Thundernationals Electrify Indy’s Motorcycle Weekend

event: NHDRO/Manufacturers Cup Pingel Thundernationals
when: August 16-18, 2013
where: Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Clermont, Indiana USA

story and photos by Tim Hailey

Larry McBride (near lane) and Chris Hand launch side-by-side in the Top Fuel final. TOP FUEL PHOTOS

Of all the events going on during this past weekend’s massive motorcycle festival in Indianapolis, nothing—not MotoGP, not AMA Flat Track, not the XDL stunt competition—attracted nearly as many competitive motorcycles as the 684 entries at the NHDRO/Manufacturers Cup Pingel Thundernationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. This wildly popular motorcycle drag racing event saw many milestone performances on the beautifully prepped racing surface at LOR.

“We’re changing engines,” McBride said Saturday night. “We have to. We have competition now.” PHOTOS

As the name implies, the Pingel Thundernationals featured the kings of the sport—PR Factory Store Top Fuel. A solid four bike field of 1500+ horsepower, supercharged, nitromethane burning Fuel bikes put on a fabulous show, starting with Top Fuel rookie David Vantine leading Friday’s qualifying session with a 6.17. When perennial champion Larry “Spiderman” McBride ran 5.90s on Saturday, it seemed a forgone conclusion that he would be number one qualifier.

Last out on Saturday night, though, was veteran Alabama racer Chris Hand and his Redneck Express. Hand was receiving tuning help from John Alwine, who said to anyone nearby after the burnout that the bike’s clutch tune-up would either have it falling on it’s face or, “If it hooks, it’s really gonna go.”

Chris Hand launches the Redneck Express to his best pass ever. TOP FUEL PHOTOS

And go it did. Right at the hit of the throttle, the bike threw a wall of header flame high into the sky and kept it lit high and 4 cylinders wide. “I’ve never seen a flame that high,” said McBride, watching as he pulled off helmet and gloves on the big end.

Hand clicked off at 1000 feet. “Not 999, not 1001,” said McBride crewman Roland Stuart, watching as he drove up the return road to fetch the Spiderman. “1000 feet exactly.”

So you might think that, what with shutting off 320 feet from the finishline, that Hand’s run might be slow. You might not think that, 14 years after McBride’s first ever 5 second motorcycle pass, this particular run might not be the one that would finally put Hand into the exclusive 5 second club. And you’d be wrong. Hand skipped right past the 5.90s to a 5.89 at 230 mph—good enough to beat McBride to number one qualifier in a fair fight.

Sam Wills on Mike Dryden’s “Nitro Conspiracy.” That’s Dryden walking away in the white shirt. TF PHOTOS

Hand slowed to a 6.17 for the first round of eliminations but still powered past legendary builder/racer Sam Wills, returning to Top Fuel action after nearly two decades out of the seat. Wills and the Mike Dryden Nitro Conspiracy team did a great job getting the new bike down the track. McBride escaped an E1 upset when Vantine took the tree and stayed straight and in the throttle to a 6.20, losing to the Spiderman by only 6/hundredths in a great side-by-side race. Neither Hand nor McBride nailed the tune-up in the final, but McBride was able to stay in the throttle longer to score the win despite a loose valve cover that covered him in oil.


Jeremy Teasley qualified number one on Ronnie Mitchell’s turbocharged, pink “Rizzo” PRO STREET PHOTOS

McIntosh Machine & Fabrication/Orient Express Pro Street saw a huge turnout miss the all-time quickest field mark by only .005 of a second. Jeremy Teasley qualified number one with a 7.000 on Ronnie Mitchell’s turbocharged, pink “Rizzo” Suzuki Hayabusa.

Richard Gadson ran 7.08 at over 200 mph on Brad Mummert’s old school GS. This bike, in one form or another, has been racing Pro Street/Streetbike Shootout ever since I got into the game and has shed more than a full second of ET and gained 30 mph. PRO STREET PHOTOS

Wow, how far have Tony Ficher and crew come since we first saw this one-off supercharged ‘Busa at MIR?

Ronnie Mitchell marveling at the numbers laid down by Tony Ficher’s bike in his win over Teasley. PHOTOS

That was before 6s came raining down on LOR in eliminations, with Frankie Stotz recording the NHDRO’s first ever 6 second street legal pass on his Honda CBR1000RR. Stotz got beat by DME Racing’s Joey Gladstone’s 213 mph blast in the semis, and Teasley lost to the surprising supercharged ‘Busa of Tony Ficher’s 6.96 in the other semi. It was the first 6 for Ficher, who went 7.00s recently while testing. Ficher took the tree against Gladstone but slowed to a 7.03 while Joey—whose DME team didn’t touch the tune-up at all between rounds—won with a 6.99.

Joey Gladstone and the DME ‘Busa chase down Teasley, both bikes hanging the wheel. PST PHOTOS

Mark Paquette qualified #1 in Pro Comp with an eighth mile 4.07 at 179

The eighth mile Schnitz Racing/APE Pro Comp class saw a sharp twist on the ages old nitrous vs. turbo battle. Mark Paquette qualified number one, as he often does, with a 4.075 on his turbo-methanol Kawasaki Funnybike. But Paquette’s bike stalled while staging for his E2 race vs. Brunson Grothus’ nitrous turbo Pro Mod. Showing there is no love lost between these two, Grothus quickly staged while Paquette waved for his starter cart to no avail. The tree came down, Grothus streaked to the win, and Paquette pushed back dejectedly from the starting line.

A rare redlight for Billy Vose put the MPS ‘Busa Pro Mod out early

“We arrived at Indy with two fresh engines and high hopes they would be what we needed to get the bike in the 4.0 second range,” Dan Rudd said about the MPS Hayabusa Pro Mod he runs along with Mike Thyen, with Billy Vose riding. “Testing on Friday with small jets produced a 4.22 followed by a 4.21. The surprising thing was the quarter mile times of 6.69 at 191and 6.62 at 196 for those runs even with eighth mile gearing.

“The first qualifying run Friday was a 4.18. We made some changes on Saturday and ran 4.16 and 4.13.The 4.13 would qualify us fifth in the 16 bike field only .06 off the low ET of the race. This would pit us against C.D. Watson from Texas in round 1. We had been working on getting the bike to react and apparently we did a good job. Billy went -.008 on the tree to turn on the redlight, ending our day early.We ran a 4.15 on that run though. to C.D.’s 4.33. All in all a good outing for our team.”

ADRL Champ and Driver of the Year Eric McKinney

The Pro Comp final boiled down to ADRL Champ and Driver of the Year Eric McKinney and wily veteran Paul Gast. These may not be the chummiest competitors either, as McKinney’s tuner Ashley Owens used to ride for Gast. But Paul has a healthy respect for Eric and Team McKinney, and perhaps that’s what triggered his -.006 redlight. McKinney ran a 4.07—low Pro Comp ET for the event.

Teasley and Johnny “Turbo” Dobin’s Exoticycle ‘Busa in the Real Street final

Pro Street number one qualifier Teasley also nailed that honor in Shinko/WPS Real Street with a 7.89 on Roger Starrette’s nitrous huffing Kawasaki ZX14. This time Teasley carried his qualifying performance to the winners circle on raceday, beating rival Johnny “Turbo” Dobin and his Exoticycle ‘Busa with a perfect .000 light holeshot in the final.

“Punisher” Dale Nilles dominated Rush Racing/Hawaya Pro Dragster

“Punisher” Dale Nilles dominated Rush Racing/Hawaya Pro Dragster, qualifying number one with a 7.42 and bettering that with a 7.40 to take out Keith Kelley in the final.

Scott Parker’s bike is no beauty queen, but….

Some readers may know the Eric Clapton song “It’s in the way that you use it” from the “Color of Money” soundtrack. The term can be applied to Scott Parker and his visually challenged motorcycle. The bike will never win any awards for beauty or speedy appearance, but the combination did win Tsukigi/Tiger Racing Streetfighter at the Thundernationals. Parker’s light forced Ryan Schnitz to break out in the final, and he left Randy Smith absolutely standing still in the MTC Super Comp final. “My Streetfighter bike is a 1983 vintage kz/gpz Kawasaki,” Parker said. “What’s interesting is that I was the one and only entry on an ‘old skool Kaw’ in the streetfighter class that is 99.99% modern day machines like ‘Busas, ZX14s, GSXRs, etc. In fact, I have never seen any other ‘old skool Kaw’ ever make it to a final in this class anywhere, except for the Indy Man Cup event last year where an ‘old skool Kaw’ runner-upped. After I won the Streetfighter final, I raced back to the starting line, got off and jumped onto my Super Comp bike, which is a totally different bike, and won that final also. Old skool rules!”

Veteran Top Gas racers Mitch Brown (near lane) and John “Butch” Schwartz

Hornish Brothers/Star Racing Top Gas went to veteran racer Mitch Brown, who co-developed and co-markets the MonStar billet cylinder head with Star Racing. Runner-up Jesse Moyar took the tree but couldn’t command the stripe in the final against Brown.

Mike Studebaker won Catalyst Racing Composites/Worldwide Bearings Crazy 8s

Streetfighter #1 qualifier Ben Knight, shown with Bill Hahn, won Street ET on Saturday

Mike Studebaker won the Catalyst Racing Composites/Worldwide Bearings Crazy 8s final over Bryan Clapper Jr. Ben Knight beat John “Spooky” Markham in Saturday’s Dennis Insurance/Muzzy Performance Street ET final, and Adam Harris beat Brad Gott on Sunday. G&G Metal Spinners/MPS Pro ET wins went to Matt “I’d be the NHRA champ if I wanted” Smith over Mike Hall in Saturday’s final, and veteran racer Dan McCarten over Dalton Markham on Sunday.

Adam Harris won Street ET on Sunday

Matt “I’d be the NHRA champ if I wanted” Smith won G&G Metal Spinners/MPS Pro ET on Saturday

Veteran Dan McCarten beat young Dalton Markham in Sunday’s G&G Metal Spinners/MPS Pro ET final

Port-Tech Grudge was an entertaining night despite the big races that DIDN’T happen, with Orange Crush, The Fugitive, Kingpin and Chupacabra all in the house.

Juicy loves Twinkies….see how much Juicy loves Twinkies here: MORE BIKINI PHOTOS

And talk about entertainment! Those NHDRO bikini contest girls are the hardest working ladies in show business. What revealing tricks will they pull out to up the ante in September?

The NHDRO returns to action September 27-29 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Indiana.

EARLIER: Hand and McBride advance to TF final

Top Fuel rookie David Vantine ran a very game race against Larry McBride in E1. Vantine left on the Spiderman and hung in for a side-by-side battle that resulted in a .06 MOV win for McBride

EARLIER: Chris Hand’s 5.89 Leads Top Fuel!!!

EARLIER: McBride takes over Top Fuel in Q2

EARLIER: Vantine leads Top Fuel after Q1 at Indy

David Vantine screaming down the Indy quarter to #1 in Top Fuel Q1 at the Pingel Thundernationals