St. Louis is known as the Gateway to the west.
For several AHDRA competitors St. Louis was a Gateway to a first ever win.
Apparently the sprit of St. Louis mixes well with Harley fever as over thirty Nitro Harleys and over three hundred competitors showed up to compete in stop No. 3 of the AHDRA campaign.
Screamin’ Eagle Top Fuel
St. Louis was a very special race for Nitro veteran Larry “Drums” Brancaccio from Nutley, NJ.
Drums collected the 90th national event win of his 28-year long career. He dedicated the milestone win to his nephew who passed away recently.
“As soon as I won I had just thanked God and my nephew,” Brancaccio said. “Later we were having diner with a lot of the tuners and riders in the class and I just stood up and thanked every one of them. They inspire me. It was a real team effort.”
Brancaccio, appearing in his second straight final, defeated Gainesville winner Bob Malloy, who broke prior to the run. Drums went on to run a 6.52 and later said that his stout performance is in large part due to the help himself and team owner Mitch Marlowe have received from other competitors in the category.
“A lot of guys in this class have helped up us find a tune-up, and we’re running with it. I still have the bike soft. We can pick it up if we need to,” Brancaccio said. “Unfortunately I realize they aren’t going to be able to help me much more. I’m too far ahead right now.”
The win granted Drums his first Top Fuel point lead since 1992, and puts him in contention for his first championship since 2001, when he won the Pro Dragster season title.
“It would mean the world to me and the entire team to win the championship,” Brancaccio said. “However, I don’t at all consider us in the lead because I realize how tough it is out here. There are so many great competitors out here that can just eat you up at any give time, and one bad race sends you back down to the bottom.”
The win was retribution for Drums, who was disqualified for crossing the centerline in what looked to be a sure win at the tour’s last race in Phoenix.
“It broke my heart to lose that race. People should not say things that aren’t true because it could come back to bite them,” Brancaccio said. “Yes, I don’t like to shut the throttle off. Who does? I admit I’m crazy but I would never ever try to hurt anyone or put anyone in harms way. The only reason I crossed the centerline in Phoenix is because I did chop the throttle. As soon as I let off it threw me right into Doug’s lane. If I stayed in the gas I might have been able to save it. The track was horrible.”
Jims Pro Fuel
Defending class champion and second generation racer Armon Furr was on top of his game in St. Louis. Furr qualified on the pole with an impressive 6.58 at a record speed of 215 mph.
“Anytime you come off the truck running sixes it’s a great sign,” Furr said. “We were surprised. We leaned on it, put some more fuel in it, and ran a new mph record. We were on top of the world that afternoon.”
Furr says the rapid pass left him with a difficult choice to make on race day.
“I woke up the next morning and dad (Bill Furr) said, “What are you going to do? Are you going to back up the record?”
“I eventually decided setting the record is not nearly as important as winning this race,” Furr said. “Yes the record would be nice but we were falling so far behind in the points that we needed to make up some ground. I wanted to make sure I got the first round down so I took a little bit of power out of the bike and played it safe. It ran consistent 70s for us all day. That’s what I wanted to. I was more worried about consistency than the record. I just wanted to stay on my game and cut some pretty decent lights. I did my job all Sunday.”
Furr advanced to the final to take on No. 2 qualifier and friendly rival Jay “The Bulldog” Turner.
“I knew I had a good motorcycle and I knew he had a good motorcycle,” Furr said. “I put a tune-up in it to get to the finish under power before him. He got out on me but I passed him down track.”
Furr took the win with a 6.74 to Turner’s 6.93. Furr says that he got a good laugh out of Turner’s gesture in the shutdown area.
“He let off his brake and slowed down to give the finger. It was his way of saying congratulations. I thought it was pretty inspirational,” Furr said. “It was all in good fun because we are good friends.”
Furr thanked Belt Drives, Energy One, Performance Machine, Nology, and Auto-lite.
S&S Pro Stock
Can anyone stop Junior Pippin? The 54-year old has led the point series for the last three seasons and is a perfect three-for-three in 2007 after winning St. Louis. The last AHDRA race he didn’t win was the Jim McClure Nationals in late-September that he missed because of heart complications.
“We had another great weekend. We’ve been getting really lucky,’ Pippin said. “There are a lot of great bikes out there that are just having bad luck right now. We are capitalizing on that and just trying to get as far ahead as we can.”
Pippin pointed out that the new Pro Stock class is basically the same as last year’s Pro Mod category.
“There is really no difference whatsoever. There weren’t that many Pro Stock bikes showing up so the AHDRA decided to bump us up,” Pippin said. “It’s the same bikes in the class; the name change just gives us a little more status.”
In the final James Surber jumped out to a seven-hundredths of a second lead on the tree but Pippin was able to reel him in with an 8.07 to Surber’s 8.35.
“We were a little slow on the tree and he got by me,” Pippin said. “He was out in front for a while and I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to catch him. I passed him at about half track and I didn’t see him after that.”
Here at Speed magazine we decide to ask the man directly to his face, “Can anyone stop your dominance?”
“It’s been a great run and I know somebody is going to knock me off my high horse, but for now I’m going to do everything I can to stop them,” Pippin said. “It feels good, we’re hot right now. I give all the credit to Bon Taft and Mike Lozano for getting us to go so quick. Taft tunes it and Mike gives us incredible horsepower. These are two guys that can make an aging motorcycle rider look really well. I want to thank Stone Mountain Harley Davidson because I can assure you without their support none of this would be possible.”
Rush Exhaust Pro Gas
David Feazell has long been one of the marquis riders on the AHDRA tour and in St. Louis he accomplished something no one had ever done before.
“We really got things figured out it St. Louis,” Feazell said. “7.27 is the quickest anybody has ever been on a 45-degree V-Twin.”
Amazingly, it was only the second time Feazell raced this particular motorcycle and he was plagued with problems during his first outing. Feazell the former NHRA Pro Stock competitor says his current bike is one of the most well built machines he’s ever seen.
“This is a brand new bike that John Miller put together,” Feazell said. “Our first race was in Phoenix and we struggled a little bit. Then it just all came together for us.”
In the final Feazell decisively defeated Lee Hitz with a 7.36 to Hitz’s 9.34
“It was a good race,” Feazell said. “Lee has got a shovel head that runs real fast. It’s good to see him out there. He’s got a really nice piece.”
Feazell thanked Auto-lite, Theils Wheels, and Jessel Valve Trains
Kresto Pro Dragster
Pro Drag racer Greg Byrnes of Colorado came up with the “clutch” performance he has been waiting for. Byrnes, a longtime AHDRA tour regular, won Phoenix and Sturgis last season but his performance was generally inconsistent. Byrnes says a little technology helped change his pattern.
“We were really struggling with the clutch last year so we decide to put a computer on the bike,” Byrnes said. “With the help of some other people we learned how to read it and it has done wonders for us. It has really helped us figure out the clutch.”
Byrnes qualified No. 2 and upset the reigning Pro Drag champion, Rick Moore, in the final with a stellar breakout run of 7.54 at 174 mph. The speed was the highest in the category for the weekend.
“We didn’t have any problems. We just kept reading the computer and tuning on the clutch,” Byrnes said. “The clutch was our big problem last year. My crewman Mike has really got it figured out and now its one of those years where we are getting better and better every race. For the final the track was great the bike was great we just kept throwing more and more at it and everything came together for us.”
Byrnes says the early season success has inspired him to run the entire tour in hopes of capturing an AHDRA championship.
“We’ve had numerous runner-ups the last few years so it feels great to win one this early in the season,” Byrnes said. “We’re going to every race this year and going after the championship.”
Byrnes thanked his entire crew, PlantHarley.com, and Mile High Harley Davidson.
Samson Pro Mod
The 16 hour trip to Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, MO for the AHDRA Surdyke Harley Davidson Rendezvous Nationals turned out to be a continuation of success for Pro Mod/ Pro Stock racer – Desert Dawg Racing’s Greg Krenik.
However in Friday’s test session things did not go according to plan and Krenik’s Pro Stock bike shredded the primary belt on the first pass when he shifted into second gear.
“Now we know how long a belt lasts. 12 passes are good and 13 passes are not good,” Krenik said.
Saturday’s qualifying was much more successful for Krenik as he ran the Pro Mod to consistent elapsed times and ended the day with the No. 1 qualifying spot.
Sunday, Krenik continued to have the bike to beat in Pro Mod breaking both the eighth-mile (123.73) and quarter-mile (153.13) mph records, three times. Better yet his reaction times got quicker with each run during eliminations. In the final Borho red lit to the hot hand of Krenik by 16-thousanths of a second.
Greg would like to thank his wife, Karen Raffa, for finding and lining him up on the optimum spot on the starting line. “It’s the perfect way to start each run” says Krenik.
Krenik thanked Thunderbird Harley-Davidson Mark Goodwin & Associates .SA Racing: Steve Allstaedt, Unique Services Inc. Leading Edge – The Motorcycle Paint Pros Custom Coating: Erin McGonagle, NOVI Racing: Tim Vaughn, Outlaw Racing Fuels- Jim MacMonagle, Mickey Thompson Tires Red Line Oil Big Thanks to Chick & Lyn Hancock, the Martin Family and Fleta Thomas
McCaa’s Enterprise Street Pro
Much like he did all of last season, Andy Simon dominated the Street Pro field in St. Louis. However it’s getting harder for the veteran as AHDRA has decided to crack down on his cylinder head combination.
Instead of having a typical 18-degree motor Simon runs a 0-degree motor, where the valves stand straight up and down.
“I use a very shallow chamber and a flat top piston and boy it really works,” Simon said. “They are available to everyone in the class. I sell them.”
Simon was very upset that his head will soon be deemed illegal in the category and feels as if he is being punished for his innovation.
“The bottom line is I was told I could run my cylinder head for three races, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Dallas, with an extra 20 pounds,” Simon said. “In Phoenix I stared to feel I wasn’t welcome by some of the officials so I let off the throttle and let Zach (Johnson) have his win.”
Simon decided, with time running out on his cylinder head, it was time to step it up at Gateway International Raceway.
“In St. Louis I said I only have two races to go, I’m 54 years old, what do I have to lose?” Simon said. “I rolled out of the trailer and ran an 8.63. At that point one of the officials came to me and said I had to put another 20 pounds on the bike or I couldn’t race it.”
Despite the extra weight Simon ran in the 8.70s and took the win over Zach Johnson in the final.
“I won it with a 9.09 spinning the tire the whole way and I was 46 pounds over weight,” Simon said.
Although he will not be allowed to use his cylinder head, Simon plans on continuing to race on the AHDRA tour.
“Mike Lozano and a few other people are helping me get a package together for Atlanta,” Simon said. “I’m unhappy that I can’t use my head but I love the series and I’m going to keep racing.”
Rucker Performance Super Gas
In St. Louis AHDRA rookie and second year drag racer Terry Tripp was one of many to score his much anticipated first ever AHDRA win. It wasn’t an easy path from the No. 19 spot.
“It was a long weekend,” Tripp said. “I didn’t qualify real well, so that meant I didn’t get lane choice for most of the day. I was always the bottom guy on the bracket. I liked the right lane but so did everyone else. I just tired my best to pick them off one race a time.
Tripp, who was a runner-up in Seattle last year, defeated Steve Raines in the final to garner the coveted victory.
“I was a little nervous going in,” Tripp said. “He let up at just the last second and I caught him right at the finish line by a few inches.”
Tripp couldn’t be happier that all of his hard work finally paid off.
“It means a lot to me. I have tried so hard for the last several seasons. It feels good to finally get the reward,” Tripp said. “The hardest part was learning the lights and getting my reaction time to improve. I bought a practice tree back home and I use it a lot. I had to because we don’t have a home track. The only time I get to race is at an AHDRA national event.”
Screamin Eagle V-Rod
V-Rod competitor Larry Edmondson Jr. perpetuated his undefeated season at Gateway International Raceway. However Edmondson reported that due to mechanical problems it certainly wasn’t an easy victory.
“We had problems all day long on Saturday,” said Edmondson, who is an experienced technician at Eagle Harley Davidson in Indiana. “Every pass it would drop a cylinder and I didn’t know what was wrong with it. It was fouling a spark plug on every single run. We changed everything. We changed a crank censor, an ignition coil, ignition wire, everything. Eventually something fixed it but I’m not exactly sure what. I’ve seen it happen on other bikes, but usually the cause is easy to diagnose. What made it really puzzling is that it was the same exact setup we ran in Phoenix. We didn’t change a thing.”
In the final Edmondson defeated Lou Gerencer with a 9.60 to Gerencer’s 10.30.
“I’m much more focused this year,” Edmondson said. “In year’s past I would get a little antsy at the light. The year I’m a lot more relaxed and I have a lot of great help on my team.”
Edmondson thanked Eagle Harley Davidson, Elvis “The Clutch Man” and Dick Fish.
S&S Super Sport
After struggling at the outset of the season AHDRA two-time season champion Julia Holliday was hoping she didn’t lose her edge. A pivotal win in St. Louis put Holliday right back in the groove.
“I really needed to win in St. Louis,” Holliday said. “The first two races I went out early and my confidence was down. I thought I lost something. Once I got back in the game it went very smooth.”
Holliday had a great qualifying effort to land her in the No. 12 spot – not that the defending class champ noticed.
“I never check to see how I qualified or who I’m running on Saturday night,” Holliday said. “It’s my ritual. I don’t want to think about it until the morning. I don’t want to get my nerves up.”
On race day Holliday advanced to the final and defeated Gary Degrange.
“It was great to see him in the final with me. He’s been working really hard to get there,” Holliday said. “To be honest I wasn’t sure if I could win the thing. It was a good close race”
When it was all said and done Holliday praised her fellow competitors from the winners circle.
“The weekend was pretty smooth but it was still very challenging,” Holliday said. “Everybody out here is on their game. There are no easy wins. You really have to work at it. I’m glad I could pull it out.”
As proud as Holliday is of the title – first woman to win two AHDRA championships -she admits it doesn’t guarantee her future success.
“It’s great to be the first two-time woman champion but to be honest it’s just as hard for me to go out and win now as it was when I first started,” Holliday said. “People think that because you have the No. 1 on the back of your bike that it’ easy for you, and it’s not. I still have to work very hard to survive here. I have to do the same thing they do every race.”
Holliday thanked Erie Harley Davidson, Artattack, S&S, Barnett, Albion Vets Club, Norm Tripp for the chassis, John Wise, and her entire crew and family
S&S 124 Challenge
Mike Roberts seemed utterly unstoppable in the 124 Challenge competition.
“We qualified No. 1 and on the last pass of the day we got the national record. at 9.30,” Roberts explained. “We had a couple of issues with the bike but we got them worked out before the event.”
Only three bikes showed up to do battle in St. Louis and Roberts’ had the field considerably covered. After he ran a 9.28 in an unofficial run on Saturday night Roberts felt very confident heading into the final against Lou Gerencer.
“We were running numbers all day,” Roberts said. “I felt really good
Roberts was pleased with his record setting performance but he reports that he has just begun to tap into the bikes potential and plans to further lower the mark this season.
“We will be running 9.19s before the end of the year,” Roberts said.
Pingel Enterprise Super Eliminator
AHDRA newcomer Jimmy McMillan didn’t have to wait long to collect his first event victory. He accomplished the feat just three races into the 2007 – on a holeshot nonetheless.
“I really did not expect a win so quickly as this is our first year racing the eastern points races,” McMillan said. “Last year, at my first race in Florida, I qualified first in SS and finished third. After that race I lost my bikes and started turning my daily driven Buell into a racer.”
McMillan, who utilizes one of the smallest engines in the class, says the more he raced his Buell the more he improved.
“We raced a few events last year but the bike really did not fit into any class yet. We also decided to build a bike for my wife Stacey, a newcomer as well, to race in SE and SS making attention to my bike slim to say the least,” McMillan said. “Getting ramped up last year was tough but we learned a lot and had help from many amazing friends.”
McMillan has been on a hot streak ever since the AHDRA season-opener in Gainesville, Fla, in early March.
“This year in Gainesville I was ready.” McMillan said. “I made it to the semi finals in SE and the quarter finals in ET although second gear was giving me trouble all weekend. In St. Louis however, with a new set of gears, the bike seemed unstoppable. The only trouble was the competition, which was the best I’ve had to date!”
McMillan was fortunate that his motorcycle required nearly no maintenance at all during the weekend, because he had his hands full with other machines.
This weekend was busy,” McMillan said. “We lost a tire on our motor home and replaced all four rear tires on the way up there almost missing the test-n-tune. I spent most of the weekend helping friends, probably why my bike was so consistent; I did not have time to mess with it,”
McMillan thanked Vance Houdyshell, Stephen Galati, O.J. Marinelli, Bob Drapp, Kim Krummel, Mykee, all of the instructors who covered his classes and his wife Stacey.
Dragmasters Hot Street
John “The Juggler” Burdynski qualified his 98 Buell second in the Hot Street category and advanced to the final where he defeated Tom Levak. “The Juggler” attributed his breakout performance to his well-rounded team.
“In order to win you need talent but in order to succeed over the long haul you must build a solid race team with supporting players like our cook Mama McConnell our crew chief Aunt “Get’r” Donna. Robert McConnell gives me emotional support and motivation and Cleve McConnell is the clutch management and V-Rod specialist,” Burdynski said. “I’m the riding coach and Sportster engine specialist and tuner. This is the championship team and I’m proud to be a part of the good times and the bad.”
Burdynski’s post race euphoria soon turned to grief and sorrow went he got the news that Aunt Donna had passed away just a few days after the event.
“Aunt Donna wasn’t feeling too good in St. Louis and died from a heart attack just a few days after we got back,” Burdynski said. “We will forever love her as she gave her all at the track – Godspeed. She loved all the racers and missed them all. She couldn’t wait for the Dallas race. I dedicate my season to my friend Aunt Donna “Get’r”
Burdynski thanked all of his sponsors for enabling him to compete this season.
“I’d like to thank Kevin Turner of KT Cycles in Baytown Texas, Wes and Pam Brown of Cycle-rama in Pinellas Park Florida and thanks for the occasional help from Brian Nallin and Revolution Performance up in the land of cheese and the best football team,” Burdynski said.
Screamin Eagle Performance
History certainly repeated itself for SEP racer Greg Best.
Best won his second consecutive AHDRA event at Gateway International Raceway and, oddly, he encountered the exact same pre-event misfortune he did last season – a broken down race hauler.
“As with the 06 break down, we were saved once again by a total stranger that came to our aid which allowed us to finish the trip, resulting in the same winning outcome,” Best said. “No, I’m not superstitious. Just thankful that someone is looking out for us.”
Best qualified in the No. 8 spot, but to his dismay, was still paired with one of AHDRA’s top competitors in the opening round.
“Qualifying in the top 10, against the nation’s best is a feat in itself. Being laddered for the elimination rounds against the nation’s best is a whole ‘nother story,” Best said “After dealing with tricky track set-up stuff for qualifying, just to make a descent run, I get Derek Christenson in the other lane for the first round on Sun. I’m thinking, what did I do to deserve this kind of pressure first thing in the morning? It was a tire to tire finish with the luck in my lane.”
Best went on to score one of the AHDRA’s closest ever round wins with a .0002 margin (less than half an inch) of victory against Shane Pendergrast.
“The rest of the day was just as trying,” Best said. “And just as close at the finish line.”
In the final Best defeated No. 16 qualifier Joey Talbott. Best feels as if the duo may have got caught off guard by a distraction before the race.
“I feel like Joey didn’t get a fair shake in the finals because I had to wave off the command from the track personnel to heat ’em up. The reason for the wave off was a safety concern on my part. When we were given the heat ’em up signal, there were team members and AHDRA staff members still hanging around in the track, on the starting line in my lane, after the Destroyer final round,” Best said. “To my knowledge, Joey did not contest the round for undue disruption, and luck put the win light on in our lane for the win.”
Best expressed gratitude to all of his supporters.
“I’d like to thank the love of my life and pit boss, Pat Lewis, and also our newest team member, my brother Mike,” Best said. “The successes that we celebrate are due to the continued support of our sponsors; KW’s Auto and Truck, RBI Crane and Tree Service, our Family, and a host of loyal friends.”
Screamin Eagle V-Rod Destroyer
After three stops on the AHDRA campaign, L.E. Tonglet boasts an unblemished record. Tonglet, with the tuning of his father and former NHRA Pro Stock racer Gary, qualified on the pole and won each event in, arguably, AHDRA’s most competitive class – V-Rod Destroyer.
“My dad sure knows how to tune this thing,” said Tonglet, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his brother G.T. and land a ride on the NHRA tour. “He makes the tuning calls to keep this thing running so consistent.”
Jeff Stevens enjoyed one of the best outings of his career and came from the No. 8 spot to finish runner-up. Stevens pulled out several tight victories including a major upset over GoDaddy.com girl Valerie Thompson on a hole-shot.
Also, three riders eclipsed the record 145 mph mark, but no one was able to back it within one-percent to make it an official record.
SYN 3 ET
Andy Horn, of St. Louis, Mo, had a home field advantage at Gateway International Raceway. Horn, aboard his 1994 Fat Boy known as “The Tractor” was unstoppable on race day. Horn ran consistent high-11s and cut stellar reaction times, including an amazing .001 in the quarterfinals to defeat the tour’s most recent winner Bill Rowe.
In the final Horn defeated AHDRA tour regular and two-time Las Vegas High Stakes Shootout runner-up Dan Norlin of Colorado. Norlin red-lit by ten-thousandths of a second giving Horn’s Widman’s Cycles-backed ride the win.
Another top performer in the category was Larry Edmondson, who advanced to the semifinals and is off to the best start of his career.
“There were a lot of good guys in the class and I went out there cutting the light and running good numbers,” Edmondson said. “I ran ET for 20 years before I got involved in the heads up categories. It’s where you develop the skills you need. It’s where I cut my teeth. I’m hoping to keep this great season going.”
For Edmondson, the entire 2007 ET season is just a tune-up for the prize he really wants – the $12,000 purse at the High Stakes Shootout.
“We want to get it tuned up for Vegas,” Edmondson said. “That’s the big one”.