The AMA/AHDRA All-American motorcycle drag racing series opened the 2023 season with the Don “DJ” Johnson Spring Nationals presented by MTC Engineering at Fountain, Florida’s eighth mile North Florida Motorplex.
While all gasoline classes ran to completion, Top Fuel and Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel will finish at the next event in Rockingham after a series of shutdown area incidents were a cause of concern for AHDRA’s Bill Rowe.
The deciding moment was when “Jimmy Mac” McMillan (featured photo above) ran off the end of the track in his Top Fuel semi, skipped completely over the sand trap and into the woods when his throttle stuck partially open and his chute failed to deploy. McMillan suffered two broken vertebrae and two broken ribs in the accident.
Waiting at the ready line was 2021 champ Ryan Peery for a bye to the final. Peery had his own shutdown drama in the first round of qualifying when his front tire exploded as soon as he touched the brake. His chute also didn’t deploy and Ryan dug deep into the sand.
Peery will face current champ Tracy Kile—who thundered away to an advantage that he held to the stripe for a 4.25 to 4.38 win against McMillan—when the final is run at The Rock.
The Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel final will also run at Rockingham, with champion Sam White facing “Bad Apple Mary” Dangrow. White’s 4.61 against Jason Leeper gave him lane choice against Mary, who ran 4.91 while beating her teammate Walter Halonski.
Nitro Funnybike was able to run to completion, as champion Michael Balch never had an opponent that could fire the bike and stage.
“It was a good weekend for me and a good weekend for the AHDRA,” said Balch. “There were some great looking and well-running machines there, there was just not a big turnout in my class.
“Nitro is an expensive class to run and it was a far drive for most, so I can understand the turnout. Diesel is expensive. But make no mistake—no matter how far the race is, my team will be there. You will not beat me while sitting home watching (videos on the internet.)
“My crew was there, all hands on deck. My crew chief Steve Rominski worked closely with my mentor John Red Rhea and Eli mixed the fuel to the percentage they deemed necessary. The tune-up was great but we did battle an air leak this weekend.”
Still, the team Autolite/Millenium Industrial Services Nitro Funnybike went home with a win. “The other Funnybike that was there broke in the water box, so it was an easy win for us. I would much rather have stiff competition and compete, but I feel we can and will win every event.
“We broke the intake scoop in the last qualifying round and Jay Turner Racing was nice enough to loan me one so I could continue racing. I truly appreciate the sportsmanship.
“It was a scary ending with my good friend and a man that I look up to, Jimmy Mac, going off the track. But that man is a gladiator and a warrior and I have faith that he will heal up 100% and be back as soon as he can be.
“I thank my sponsors, the track photographers, Billy Rowe and the entire AHDRA staff. Also the crew at North Florida Motorplex for doing a fantastic job, and I look forward to the next race.”
There were a few classes that seemed to be starting too early in the spring for some competitors to be ready, including GMS Racing Engines Xtreme Outlaw. Mike Motto turned the event into his own record-setting session, shattering the eighth mile, no-bar, street tire Harley-Davidson record but falling short of the 4 second pass he was looking for.
“Our goal was to set another record,” said Motto. “We reset the eighth mile record on Saturday with a 5.06 at 146 mph. Then Sunday we had a slightly better track and reset the record again at 5.03 at 147.
“What a weekend for the season opener. Despite Mother Nature (cold, cloudy, windy weather) we got it done! We will be in Rockingham next to see if we can better what we have started.
“I want to thank everyone at GMS Racing Engines. Not only have we developed great friendships but we have put together the GMS Racing Team, which will be unstoppable!
“Gregg (Dahl of GMS) said I rode like an animal, but that’s because Gregg and Damon gave me a BEAST to ride! Every single person at GMS has contributed to this project and I would like to thank them all.
“Also I would like to shout-out to the others who help make this machine what it is. Thank you Energy One Clutches, R&D Racing Transmissions, Renegade Fuels, NGK spark plugs, Bandit Belt Drives, and MTC Engineering.
“Most of all we had a couple friends go down this weekend, so let’s keep them in our prayers for a speedy recovery. See you all at the races!”
In addition to McMillan’s injuries, John Cabral wheelied over backwards on his turbo Bagger during qualifying. Cabral was back at the track on raceday with no broken bones.
Motto’s GMS teammate (and brother-in-law) Chris Hoppe won Zippers Performance Pro Modified handily as final round opponent Kimberly “K-Charm” Deshields is learning her way around her Pro Mod bike. Hoppe thanked GMS Racing Engines.
2022 Pingel Enterprise Modified champion Deshields raced her way unopposed to the winners circle of the brand new Axtell Cylinders Super Modified class.
Pingel Enterprise Modified fared a little better, and saw Kentuckian Jeff Workman take out Nate “St. Patrick’s Day” Carnahan. Workman’s .132 light was enough despite Carnahan’s .056 as Jeff put up a 6.14 to Nate’s 6.28.
“Everyone was struggling to find the right tune and traction for the conditions we were in,” said Workman. “I got lucky on this one to hit the better tune.
“Like to give thanks to Powermist Racing Fuel for their continuing support, DBR Fabrication for an amazing frame and exhaust, and Pingel for sponsoring the Modified class.”
Tim Whitehead and AHDRA champion Scott Tomsu shared the bagger bounty at North Florida, with Tomsu beating Whitehead in the Pro Bagger final and Whitehead reversing the outcome in the Bagger Streetbike final.
Tomsu ceded the tree by .039 to Whitehead in the Pro Bagger final, but drove around for the win. “Took home a first and a second in the bagger classes on my foot-shift bike while tweaking on the new turbo bike (pictured). It (the turbo) is going to be a rocket when we get it where we want.
“I want to thank my sponsors—STFU Motorcycles, Ward Performance, Gardner Racing Concepts, Lyndall Brakes, and all my supporters in the STFU Crue.”
Whitehead bit back in Bagger Streetbike, despite once again getting left on (.162 to .214 ) by Tomsu. This time Whitehead drove around, taking the win with a 7.37 at 98.21 to Tomsu’s 8.46 at 80.16.
“Wow, what a weekend!” said Whitehead. “I was in four different classes and took third in Eliminator ET, runner-up in Pro Bagger, and won Bagger Street.
“Was in the Street finals with Scott, who has a really fast bagger. STFU had a little trouble and I was able to make an A-B pass for the win.
“This is my second year running AHDRA. I was runner-up in Hot Rod Bagger in 2022, so to start the season off with a win is pretty dad-gum amazing!
“I’d like to thank the good Lord above for watching over all of us, my mom and dad, and rest of my family and friends for all the support.
“Also Area 51 Customs, Cherry&Irwin Trial Lawyers, Renegade Virtual Trade, The Glass Doctor, #itsallgood, Xtreme Shotz Productions—XSP, and Harley-Davidson of Dothan.
“I dedicate this win to my late grandmother ‘Mama Bobbie’ that we lost last June. Never give up on your dreams and always stay humble!”
Ken Strauss’ .014 starting line advantage was enough to push Chris Hoppe out the back door in a double breakout 5.95 Top Eliminator race.
Brian Harris seemed to have Super Pro 6.60 in hand until he crossed the centerline against Mike McManus.
“Luck of the Irish on St. Patricks Day racing weekend,” said McManus. “I got lucky every round!
“My bike runs low 6 seconds, so trying to slow down to 6.60 is really hard. So first round I won ‘cause my opponent had a motor or shift issue. I went 8.99 at like 48 mph in the semi’s but got lucky again. My opponent broke out with a 6.599 on my 6.70ish —wow could not believe it!
“So on to the the finals. I get lane choice and take left lane. So my opponent gets the winlight, but as he is chicken winging me he crossed centerline and takes out the eighth mile cone and MPH cone, gets DQed and I get the win. Wow, luck of the Irish weekend!
“I want to thank Eatmyink, 41 Performance, Mac Tools, and St. Patrick!”
AHDRA champion Brad Croneberger nailed a 7.02 to 7.10 against Casey Smith in the Universal Fleet and Tire 7.00 Pro Eliminator final. “Spun the tire leaving and couldn’t make the distance up,” reported Smith.
“It was a real challenging race weekend with the changing weather conditions,” said Croneberger. “The cold and the strong tailwind made it real difficult to stay in the index all weekend.
“Then they had some issues with the qualifying, so we ended up having to draw chips for first round matchups and right off the bat I had to race Chris Phipps—who I usually end up racing in the finals.
“Then things didn’t get any easier, and I had to race Bryce Creek followed by Donnie Huffman—always a tough matchup. Then to top it all off I had to race Casey Smith in the finals, and it seemed like he was in every final this weekend, so it was a very difficult road to get this win.
“Would like to thank North Florida Motorplex for giving us a top notch facility to race at. It’s a long drive from Pennsylvania, but definitely worth it to race here.
“Also Bill and Chrissy Rowe for putting on top notch events, my dad for helping me make some repairs to the bike in the off-season, and last but not least—my wife for helping get to the race and helping out at it.”
While Smith didn’t win that 7.00 Pro Eliminator final, he did pretty well elsewhere after deciding to make the trip to Fountain from Macon, Georgia, at beyond the very last minute.
“I was in the shop working on some customers bikes and got a call that they didn’t finish qualifiers on Saturday,” said Smith. “So per the rules, I called Bill Rowe and asked if I could still get in the runs on Sunday morning. He said ‘Yes sir, registration is still open. We start at 11:00am.’ So I finished the shop work and packed up to head south. Drove all night and got to the track about 7:00am. All I can say is some people just love racing!
“Signed up for four classes and then went to work. Made one small change after two passes and dialed her in.”
His .041 light against Chris Phipps’ .146 set the stage for Phipps to go way too quick in a double breakout, 7.35 Super Eliminator final.
“In Super Eliminator I faced Chris Phipps in the finals. I cut a better light and we had an awesome race looking at each other all the way. Straight up whack-fest, double breakout. He just went a little more than I did past the index.”
Smith caught a break in Saturday’s Eliminator, leaving .022 after final round opponent Chris Ussery, who’s transmission then broke and allowed Smith to drive around.
“Was able to win the Eliminator class racing against some awesome competitors, including 2022 Eliminator champ Chris Ussery in the finals,” said Smith. “Great race.
“I do a lot alone at the track, but the guys in the background that make it possible are Chad Hart at XLXBHORSEPOWER and the guys at Harley-Davidson of Macon making sure I got all the parts I need.
“GEN2 Smith Racing starting off the year the right way. Long way to go ahead of us.”
Racin’ Ray Robinson raced his short wheelbase, bucking Buell to the Sunday Eliminator win, beating the great Donnie Huffman when Donnie had an uncharacteristically bad reaction time.
“I would like to thank AHDRA for putting on a good race weekend despite the weather and accidents,” said Robinson, who sadly is adding a swingarm and shock to his handful Buell. “And to my crew at Universal Fleet and Tire—couldn’t have won the ET class without all their help and motivation. And to my family, thanks for supporting me while I chase my dreams. Love y’all!”
Huffman my have blown the race against Robinson, but delivered for the win against AHDRA champion Cody Hayworth in Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson 6.35. Huffman put a killer .019 light up against Hayworth’s .158 and stayed close to the index with a 6.38
“It was freaking cold, I was ready to go back to Florida,” laughed Huffman.
Michael Hines Jr. took the tree .022 to .203 against his brother Jaden to set up the Junior Dragbikes win, running 9.96 to Jaden’s 10.56.
“Michael broke into the 9s for the first time ever,” said proud dad Michael Sr. “And all day Sunday, he was so happy!
“They loved seeing all the big bikes, and they got to meet Tii Thorpe this weekend. They loved that too. Can’t wait for The Rock in April!”
That’s right, AHDRA’s next stop is the brand new, but still legendary, Rockingham Dragway—the spiritual home of Nitro Harley drag racing. Bill and Chrissy Rowe can’t wait to welcome the AHDRA family back to The Rock on April 28-30.
The AMA/AHDRA website is at http://raceahdra.com/
The AMA/AHDRA Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/ahdra…
The AMA/AHDRA Facebook group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/group…
AMA/AHDRA thanks Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson, MTC Engineering , Hawaya Racing, Pingel Enterprise, GMS Racing Engines, Zippers Performance, Horsepower Inc., Vanson Leathers , Universal Fleet & Tire, IHDRA, V-Twin Powersports, Daryl Coffin Motorsports, All-Harley World Shootout, Axtell Cylinders and Racers For Christ.
story and photos by Tim Hailey
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