champions in the Bill and Crissy Rowe era, despite battling some serious weather set-backs.
The season started with a Gainesville opener that was shortened by shutdown weepers on a beautiful sunny day. A rare Rockingham rain cancellation initiated the first-ever AHDRA/AMRA combined McClure Nationals. And finally, a Florida State of Emergency brought on by Hurricane Nicole canceled the Gainesville Finals. Sometimes, that’s the luck.
But champions persevere, and AHDRA recognizes their best, fourteenth in a series.
Tracy Kile’s lifelong “love affair” with racing culminated in his first major championship—the Big One—AHDRA Top Fuel.
“I got into racing going to the dirt track at Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where I grew up,” said Kile. “My mom would take me there, and my dad and uncle raced. I used to sleep during the feature.
“So it’s always just been a bit of a love affair, you know, starting when I was when I was probably about one year old at that local speedway in Hatfield.”
But for his own thrills, Kile never felt the allure of four wheels and a cage. “I was always a motorcycle guy. I got my first minibike when I was five, so it was like 10 or 11 years before I got in a car and started driving one of them. I just never was a big fan. All my brother’s buddies and them guys all raced cars, and I always wanted to do the motorcycle thing.
“I never circle track raced like my dad did, I started riding my streetbike (1980 FXE) at the drag races. We used to go to the Harley drags at Atco. That was an annual thing we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
Kile moved to nitro in 1999. “I used to joke that I wanted to be the fastest kid from Hatfield on two wheels. I think I accomplished that!
“Tommy Adams used to do a little Screamin’ Eagle series of races at Cecil County, Maple Grove, and Atco, in the mid 2000s, and I won that series. It was pretty cool because the finals were at Maple Grove, and I beat Drums (the late Drums Brancaccio) in the final, and the Maple Grove newspaper put out a big caption that said ‘Kile Bangs the Drums.’ So that was a pretty big moment for me.
“I always wanted to win a national championship, but this stuff’s tough, man. Especially back when I started. You had the legends racing like McClure and Furr, the Romines and Vancil. I had been as high as fifth nationally in points a few times in the real heyday.
“Back in the early days, 2000 to 2007, between the sanctions and match races, we used to run 20-22 times a year. Then when I moved down to North Carolina, things got a little tough and we backed off to probably 5-6 races a year.
“2009 was the first time I ever went to Bowling Green. It was the summer race and I won, which was pretty cool for my first AMRA race.
“In 2011 I set the AMRA national record in Bowling Green with a 6.31. Held that for a few years until AHDRA went out of business and Ray Price started coming out to AMRA and going to Rockingham.”
Price and rider Tommy Grimes set the AMRA Top Fuel record with a 6.19 at The Rock in October of 2013—nearly 10 years ago! They set the AHDRA record of 6.21 there even longer ago, in October of 2011.
“I set bunch of records over the course of my career at different tracks, but it would always seem like Romine or Vancil or Ray or somebody would beat me out of the record before the end of the race.
“In 2015, I just missed winning the IHRA championship to Jay Turner by like a couple points. That would have been one I could have really cherished. We really busted our ass that year trying to win that one and just came short.
“My goal has always been to whip Jay Turner’s ass, which is tough, man! They got a huge brain trust over there.”
Kile admitted that there was one opponent that would have made this year’s championship even more rewarding, had that man made the entire AHDRA season. “If I whipped Jay Turner’s ass this year for the championship, over six or seven races, it would be more gratifying to me, you know? I mean, I don’t really mean that in the way that it sounds. The people that I’m racing with every week are great. Jimmy Mack and these guys really persevered through some broken shit. It’s an honor, it’s AHDRA.”
But if you want to be The Man, you’ve got to beat The Man, and over the course of his career, Jay Turner—just inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame—has been The Man.
“My goal is just to have fun and win races. Winning the championship is a little cherry on top,” continued Kile.
“You know, I’m in it more for the fun and helping keep the sport alive,” “I got a new guy, Cameron Gunter—who bought Rich Vreeland’s bike—I’m gonna try to help out and see if he can ride.
“And I got Mary and her deal.” That would be Tracy’s girlfriend Mary Dangrow—a longtime sportsman racer that’s made the leap to nitro Pro Dragster.
“Next year, if things work out, I will run both sanctions and win both championships. That’s the plan.
“I gotta thank everybody at the Fairview Tavern, my crew and the Bad Apple Nation. They’ve been running around the country for a year or so. We’ve got a big worldwide following, really. Bill and Chrissie Rowe for getting AHDRA going again. Mary, Billy, Frank Capone, Jimmy Mack, Stacey, all our crew, Jim Garrahan.
“The greatest people I know in life are racers. Drag racing is like a big family, man. That’s what I cherish the most. Drag racing is a draw, but it’s all the other stuff that makes it great, you know what I mean? It’s the fire pit at night, the traveling around with good people. I always said it was a common bond because I can look around at any race I went to and pretty much know that everybody was exactly the same as I was. They worked and they worked more and they worked some more and then they went racing.
“Drag race has been the only constant in pretty much my whole life. Racing is the love of my life—don’t tell Mary I said that!”
story and photo by Tim Hailey