On September 3rd, 2018, the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley season concluded with the drama and performance we have all come to expect from the big thunder bikes. On the last pass during the last race of 2018 season, Tii Tharpe shot past Doug Vancil for the victory. In doing so he not only won the 64th running of the NHRA, US Nationals, but he surpassed Doug Vancil by 7 points to win the 2018, Mickey Thompson Tires championship point’s series. Drama and high performance – yes in spades.
This was quite an accomplishment for Tii Tharpe, who races out of the Jay Turner Racing stables. Especially when one considers that Tii and Jay Turner missed the opening race of the ten race series. JTR suffered an unexpected trailer mishap on the way to the opening race, the Winter Nationals in Pomona, California. So they had to race a lot harder and smarter, throughout the year, to catch up to Doug Vancil. His VHR sponsored bike led in points, for nine consecutive events. The Mike Romine tuned bike of Doug Vancil was the #1 qualifier four times in 2018, finished up in the R/U position twice and they won three national events. Not too shabby by anyone’s account.
Doug Vancil had quite a year this season considering he came back to Top Fuel Harley racing after a 10 year hiatus from the sport. After being out of the saddle for a decade, Doug and the team did one test session, just days before the season opener, just to knock the rust off the veteran drag bike pilot. Doug then proceeded to take low qualifier and win the season opener, his first outing back. All things considered, the Vance & Hines Racing TFH team had a great year taking 2nd place, with this their first year back into TFH racing. Terry Vance and Byron Hines were present at more than one event, expect to see more of them in 2019.
Getting past the enormous accomplishments of Vancil was no small task. Jay Turner, the lead man at Jay Turner Racing, finished 3rd in national points behind Tii and Vancil, winning one event, R/U three times, and was low qualifier at three national events. Jay did this while not only driving his own Top Fuel Harley, but he was calling the tune-up shots for Tii Tharpe, Randal Andras, and late in the year for Mike Scott as well.
It’s interesting to note; all four of the aforementioned racers on JTR bikes finished in the Top-Ten. That’s super impressive when one considers 28 different TFH racers were in competition this season.
Overall this was a great showing for the Top Fuel Harley drag bikes. During the course of the year, not once did the NHRA have an incomplete field for the 8 bike competition ladder on race day. The first-alternate rule was used in 2018. When a bump-spot racer couldn’t race on Sunday the next qualified racer was automatically inserted into the ladder. That’s what bench depth is all about. In fact at this year’s Gatornationals, 20 TFH teams showed up to compete for the eight-bike qualified field. Truth be told, two more teams wanted to be at that race and NHRA had to turn them away. There was simply not enough pit area space parking at the Gators to accommodate two more teams; it was that packed!
Performance wise, while the typical bump spot for the majority of the NHRA events was close to a 6.60 elapsed time, the bump at the US Nationals was a stout 6.33 and low qualifier was Jay Turner with a blistering 6.22 shot which was also incidentally the quickest qualifying run of the entire 2018 season.
The teams who raced all ten events of the NHRA Mello Yello season certainly packed on the miles. The season began in Pomona, California, then traveled south to the Arizona desert and on to Gainesville, Florida. With stops in Las Vegas, Houston, Topeka, Bristol, New Hampshire, Seattle and Indy; the nitro gypsies covered close to 15,000 miles of US highways just getting to the races. With a stacker, or hauler if you prefer, getting an average of close to 6.5 MPG while hauling a full load, teams burned somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,500 just in fuel costs alone. But this is the life they love.
For ten weekends a year, the Top Fuel Harley teams are seen on FS-1 Fox Sports TV and they race in the presences of close to 40,000 fans each race weekend. The teams are warmly welcomed by the fans everywhere they go. Top Fuel Harley racer Bob Malloy, sponsored in part by Boninfante Friction clutches stated “fans have mentioned to me in the pits that they come just to see us – the Top Fuel Harleys” There is no doubt that the class is loved by the fans. Mike Scott commented, “We have an established following for the Top Fuel Harleys and the best part is, we see new ones every race.”
NHRA TFH Champion Tii Tharpe commented after the biggest season of his drag racing career, “it was an unbelievable year, I’m still humbled, it still hasn’t fully hit me yet. I can’t thank Team SPEVCO, Jay Turner and all our sponsors enough. To be the 2018 NHRA Top Fuel Harley champion is a dream come true.”
Clearly the NHRA is mighty happy with the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley racing series. They will be back in 2019 with ten more events beginning in February with the Winter Nationals.
MICKEY THOMPSON TIRES NHRA TOP FUEL HARLEY DRAG RACING SERIES SCHEDULE
Feb. 7-10 — Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Pomona, Calif.
Feb. 22-24 — NHRA Arizona Nationals, Phoenix
March 14-17 — Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.
April 12-14 — NHRA SpringNationals, Houston
June 7-9 — Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan.
June 14-16 — Fitzgerald NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.
July 5-7 — NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H.
Aug. 2-4 — NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle
Aug. 15-18 — Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn.
Aug. 28-Sept. 2 — Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis
2018 Top Fuel Harley Video Highlights