story and photos by Tim Hailey except where noted
David Vantine scored his first Top Fuel overall win
New Jersey’s legendary Atco Dragway ranks as one of the world’s spiritual homes of motorcycle drag racing, and the 45th annual Orient Express Motorcycle U.S. Nationals is the nation’s oldest two wheeled, quarter mile event. So when the Mickey Thompson MIROCK Superbike Series rolled into Atco for the Nationals on September 5-7, no one expected anything less than a good-time, East Coast reunion atmosphere and blistering performances. They got both.
Sure, Saturday night’s rain put the kybosh on Top Fuelers spewing header flames high into the night time sky, but since Atco has its own bar and the Big East’s toughest racers had some catching up, bench racing and pool hustling to do, no one seemed to mind.
Larry McBride spewing flame and smoking the tire
One of those living it up was second year Top Fuel racer David Vantine, who has turned the U.S. Nationals into a pit party ever since he first started racing at this, the closest event to his Hamilton, New York home. And this time Vantine gave the faithful what they’d been waiting for—2 out of 3 match race wins against perennial Top Fuel champion Larry “Spiderman” McBride. Larry’s brother Steve McBride has been trying to get some new clutch disks comfortable in the Blue Bike and hasn’t yet found the sweet spot. Although McBride did run a 5.96 midday on Sunday, he smoked the tire twice in the rubber match and Vantine scored his first Top Fuel overall win.
Joey Gladstone hustling the DME ‘Busa down Atco’s quarter mile
Another racer squeezing the nightlife out of the event was Orient Express Pro Street champion Joey Gladstone. Being a Saturday bad-boy must have been a key to Sunday success, as Gladstone too joined Vantine in Atco’s stylish winners circle.
With a broke bye to start his day, Gladstone faced only his DME Racing teammates Terence Angela and Jason Dunigan in anger. Gladstone had something for them both, although the final round against Angela was made close when Terence took the tree. Joey once again ran a 6.90 in eliminations, stoking anticipation for the first 6.80 streetbike pass.
Rickey Gadson with his boost controller on…
The win brought it all back home for Gladstone, who began his career at Atco when still in high school. But the Philadelphia faithful had to settle for DME Racing Real Street number 1 qualifier as hometown hero Rickey Gadson’s high water mark for the weekend. Even a veteran racer like Gadson can make a rookie mistake, and that’s what happened when he faced Eddie “Who” Chapman. Gadson always activates his GoPro camera in the waterbox, but this time the damn thing wouldn’t start up. “I was trying to get the camera to come on, and I look up and Eddie’s already pre-staged,” said Gadson, who was on a two-race win streak. “So I rushed and forgot to activate my boost controller. I couldn’t believe it! At Atco, my home track!”
Lest you think Gadson was victimized by his own vanity, he uses the GoPro footage to help tune the bike. “I match it up with my data logger, and along with my own memory of the pass can help figure out where and how high the front wheel is coming off the ground. ‘Did it come up right at the shift or as the boost controller comes in?’”
204 or not, Jeremy Teasley had a great weekend in DME Racing Real Street
Real Street has gotten so competitive that points leader Jeremy Teasley rang the Atco scoreboard to the tune of 204.60 mph on his 63 inch, nitrous-huffing, RS Motorsports ZX14. No doubt that Teasley actually dropped the front wheel in the traps to read that kind of speed, but it generated a lot of excitement nonetheless. Simply that Teasley was still on the back wheel entering the trap on a 7.84 pass was impressive enough.
Teasley took the final round win with a 7.89 against Chapman, who’s circling in on a consistent tune-up for his turbo Suzuki Hayabusa, and ran low ET of the class with a 7.78.
Eddie “Who” Chapman rebounded with a Crazy 8s win
Chapman was quietly on fire at Atco. In addition to his Real Street runner-up, Eddie “Who” took the Cycle Connection Crazy 8s win. Chapman won when Fun-For-All’s Ron Arnold redlit by -.005 in the final of the crazily competitive class. Robert Parker was number 1 qualifier.
Bobby Lovingood was racin’ good this weekend
North Carolina’s Bobby Lovingood was racin’ good this weekend, all the way to the Louis Concrete 4.60 win over number 1 qualifier Eran Pielert. “Three finals in a row and no wins,” grumbled Pielert, who had an .008 light in the final of the world’s quickest motorcycle index class. But he slowed to a 4.76 and Lovingood’s .010/4.65 package took the win.
Ben Knight and a romantic sunset
Ben Knight rode Marion Ford’s ATAK to the FBR Shop 5.60 final round win over points leader Michael Ostrowski, who redlit by -.012 but keeps himself in a good points position as the season heads into its last two races. Veteran racer Dave Cornnell was number 1 qualifier.
Bob Carlson staring the photographer down
Connecticut Kawasaki Kingpin Bob Carlson took the Trac King/APE Top Sportsman win when Jeff Cesari broke in the waterbox. That doesn’t mean it was easy, as Carlson fought his way through the quickest 32 bikes out of the Pro ET field, including former NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Sam Hurwitz and championship rivals Brian Canoles and George Shriver.
Brock’s Performance Street ET was all about keeping up with the Jones’s, as Jerry Jones rode one of Ashon “Capo” Dickerson’s bikes to the final round win over Scott Jones. Kevin Gauntt proved once again that the slow way is often the best way, winning Fast by Gast Pro ET with an 11.10 dial-in aboard his 883 Sportster. The wait was just too much for Barry Stephens, who redlit by -.005 on his 9.54 dragbike. Michael “Ice Cold Killer” Herman Jr won Friday’s Gamblers Race over his dad with a .003 light—that’s just how cold Junior is.
Michael “Ice Cold Killer” Herman Jr
Wild Bunch MCers Kris McLaughlin and Jay Cook with Rickey and Kiana Gadson
And last and most unique to Atco, the motorcycle clubs that cruise the Philly highways and byways don full leathers to hit the quarter mile and battle club vs. club in the annual Rickey Gadson Club Wars race. Kris McLaughlin took the win over Jay Cook in an all-Wild Bunch MC final. Iconz MC was most represented both on the track and in the stands.
The best just keeps getting better as the Mickey Thompson Performance Tires MIRock Super Bike Series—the world’s largest—returns to Maryland International Raceway for the 22nd Annual Fast by Gast Fall Nationals featuring the awesome $10,000-to-win Orient Express Pro Street Battle Royale on October 3-5, 2014.
EARLIER: This is How MIROCK Rolls into Atco
5 second motorcycle racing to Atco, Atco, ATCO! photo by Genie Muldoon
The high-flaming motorcycles of Top Fuel are back on the card when the Mickey Thompson MIROCK Superbike Series returns to New Jersey’s Atco raceway for the 45th annual Orient Express U.S. Motorcycle Nationals, September 5-7.
But despite Top Fuelers Larry “Spiderman” McBride and David Vantine running the first ever, side-by-side 5-second motorcycle pass in July at Maryland International Raceway, the big noise in Atco is likely to come from the relatively quiet, turbocharged Kawasaki ZX14R of Rickey Gadson.
RG1, Atco’s own Rickey Gadson
That’s because Gadson is a legend of Atco Raceway, the streets of nearby Philadelphia, and the motorcycle clubs that cruise the Philly highways. Gadson’s remarkable racing career began when sneaking out on his mom Vicky’s bike a very long time ago and continues unabated to today. Gadson’s won two straight DME Real Street races, including Real Street’s quickest-ever side-by-side race last time out at Rockingham Dragway.
David Merks, spearheading the turbo-Suzuki vs turbo-Kawasaki battle
The runner-up at Rockingham was big man David Merks, who along with tuner Roger Starrette has finally gotten winning performance out of his turbo Suzuki Hayabusa. Merks, Starrette and Gadson are all making a run at points leader Jeremy Teasley, who’s nitrous huffing ZX14 is having a hard time keeping pace with the turbo bikes.
And despite the best efforts of HTP Performance and others, nitrous bikes are paling next to the extremely fine-tuned performance of DME Racing’s four turbo Orient Express Pro Street ‘Busas. Through strict focus and refining their craft, DME has filled several all-DME finals so far this year.
Can Joey Gladstone win Orient Express Pro Street at the track where his racing career started?
Pro Street champion Joey Gladstone began his career at Atco when still in high school, then touring the country with AMA/Prostar. Gladstone and teammate Terence Angela both won at a double race weekend at Rockingham in August, but fellow DMEer Jason Dunigan picked up his first MIROCK win at Atco last year. Dunigan is oozing confidence and will be a major factor. And will Team DME have Ehren Litten’s bike repaired after his dramatic top end crash at The Rock?
Expect Teasley, who’s run 6.90 on John Drake’s “No Fear” ‘Busa, to make a serious run for the win as well as the sport’s first 6.80 streetbike pass. Doug Gall, Gabe Frederick, Danny Cox, Ryan Schnitz and others will not let DME walk unchallenged into the winners circle.
Gadson’s nephew Richard joined his uncle in Rockingham’s PJ1 winners circle with his own Louis Concrete 4.60 win. The world’s quickest motorcycle index class completes its business by the eighth mile, featuring equipment as diverse as Willie Jones’ old school Kawasaki that Gadson rides, the contemporary Pro Mod bikes of Eran Pielert and Ronnie Smith, and the Pro Dragster nitro Harley of Dale Nilles.
FBR Shop 5.60 points leader Michael Ostrowski will have a relatively short drive from his Long Island, New York home to Atco, so expect him to be fresh and ready to defend his Rockingham win against all challengers in this streetbike/dragbike mixed class.
Trac King/APE Top Sportsman also mixes it up, taking the quickest 32 bikes out of the Pro ET field. Ostrowski is a player here too, tied for fifth with Leslie Thomas. Jimmy Shifflett, George Shriver and Brian Canoles follow points leader Boo Brown.
Cycle Connection Crazy 8s is streetbikes only, with Teasley leading the class over Gall, Fun-For-All’s Ron Arnold, Virginia’s Clay Davies, Shayne Proctor and Floridian Robert Parker.
Brock’s Performance Street ET and Fast by Gast Pro ET racers will fill the staging lanes with huge entry counts, featuring racers such as Kawasaki Kingpin Bob Carlson, Tennessee’s Dustin Lee, Dale Hamilton, Scottie Keller, Kyron Drake, Barry Pryer Sr, Baybay Yarbrough, and on and on. And you can bet that Rockingham $5000 winner Brian Guarino has the MIROCK bug and will be looking for another winners circle cure.
Afterdark Underground will fill the night air with big money grudge racing as ballers, trash talkers, and wild grudge bikes from all over the East Coast take over the lanes and the quarter mile.
Dramatic, high speed, side-by-side, two-wheeled racing towards track record speeds and ETs are what the Mickey Thompson MIROCK Superbike Series brings to Atco Raceway for the 45th annual Orient Express U.S. Motorcycle Nationals. There is NO other place to be.
The 45th annual Orient Express Motorcycle U.S. Nationals at Atco Dragway will have 19 sponsors and vendors on the Vendor Midway:
Orient Express, DME Racing, Dunigan Racing, Mickey Thompson Tires, FBR Shop, Shinko Tires, Bates Leathers, Tees Photoshop, Del’s Performance, CP Pistons, HTP Performance, Rickey Gadson’s Drag Racing School, USO, Larry “The Spiderman” McBride, Dave Vantine Racing, Capo 1030 Racing, Basari Aruba Racing, Mace Motorsports, Christian Motorcycle Association