The road to the AHDRA championship certainly wasn’t an easy one. The nation’s premier V-Twin dragbike racers vied for their category’s coveted No. 1 plate by enduring AHDRA’s ultra-competitive, nine-month, 14-race season.
The 2007 championship campaign began in Gainesville, Fla. in early March and commenced in Las Vegas, Nev. in mid-November. Enjoy an inside look at the individuals who reigned supreme following the grueling season-long battle.
Top Fuel – Doug Vancil
Prior to 2007 Doug Vancil had won championships in both the AHDRA and the IHRA. However after just missing the title the past two seasons, finishing No. 2 in 2005 and No. 3 in 2006, Vancil was hungrier than ever to reclaim his spot atop the AHDRA Nitro Harley-Davidson class.
“It feels great,” Vancil said. “It just stinks knowing that I had the combination to win the championship the past few years. I had the right parts. It was all about getting the whole engine package and gear ratios just right.”
To get the job done in 2007 Vancil decided to revamp his entire engine program. With the help of legendary dragbike tuner Byron Hines, of Vance and Hines, Vancil began 2007 with a state-of-the-art 196 cubic inch motor. The power plant was 37 cubes larger than the one Vancil ran the year before and featured a revolutionary clutch design.
“I could make the bike run with the little engine but it was very hard on parts and we would tear up a lot of pieces,” Vancil said. “The bigger engine turned that big clutch and gave me more horsepower. It was easier on parts too. There was a steep leaning curve at first but once I got enough clutch in it we ran well.”
Vancil won just two races, Phoenix and Pomona, but his steady ability to win rounds at every race ultimately led the former champ to the top of the mountain.
“The big thing was consistency,” Vancil said. “We were much we more consistent this year because the engine was not on the edge. We were very pleased with how everything came together.”
Vancil thanked Vance and Hines, Drag Specialties, his wife Julie, Byron Hines, and Dan and Lin DeGood.
Pro Fuel – Jay Turner
Jay “The Bulldog” Turner has emerged as one of the AHDRA’s most talented riders. Typically, Turner competes in both Top Fuel and Pro Fuel at the same event, and it’s not rare for him to win both classes.
In fact Turner scored a double-win at the final race of the year to seal his Pro Fuel championship. It was a fitting end for what proved to be a dominant season for the Bulldog.
The double-win was also a fitting way for Turner to say goodbye to his longtime team owner Johnny Mancuso, who announced earlier in the season that he planned to retire following the Las Vegas race.
“We’ve done it before but having a double up to end the year is extra special,” Turner said. “It meant a lot to me to send Johnny off right.”
At the AHDRA “Night Of Champions” banquet Turner was crowned with what he considers to be his most meaningful award, the Jim McClure Memorial Award. This distinction is is presented by McClure’s widow, Phyllis McClure, and Red Line Oil and is reserved for those who have exhibited performance and sportsmanship.
Turner thanked his sponsors, family, friends and fans for a great season and he is hoping 2008 can be just as memorable.
Pro Drag – Rick Moore
Make it two-for-two for 98-pound rider Rick Moore.
In 2006 Moore joined the Mid-Continent Motorsports team and went on to win the AHDRA Pro Drag Championship in his rookie year. In 2007 Moore performed equally impressively and garnered back-to-back championships in just two seasons of racing.
“We are really happy with how we progressed as a team,” Moore said. “Mike Bahnmaier is the owner and the crew chief of our team and he’s got years of valuable experience. He’s a former Pro Fuel champion and he knows how to tune his bikes. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to tune against him. I am glad I rode for him. We really get the most out of our program.”
2007 wasn’t quite as easy as 2006 for the Mid-Continent Motorsports team. After an AHDRA rule change the team was forced to add 75 pounds to the motorcycle. Despite the challenge, Moore was still able to finish the season with four wins, just two less than he had in 2006. Moore also scored three runner-up finishes.
“Once we got into the groove we were able to win when we needed to win. You have to go rounds to win a championship,” Moore said. “Our biggest challenge was knowing where to put the extra weight and if I would be able to handle it. Because I’m a lot lighter than most riders a lot of the teams were right at the minimum weight where they didn’t have to add any.”
For 2008 Moore and the Mid-Continent Motorsports team are stepping up to Pro Fuel with a brand new motorcycle. Moore is excited about the jump, but he also has his reservations.
“My biggest issue is the extra weight of the motorcycle. It will be close to seven hundred pounds, which is about three hundred pounds heaver than our old one,” Moore said. “Being a light rider may have been an advantage in Pro Drag, but it may be a disadvantage in Pro Fuel.”
Moore earned his Top Fuel/5.90 license in Pomona last season.
Moore thanked Mike Bahnmaier, Dave Larson, Drew from Alef’s Harley-Davidson, CP Pistons, Saum’s Engineering, Mikes Metal Polishing, and MooresPerformanceRacing.com
Pro Stock – Junior Pippin
The AHDRA does not yet have a Hall of Fame like the NFL or the NBA, but if it did Junior Pippin would have certainly solidified himself as a first ballot inductee in 2007.
Pippin dominated the Pro Stock category and earned himself an astonishing sixth national title in the last eight seasons.
“It was better than I would have ever expected. I’m very proud of it,” Pippin said. “We put a 100 percent in. It’s a lot of hard work, determination and luck. It’s a lot of blood sweet and tears.
Of the 12 events Pippin attended he went to the winner’s circle at nine of them and advanced to the final ten times. Pippin credits his crew for all the success.
“I do well because of the people I have with me,” Pippin said. “Mile Lozano delivers all the horsepower I need. I have won four championships in a row with his motors. Bob Taft is the tuner and his proof is in the pudding. I’ve know him for 25 years and he is the best ever at reading the computer. He’s second to none on tuning and clutch management. Also, Lisa Holtzclaw is my girlfriend and she really keeps me straight. She cranks up the motorcycle for me and she’s my trainer. She keeps me going in our gym.”
Pippin also realized a personal dream at the end of the season when he made his NHRA debut in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“Several years ago we were featured in a magazine as the ones who would first be competitive on a V-Twin in the NHRA. The problem was, there wasn’t a good combination to choose from and I didn’t want to ride an import bike. I’ve always ridden twins,” Pippin said. “Now thanks to S&S there’s a great V-Twin motorcycle to compete on at this level. It’s amazing, S&S makes it possible for the average motorcycle racer to compete at the NHRA level.”
Pippin’s debut was a successful one as he qualified for the elite 16-bike field.
“At our first race all we wanted to do was qualify and we did,” Pippin said. “Now we want to turn the wick up and be competitive. If we do that, at 55, this old boy will be happy.”
Pippin thanked Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson, G-Squared, and Bob Taft of Rat’s Hole Place.
Pro Gas – David Feazell
After a couple of seasons on the NHRA tour, David Feazell fully understood the rigors of racing a dragbike at the highest level. The veteran rider’s experience shone through for him in a big way in 2007 as he captured the third AHDRA championship of his career.
“John Miller builds a really fast motor and puts together a great chassis combination. I just pulled the trigger on it,” Feazell said. “It’s a 168 cubic-inch motor that John designed and built. It’s fuel injected on alcohol. It was a bit of a learning curve for us to get a handle on the fuel delivery system and the clutch management but John’s a smart guy and he figured it out. It was a joy to ride.”
Feazell amassed several wins throughout the season but perhaps none bigger than the victory in St. Louis where he reset the class record to an unbelievable 7.27.
“That was pretty cool,” Feazell said. “That was the fastest that anyone had ever been on a 45-degree motor. I have had world records before but this one was special.”
Feazell is still unsure of his plans for the 2008 season.
“I might be retired. I talked to John a few weeks ago and it doesn’t sound like the program is moving like we had hoped,” Feazell said. “I’m not very well funded and it’s difficult to find a national sponsor. Hopefully things change by the time the weather gets nice.”
Feazell thanked Auto-lite, Jessel, Theils Wheels, and Two Wheel Travel.
Pro Mod – Randy Borho
Randy Borho has been competing in the AHDRA since 1999. Along the way he’s complied an impressive resume which included a No. 2 finish in Street Pro. In 2007 Borho accomplished his two most sought after goals by landing a major sponsor and winning an AHDRA championship.
“It felt especially great,” Borho said. “For the first time I had sponsor. Team Latus Motors was on-board and helped me run the entire circuit, something you need to do to win a championship. They are my local Harley-Davidson dealer. I did some construction work for them and I found that George Latus is a great supporter of racing. I was very fortunate to be on the team and travel with Steve Dorn. Steve is a good friend. We’re practically neighbors.”
Borho was so dominant in 2007 he went to the final at every race he entered except one. Borho finished the season with six wins. Despite the overwhelming success, Borho did not run away with the point lead.
“Greg Krenik was tough to beat. He was on my heels all the time. There was never a minute to take a breath. He has one of the best tuners there is. I give him and his team a lot of credit for always being able to run the number,” Borho said. “I started really hot and then I went winless in the middle of the season. Fortunately, I was able to get on another streak after Woodburn.”
Borho says when he started to lose faith in himself, his crew chief, Steve Stute, refused to let him give up hope.
“I was behind quite a few points and started to feel down and out in the middle of the season.” Borho said. “My crew chief really picked me up. Steve Stute told me we were simply going to win all the races necessary to get it done. We think a lot alike and I really fed off of his confidence. It was very helpful. We really stepped it up and we went out and broke records.”
The greatest moment of all for Borho was when he was presented with his championship trophy at the AHDRA banquet.
Borho thanked Team Latus Motors, Steve Dorn, Steve Stute, Mike Stegman, and Dan Baisley.
Street Pro – Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson enjoyed one of his most successful seasons yet. After 2006 Street Pro class dominator Andy Simon’s zero-degree cylinder head was deemed illegal early in the season, Johnson emerged as the man to beat in the category.
Johnson, son of well noted custom bike builder Kendall Johnson, went on a summer-hot-streak and notched his fourth victory of the year at the AHDRA Thunder in The Valley Nationals from Bristol, Tenn. in August.
Simon returned to the category late in the season with a new combination and provided Johnson with some stiff competition. However Jonson was able score the valuable round wins he needed to safely secure the coveted title.
Johnson thanked Rush Exhaust, David Bost, Mac Tools, Barnett, and Kendall Johnson Customs.
V-Rod – Larry Edmondson Jr.
“This is my year.” Those were the words of Larry Edmondson at the first AHDRA race of 2007. After finishing runner-up in the points series for two consecutive seasons to his teammate Jamie McNaughton, Edmondson was hungrier than ever to win the V-Rod title.
“It was close but I did it and it feels fantastic,” Edmondson said. “I have been racing motorcycles all my life and this is first time I have ever won a No. 1 plate. It makes me want to go out and get another one. My teammate Jaime has already warned me that it’s a lot harder to defend a championship than it is to win one.”
Edmondson’s title was largely in part to him getting off to one the greatest starts of his racing career. Remarkably, he stayed undefeated throughout much of the first-half of the season.
“We finally nailed the set-up with the clutch and the Metzler tire. The bike ran flawlessly the first half of the year,” Edmondson said. “The second half of the season it seemed like every other race we had transmission problems. The last two races all I had was four gears.”
Nonetheless Edmondson was still able to hold onto the point lead despite his motorcycle not being in prime condition. Edmondson says that factor made the championship victory even more gratifying.
“That’s what was fantastic,” Edmondson said. “I can’t tell you how nervous I was the first two rounds in Las Vegas. Every time I put it in gear it made a nasty noise and I just prayed the thing would stay together long enough. After my last run it finally gave out. G.T. Tonglet had to push me off the track.”
Fortunately for Edmondson the machine stayed intact just long enough for him to win the title.
Edmonson thanked Eagle Harley-Davidson, Larry Fore, Ron at Metzler Tires, Barnett Clutches, and Steve Horne.
Edmonson also thanked G.T. and Gary Tonglet for their late-season help
“I am usually a one man team. So it was great to have those two come help me out during the last couple of races,” Edmondson said. “There’s no question whether or not those guys know what they’re talking about. They are awesome.”
Hot Street – Charley Douglass
One could argue the season-long battle for the top spot in Hot Street was one of the most exciting championship chases to watch in 2007. Charley Douglass and Bruce Croneberger needed a winner-take-all semifinal race in Las Vegas to determine the class champion. In the end it was Douglass who dethroned the defending champ and scored the title.
“Bruce is a great competitor and we have a great friendship. It was fun going back and forth all year,” Douglass said.
However there was no fun for Douglass before the pressure-filled run for the championship in Las Vegas
“I knew I needed to beat him,” Douglass said. “I’ve never been nervous before a run until then. Minutes before the Vegas semifinal I told my girlfriend that I felt like I was going to throw up.”
Douglass took the win in one of the closest races of the year.
He finished the season with five event victories and one runner-up. 2007 marked the first year Douglass ever made it to a final round, let alone won a championship.
“It was very rewarding because it was such a long hard road to get there,” Douglass said. “It was a lot of sleepless nights with my dad (AHDRA regular Gary Douglass). My dad and I work different shifts so he works on my bike when I’m at work and I work on his when he’s at work.”
In 2008 Douglass’ goal is to repeat as class champion.
“I have to thank my dad, my sister, my girlfriend Tammy Painter, Energy One, all of the AHDRA staff, The Head Blade Pro Stock Team, Shenandoah Harley-Davidson, Muggs, Willie Hershberger, and God for keeping us safe.
Douglass also thanked all of his fellow racers for making 2007 such a competitive season.
Destroyer – L.E. Tonglet
17-year-old L.E. Tonglet assembled one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the AHDRA in 2007. The young rider captured 11 V-Rod Destroyer event victories, giving him a 350-point win margin at the end of the season.
“It was so incredible, I can’t really explain it. I never thought the year would end up like this. Knowing you are going to win the championship five races before the end of the season is unreal,” Tonglet said. “It was my first championship and hopefully not my last.”
Tonglet points to his father and his brother, two former NHRA Pro Stock racers, as the primary reason for his success.
“It was all because of them,” Tonglet said. “My dad tuned the bike and G.T. did a lot of the fuel injection. G.T. would also keep me calm. He has a lot more experience than I do and he would talk to me and keep me calm. He kept my head on straight.”
Of his many event wins throughout the season Tonglet says the victory at Norwalk was the best.
“My whole family was there and the entire Horne (Tonglet’s teammates) family was there too. The Horne’s are a great group of people and we couldn’t have done this without them,” Tonglet said.
Tonglet says, aside from a few minor setbacks, he couldn’t have asked for a much smoother season.
“The motor broke a couple of times but other than that it was pretty easy to ride,” Tonglet said. “Expect for my one red-light. I learned quickly that the christmas tree is very unforgiving.”
For 2008 Tonglet is hoping to make the jump to NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen just yet, but we are looking forward to making it to the AHDRA races.”
Tonglet thanked his family, the Horne family, Horne Concrete, Matt Gross, Bell Helmets, and Bates Leathers.
124 Challenge – Mike Roberts
Mike Roberts has been racing with the AHDRA for six years and was the 2005 Hot Street champion. 2007 may very well have been his most dominant season yet as he swept through the 124 Challenge category with six wins, three runner-ups, and eight pole positions in just 11 races.
“We did our homework on the bike last winter,” Roberts said. “My motor builder Joe of Joe’s Hawg Shop and I fine-tuned the chassis and fine-tuned the motor. We found some more horsepower. Also, it was my second year on the bike so I felt a lot more comfortable on it. I learned how to ride it.”
During the season Roberts broke the national record four times. One of which hadn’t been surpassed in two years. At the end of the season Roberts held the mark at a 9.22 and predicts to further improve in 2008.
“We want to run 9.0s and win the championship,” Roberts said. “We have been as quick as 9.14 in the AMRA last season at legal weight with legal fuel. It will take just a little more horsepower and me being on my game. I guarantee it will happen. We are going to push it hard.”
Roberts thanked Joe’s Hawg Shop, Barnett Clutches, Dragonfly Dave, GMA Brakes, Outlaw Fuel and Swisstrax.
Super Sport – John Cabral
John Cabral captured his first ever AHDRA championship in 2007 in Super Sport, and he proved one can reach the pinnacle of the class without necessarily winning a lot of events. Cabral’s lone event victory of the season came in Bristol, Tenn. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a force throughout the entire season.
“I won a lot of rounds and I want to thank the good Lord,” Cabral said. “He gave me wisdom to pay attention to what I was doing. The name of our team is Revelation Racing and that comes right out of the Bible.”
Cabral has built himself a reputation of being an innovator. Before purchasing his V-Rod Destroyer two years ago, he campaigned a turbo-charged Buell, one of the more unique combinations. Last season he decided to spray his Destroyer with a 50-shot of nitrous and ran the quickest Destroyer pass yet at 8.80. This year Cabral plans to push the envelope even further by turbo-charging his Destroyer.
“It’s going to be our secret weapon,” Cabral said. “I can start off at 10.30 and move right to the 9.70 class just by changing the boost the control. There’s no eight second class but the bike will make 300 horsepower. That’s a 100 more than when we ran the 8.80, so we could run ET with a very quick bike if we want. I’d really like to see the AHDRA set up a 9.20 or an 8.80 index class so we could push our limits. We are all slowing down for the 9.70-calss.”
Cabral thanked Harry with American Turbo Power, his wife, his mom and her husband, and Dan Pennisi
Super Eliminator – Dean Druschel
Dean Druschel showed up to the final AHDRA race of 2006 with a chance at the Super Eliminator championship. When it was all said and done Druschel was defeated in the second round and finished No. 4 in the point series.
In 2007 Druschel vowed to win the title. He made good on his prophecy by dominating the class and winning the championship by a hefty 353-point margin.
“It was a goal, and when you set a goal and accomplish it, it means a lot. And that was a pretty big goal to set,” Druschel said. “I told my wife before the season last year that we would win the championship and we got it. We walked away with it.”
Druschel finished the year with five event wins and two runner-ups. He attributes his break-out performances to the guidance of multi-time AHDRA champion Dale Miller
“Dale Miller taught me everything I know. He’s local to us and a mutual friend hooked us up at a race and I asked him if he would help me. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about bracket racing,” Druschel said. “It’s all the little things. He taught me to keep focused on the line and pay attention to where I am on the track compared to my opponent. He taught me a lot about tuning the bike, when to change the sprocket, when to change the jets, how to read the track, and how the weather affects my tuning calls.”
Druschel also credited his wife Stephanie, who works for the AHDRA in the tower at national events.
“I wouldn’t be there in any way shape or form if it wasn’t for my wife,” Druschel said. “She’s my biggest supporter and she puts up with all of my late nights out working on the bike.”
Druschel also thanked Larry Maynhart for all the help driving to and from the races.
In 2008 Druschel plans to race for a Super Sport title while attempting to defend his crown in Super Eliminator.
SEP – Dan Norlin
Dan “The Man” Norlin had been competing on the AHDRA circuit since 1999. In 2007 the Colorado-base rider made his long hours of travel time and hard work pay off by earning his first ever national championship, winning the SEP class.
“It actually felt very good to finally get what I wanted. I had been close in the past but I was never quite able to get it done,” Norlin said. “It was a lot of hard work and a lot of money but it feels great to win it.”
Norlin expressed how important it is to be consistent all season long in such a competitive category like SEP.
“I attribute my consistency to an awful lot of seat time,” Norlin said. “This year more than anything I really focused on learning how to ride my bike.”
And ride it he did. Along with his championship, Norlin won the Las Vegas High Stakes Shootout bracket race for the second time in his career. It was the third time he reached the final in this big money bracket race.
“I seemed to have a knack for the Shootout,” Norlin said. “It’s one of my favorite races of the year.”
After such a successful season Norlin plans to take a hiatus from drag racing and spend most of 2008 at home.
“I’m sitting out this year but I may go to handful of races,” Norlin said. “I spent a lot of money on gas last season and I want to get up caught financially and get caught up with some career changes I’m going through.”
Norlin thanked Sun Harley-Davidson and Buell, NRHS V-Twin performance, and Larry Fore for helping him and his bike get to the races.
ET/Super Gas – Bob Drapp
Bob Drapp earned the first AHDRA championship of his career in 2006. In 2007 he put on quite the encore by taking home two championships in just one season. As Drapp quickly points out, 2007 proved to be much more difficult than 2006.
“It was a dream come true but this year was a lot harder,” Drapp said. “Last year it almost seemed too easy because I had five wins in Super Gas and I locked up the championship by Richmond. This year I was in a real race for the points lead. Terry Tripp, James Surber, Keith Riddell and I went back and forth in Super Gas. We all went to the final race of the year with a chance to win the championship.”
In Vegas Drapp responded to the stress by winning his first Super Gas race of the year to lock-up his second straight title. Drapp couldn’t say enough about how intense the competition in the class has become.
“This class is getting tougher and tougher. I ran a 9.71 in Pomona and it only qualified me in seventh place. There were four people that ran right on the index,” Drapp said. The people that have the Destroyers got even better. They found ways to make them even more consistent.”
Drapp’s quest for an ET title also came down to the final race of the year, making the Las Vegas event pressure-filled for Drapp.
“My mindset was that I wanted to keep the number one plate in Super Gas and I wanted the ET crown as well,” Drapp said. “In ET I was in a season long battle with Billy Rowe Jr. Billy was a guy that could have taken me out at any time. He finished one round ahead me in Vegas but I had just enough of a lead going in that I got it.
It was so close that I didn’t find out whether or not I won until the next day at the banquet.”
Drapp, who works as an instructor an the Motorcycles Mechanic Institute, assembled quite the season to tell his students about.
‘I feel lucky that everything went well and that I was in good form,” Drapp said. “Everything just came together and worked out great.”
Drapp thanked Kim Krummel, Fred Jenkins, Jordan Cruz, Donnie Huffman, Doug and Julie Vancil, Dan DeGood, and Aaron Goble.
Drapp also extended a special thanks to his wife Marian who was diagnosed with cancer in September.
“I was ready to cancel the season,” Drapp said. “She wouldn’t let me. She said go out there and win the championships. I’m amazed at how supportive she’s been.”