Buckeye Peery Leads AMRA Norwalk Winners

The PennGrade1 American Motorcycle Racing Association’s (AMRA) Harley-Davidson motorcycle drag racing series took the stripe at America’s Dragstrip, Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, on May 17-19. The AMRA Ohio Nitro Nationals ran in beautiful, Chamber of Commerce weather, and a big win by a home state hero cast the brightest light over this Disney World of drag racing facilities.

Circle M Ranch/Dove Fuels Top Fuel

Milford, Ohio’s Ryan Peery (featured photo above) has won a lot of Circle M Ranch/Dove Fuels Top Fuel races and multiple championships by virtue of his consistency. But gremlins inhabited his clutch over the winter and like a determined squatter, they refuse to leave. His bike has blown the tire off on more passes in the first two races of 2024 than it has for the last three years.

And Norwalk started off no different, with Peery qualified sixth with an ET that barely broke out of Super Gas 9.90 index. Meanwhile, Cecil County winner Jay “Bulldog” Turner qualified number one with a 6.51 at 216 mph and seemed to be sitting pretty to make it two straight.

“All around it was an ugly weekend, but we worked our asses off and fixed enough issues in time to go rounds,” said Peery, who ripped off a 6.47 at 202 to trailer Cecil County runner-up Jordan Peterson in round one of eliminations. He lucked out in E2, taking out two-time NHRA champ Tii Tharpe and his Spevco mount despite running only 7.0 at 190.

That set up the final with Turner, who failed to get down the track and another 7+ second pass from Peery was good enough to do the job. “It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win,” continued Ryan.

“I made some changes at the beginning of the year to try some new things and that’s finally coming together, but just as that shows promise we’ve had several other things not working. We fixed our clutch hat issue but on race day we found clutch canon issues. It’s always one thing after another.

“We pulled off at least one good pass, running low ET of the weekend and we can go forward off that data. I’m looking forward to dialing this thing in at the next race.”

Johnny Mancuso

It was great to see Mr. Circle M Ranch himself, former Top Fuel champ Johnny Mancuso, enjoying the Norwalk action.

Nitro Funnybike

Tadashi “Reggie” Saitou

Japanese rider Tadashi “Reggie” Saitou won Nitro Funnybike at the AMRA season opener at No Problem Raceway (NPR), and winning again at Norwalk has the long distance commuter thinking “championship.”

“I got points for winning the first round of the season, and I want to get as many points as possible this year,” said the Pro Stock Motorcycle rider -sized Saitou.

“My race begins with a long trip from Japan, and a long drive from Florida to Ohio.

“There was a problem with the rear tire I was using until the last race, so it doesn’t suit me. I got new tires. I got a feel for this tire after just one ride. However, problems with the clutch system, fuel system, and electrical system were discovered. Additionally, the front head bolt broke. Ryan Perry helped us! He always takes care of us and cooperates with us. I am always grateful to him.”

Reggie had a broke bye in E1 when Jordan Peterson no-showed, then collected a win when his Bad Apple Racing teammate Cameron Gunter redlit in the semifinals.

Reggie!

“And thanks to the support of Jimmy McMillan, Jake, and the Bad Apple team, I was able to make it to the finals. We know that the bike is not in perfect condition. However, my team worked hard to make sure I could ride my bike. I focused on reaction time to reward that.”

And indeed, Reggie nailed an .025 on number one qualifier Jim Doyle, and outran the champ 7.13 to 7.35 to seal the win. “I was very happy to ride in the final with Jim Doyle, whom I respect. This race had a lot of luck. I guess DJ (the late “Nitro Santa” Don Johnson) was watching.”

Expensive flights from Japan to race an expensive sport are not for the feint of heart, and Reggie struggles to make it all happen. “I’ve had some problems and Jimmy (McMillan) and Stacey (Kelso) always support me. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to drag race in the United States. I would like to send a big thank you to them and everyone who supported me.”

Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel

Curt Sexton

Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel champion Sam White again showed up and promptly gapped the field while qualifying number one, but like at Cecil County, failed to reach the winners circle. White blew the pipe off on his round one bye, then lined up crooked in the rush to race E2 against “Bad Apple Mary” Dangrow, who then went to the final against NPR runner-up Curt Sexton.

Sexton was struggling at Norwalk. “We were off pace and struggling with qualifying and just couldn’t get the bike (to) 60 foot,” Curt said about qualifying. “We found a cylinder leaking compression after second round and thought we found it. Barely got it back together for third round and then was so disappointed it still wasn’t working and it put us at number five qualifier with 7.68.

“Took the logbook back to where we were staying for the night and studied it. In the morning I talked to Greg about what I thought was going on. He and I agreed to what we were going to do before first round of eliminations.

“First round match against Hot Rod (Carlisle) was going to be tough, ‘cause if we were still off he could definitely have gotten around me. We wasn’t sure if it would work but had a good idea it should change a little. Wow, what a great call, we found it! 7.378—low ET for the weekend.

“From there we kinda just held pace, not to push it if we didn’t have to. Second round was Dave Larson. I finished rebuilding the frame for Dave last year and putting in a new power plant, so he’s going through some growing pains but still could have gotten around us as in the past. Ran 7.403 against him for the win

“Third round was supposed to be Paul Anderson and he just ran a 7.408. This was going to be a race but unfortunately something happened to his bike and couldn’t make the round. Mary got the bye this round, so Mary and I decided to race for the final.”

Sexton put ,044 on Dangrow at the start and legged it out with a 7.40 at 168 to her 7.53 at 167 for the win. “We left pretty close together and I had a slight advantage over her on the tree and held it to the finishline. Man, I felt like she was right there and she was just going to come right by me She is becoming a very great woman to watch race and be able to race next to.

“What a great way to finish after struggling badly in qualifying. What an amazing weekend for the weather and thank you everyone involved with the event: AMRA, Summit Motorsports Park and all the staff.

“Unfortunately, as we got back home and Greg got the motor out of the bike to freshen up we found the crankshaft was cracked and I have been very busy with all my customers trying to get work done for them.

“I would like to thank a few people for allowing me to be able to do what I love to do in this sport. Thank you to my wife Kathren for all she puts up with. Very big thank you to my team owner Greg Janosik for the opportunity to share the honor of being able to pilot your motorcycle and become a great friend. Thank you to all of our sponsors and racers for the chance to race at all these amazing events. I know I’ve probably missed something and apologize if I didn’t get to thank everyone, so thank you and God bless. See you at the next race!”

Outlaw Street and Axtell Cylinders Hot Street

Charley Douglass

Turbo vs. nitrous is the gift that keeps on giving. Gregg Dahl and Mike Motto had planned to take their nitrous Outlaw Street V-Twin beasts to race against the import sportbikes in the Mid-Atlantic based XDA series, but their Virginia race was postponed with a bad weather forecast.

So Dahl and Motto brought their record-setting bikes to Norwalk and immediately started delivering, with Dahl qualifying number one at 7.69/182. There was a fair gap to number two Charley Douglass’s 7.95 at 172, but that number sent Charley’s dad Gary into a celebration back at the starting line. This was the first time out for the turbo bike this year and that was a strong number to build on.

“This weekend marked the return of my turbocharged Outlaw Street bike,” said Charley. “We finished putting it back together Tuesday, loaded on Wednesday and drove to Summit Raceway Park on Thursday. With no time to test we were looking forward to Friday night test and tune. Then the rain came so we would have to wait until Saturday morning.

“Saturday came and I sent the crew to the starting line, but no testing for me— the transmission was stuck between neutral and second gear. I had to pull the transmission out and replace it before first round of qualifying. By the end of the day, I was qualified second in Hot Street and second in Outlaw Street.

“Saturday was extra special, with one of my daughters Marcia and her husband and three of my grandkids at the track for support. My wife Angel and pups Axel and Jazz have committed to supporting me all season at the track and I am thrilled to have them. My long-time supporter Aunt Cindy traveled with us this weekend as well. My teammate, Crew Chief and best friend—my dad—is always up for whatever we get into. We also had friends from Nebraska, Greg and Russell. My brother Ralph and his wife Tina and friend Crystal.

“On to Sunday, we got things started off right with a sermon from Dave Hernandez from Racers for Christ. Then we had opening ceremonies with Heather Jundruch doing a great job singing Oh Canada for our Canadian family, then the Pledge of Allegiance and our National Anthem.”

Douglass started Outlaw eliminations off with a broke bye when Tim Grindle failed to make the call, running a smooth 8.0. Motto won his pair with a strong 7.99, but Dahl was still the class of the field at 7.66 at 186—his highest MPH ever and all ends of the AMRA quarter and eighth mile records. “All with a plugged nitrous jet and our first time out this season with this new combination,” said Gregg.

Gregg Dahl

But Dahl found the edge of grip in the semis, getting loose and headed to the centerline before letting out and allowing Ken Miller to get past. On the other side of the ladder, Douglass found what he needed to get past Motto 7.84 to 7.92.

That set up a barn-burning Outlaw final with Miller. Douglass’ 7.89 vs. Miller’s 7.87 was saved by a .145 to .191 holeshot advantage.

Douglass faced number one qualifier Jason Crisp in the Axtell Cylinders Hot Street final, but this time gave up a small .006 starting line advantage to Crisp. Charley’s 9.331 was just enough to squeak past Crisp’s 9.34 in another great race.

“I won three rounds of Outlaw Street to become the winner with a personal best ET of 7.84 and mph of 180,” continued Douglass. “I also won three rounds of Hot Street to win the Hot Street class.

“I give all the glory to God and thank him for keeping us safe. I want to thank Energy One Clutches, Andy Simon Sr, Steve Allstaedt, Chad Hart and XLXBhorsepower, Dan Daffner, Joe’s Parts, CP-Carrillo, Lynchburg H-D, Brian at Line 2 Line and jbtech.”

Zippers Performance Modified

Gary Douglass

Charley’s dad Gary Douglass had an easier time at Norwalk than Charley did, facing only himself for the Zippers Performance Modified win. Still, Gary—who will be 75 years young in July, challenged himself as always. “I’m starting to get a handle on my 60’s and it’s showing up in the ETs,” said Gary. “Things are looking good for the rest of the season.

“What a great weekend for Douglass Racing. It’s always a pleasure to race at the premier racing facility, Summit Motorsports Park.

“Thank you, Zippers Performance , for sponsoring the Modified class. Thanks to my family and friends for their continued support. I couldn’t do this without you! As always, a big thank you to Energy One Clutches. Thanks to CP-Carrillo, Bryan at LinetoLine Coatings, H.D. of Lynchburg, Jerry Johnson, and Billy Mathias.

“There was no shortage of great photographers this weekend. Thank you, Mike Davis, Tim Hailey, and Tom McCarthy, for your great photos. Hope to see more racers at the next one.”

“We need to issue a challenge to anyone with an 88 or 90″ bike to come run my dad in Modified,” added Charley, who thinks it’s about time all those bikes that are out there get to the track and pick on his old man.

Pro Modified

John Price

John Price had to work a little harder than Douglass for his Pro Modified win, racing against a small but tough field of Keith Carper and Billy Doherty—winner of the first two races this season.

“The first two races of the season started off pretty rough,” Price said about his own year thus far. “Fighting clutch problems, I never made a full run under power at Cecil County.

“Because of this I was approaching the race at Norwalk as more of a test and tune. Every run I was pulling the clutch apart. The bike kept improving each time so I knew I was heading in the right direction.

“It finally started to come around in the semifinal against my teammate Keith Carper. For me it was already a successful weekend, getting the win was icing on the cake.”

That win came against Doherty, the number one qualifier. “In the final the bike launched good and was pulling hard,” continued Price. “When I got to the eighth mile and did not see Billy coming, I figured he had problems. Apparently he had traction issues. You take the wins however they come. I have raced Billy in the finals quite a few times over the last couple of years, always runner-up. The Billy Doherty / Larry Pratt combo is hard to beat.

“Thank you to Zippers Performance who have helped me from the beginning, and also (those who) continue to support Harley racing: Gregg Dahl at GMS, Mike Shultz at HDFR, and the up and coming young gun Chad Hart at XL/XB Horsepower.

“A big thank you to Keith Carper and my brothers David and Steve. I could not race without their help. A big shout-out to Greg Baugh and the AMRA crew for putting on a great race. Also the Summit Motorsports Park facility and crew, they are called America’s track for a reason. And finally, Tim Hailey for getting the word out about Harley racing.”

Zippers Performance Pro Bagger

Rick Hunnicutt and Jeremy Justice

Number one qualifier Rick Hunnicutt fought through a very tough Zippers Performance Pro Bagger field to take the win. After taking the top spot on Saturday with an 8.13 at 171 mph, Hunnicutt beat his teammate Jeremy Williamson in round one on Sunday. He then faced the always tough Jeremy Justice before meeting Chad Garriott in the final.

That one was decided from the moment the tree came down, with a .129 advantage going to Hunnicutt. His 8.17 against Garriott’s 9.90 sealed the deal.

“I always enjoy racing at Summit,” said Hunnicutt. “It’s one of the smoothest surfaces in the country, prep is always on point.

“Gambled and did not run practice Saturday morning, went straight to Q1. Very happy with the 8.13 at 171 mph, and chose to not make any additional qualifying attempts. Bike was very consistent with four passes in excess of 170 mph. This is a direct result of the relentless hours of dedication of Jeremy Williamson, bike owner and master tuner. Huge Thanks to him!

“Thanks to Williamson Racing, GRC, Brian Murray and Murray Performance, Rodney ‘Bubba’ Shrum, Melissa Cressler Shrum, Revolution Performance, onefortyonespeed, Jason Clasquin, and C S Speedshop.”

Thundermax Street Bagger

Jimmy Maikranz

Thundermax Street Bagger also saw a tough, competitive field at Norwalk. Wiry Jimmy Maikranz qualified number one as the only 9 second bike with a 9.64 at 143 mph.

After a round one bye, Maikranz beat Cecil County winner Dave “Paco” Cartwright in the semis before meeting Jeff Boudreaux in the final.

Both finalists mailed in their reaction times, with Maikranz clearly giving his teammate the move. With plenty of power in the bag, Maikranz drove around 9.57 to 10.22 for the win.

Maikranz speaks his mind as if he were quoting a series of bumper stickers: “Send it! Let’s go fast! It’s just money! Pain is temporary! Tomorrow is not promised! I don’t lose, I win or I learn.

“I thank my team and everyone who helps make this dream come true.”

Team leader Wolf Grasser was slightly more literary. “Great Weekend at the Summit Motorsports Park for AMRA’s third race of 2024. First race of 2024 for Sandbagger and first time we have finished 1, 2 and 3 as a team. The new engine in the number one bike is quite a handful and reset the Street Bagger MPH record.

“Huge Thanks goes out to our sponsors Wood Performance, Axtell, VP Racing Fuels, Zipper’s Performance Parts, Chris and Meg Mann, T.J. Hicks, Frank Dodd, Poppa Boudreaux, and Team Mutant Motors by Wolf.”

Top Eliminator 9.30 index

Chris Hoppe

New Jersey racer Chris Hoppe took the win in AMRA’s quickest index class, Top Eliminator 9.30. He beat living legend (and number one qualifier) Dave Doremus in the final, putting .052 on Doremus at the tree and forcing a breakout.

“I would like to thank, as always, Greg Dahl for always making sure that I have a winning bike and the crew at Norwalk for giving us an awesome surface to race on! The weather held off and we had an awesome weekend!

“Also, a big thank you to the Hayward family for lending me a battery. Without it, my bike certainly wouldn’t have made it to the finals for a runner-up in Super Pro. I believe I still owe them 20% of my purse for the loaner!”

BK Electric Super Pro 10.30

Robert Mallory

That’s right, Hoppe also runner-upped in BK Electric Super Pro 10.30, despite slapping a .012 light on winner Robert Mallory in a double breakout race.

“It was great team win for R2V2 Racing,” said Mallory. “We lost a valuable team member and friend last year—this one is for you Mel.

“Thank you Rob Alther and my wife Rebecca for all the support, could not have done it without you.”

Number one qualifier Heather Jendruch broke out against Hoppe in the semis.

Super Gas 9.90

Donnie Huffman

Leathery veteran racer Donnie Huffman added another win to his lengthy résumé, winning Super Gas 9.90. The Florida legend put .038 on opponent Chris Martin in the final, resulting in a double breakout race to the stripe.

“Two wins in a row—Louisiana and Ohio,” noted Huffman. “Want to thank Huffman Performance and Service, R&R Cycles, Vanson leathers and D&G chassis.”

Number one qualifier Denny Nyegran lost to Huffman in round 3.

Thundermax Street Eliminator 11.50

Terry Mason

Norwalk was the first race of the season for 2023 Street Eliminator (SE) champion Terry Mason, and he won right out of the box against 9.90 winner Huffman in the 11.50 final. Mason’s .021 reaction time advantage might have been what pushed Huffman to break out by .010.

“I qualified fifth in Street Eliminator with an 11.55 and sixth in Pro Eliminator (PE),” noted Mason. “On Sunday it was pretty hot and eliminations were too. I got down to six bikes in PE and couldn’t run the number and lost to a former champion and very tough racer, Cody Hayward.

“I made my way through the SE ladder and ended up with a bye into the finals to run the legend Donnie Huffman. It was a tight race with me taking the win.

“It was a great weekend and I got to see a lot of friends. A wanted to give a big shout out to Clayton Danford for welding my trailer leaf spring bracket. Racer helping racers, it’s what we do. And thanks to Tim Hailey for his coverage and support of the motorsport community.

“I’m planning to run a few races this year.”

Number one qualifier Joseph Woolsey was one and done, losing to fellow Hoosier Bryce Creek in E1.

Pro Eliminator 10.90

Dan Kurtz

Dan Kurtz aimed to run one class but won another. “The funny thing about the weekend was I had a blown head gasket and it wouldn’t run the numbers for the 10.30 class, so I dropped down to 10.90s to run it as long as it would go.”

That turned out to be qualifying and five rounds of competition. Kurtz faced tough racer Cody Hayworth in the final, taking the tree by .022 and running .007 over the index for the win.

“It’s ready for a rebuild anyway,” noted Kurtz, who thanked “Hardcore Performance out of Spencer, Ohio, and my wife/sponsor/Crew Chief Colleen.”

Number one qualifier Jeremy Hall fell to Kurtz in the semis.

Eliminator Dial-in

Perry Paugh

This race coverage report started with one veteran Ohio winner in Top Fuel and bookends with another in Eliminator— Perry Paugh. He overcame a .006 light in the final from runner-up Alden Pollworth by running closer to his 10.15 dial-in with a 10.23. Pollworth ran 11.64 on an 11.50.

“Well I must say that I worked harder than normal Saturday trying to get the bike qualified better in Super Gas 9.90 class,” said Paugh. “I’m trying to step up an index class from last season. I had one outing between rain showers here in Northeast Ohio and the bike ran 9.97. Could not get near that on Saturday.

“So after attempting to change the rear sprocket—could not get it done due to having the wrong rear sprocket—I made the decision to change the front sprocket. Got it done with flashlights in the dark.

“Thought the bike would leave more aggressive, so turned the tune back a little, only to have the bike bog off line in SG. Had a .044, almost got to the finishline first but didn’t. Bike ran a 10.10, which helped me prepare for first round of Eliminator class.

“Bike ran almost flawless all day till semifinals. Bike didn’t want to shift, but thankfully my opponent turned on the red eye. So I was a little nervous going into final. All I can do is my job as a rider/owner/crew chief and trust my iron horse ride. We gave it everything we had and pulled out a victory.

“Like to thank my sponsors Iron Horse Cycle, Wiseco Pistons, DP Brakes, Cometic Gasket and Perry Paugh Racing.”

Number one qualifier Richard George lost to Chris Hoppe in E3.

Shutdown Area

Quality tracks are what PennGrade1 AMRA is about, and none are better than the Bader family’s Norwalk speed plant. The next one is just as strong—U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan. AMRA’s Greg Baugh and John “JT” Toth look forward to welcoming the whole Harley-Davidson drag racing family to the Michigan Nitro Nationals!

AMRA thanks PennGrade1 oil, Zipper’s Performance, Hawaya RacingAxtell Cylinders, BK Electric, Johnny Mancuso’s Circle M Ranch, Dove Fuels and Thunder Max.

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story and photos by Tim Hailey

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