Near the midpoint of the 2007 AHDRA season heavy rains fell from the sky in Seattle, forcing AHDRA President Craig Tharpe to cancel the remainder of the Kresto Pacific Nationals on July 23rd. The rain may have washed out what appeared to be an exciting event on the West Coast but it failed to dampen what has been an ultra-competitive points battle in nearly every AHDRA category this season.
Screamin Eagle Top Fuel
Perhaps no one was more disappointed at the cancellation of Seattle than standout, Japan-based Top Fuel racer Takeshi Shigematsu. With the tuning expertise of veteran Don “DJ” Johnson, Shigematsu qualified on the pole with a sensational 6.39. The run gave Shigematsu a comfortable lead over the rest of the field and was nearly a full tenth of a second ahead of No. 2 qualifier Joey Sternotti’s 6.47.
Shigematsu has shown he has the ability to run these impressive elapsed-times at any particular race. Remember he recorded one of the quickest runs in the history of the sport with a jaw-dropping 6.24 in Virginia last season. Now what Shigematsu and DJ crave most is a championship.
Shigematsu began the season a race behind by missing the opening event in Gainesville, Fla. Over the next few months Shigematsu battled back and scored an event win in Atlanta by defeating Doug Vancil in the final and after Seattle Shigematsu is ranked third in the Nitro Harley championship hunt.
Who’s the man to beat? After finishing runner-up in the point series in 2005 and No. 3 in 2006 former AHDRA and IHRA champion Doug Vancil has found his way back to the top spot in the point series.
Vancil has one win on the season and has been the category’s most consistent rider in 2007. That’s a far cry from the halfway point of last season where Vancil struggled in Seattle and endured a rare DNQ. Vancil credits much of his success to his new beefier 196 cubic inch motor. The power plant is 37 cubes larger than the 159 cubic inch motor he started last season with. Vancil got some off season help form his sponsor and legendary tuner Byron Hines in developing the combination.
In the No. 2 spot in the series is veteran Larry “Drums” Brancaccio. It’s been an emotional year for Brancaccio, who collected the 90th national event win of his 28-year long career in St. Louis and dedicated the milestone to his nephew who passed away recently. Drums hasn’t won a championship since 2001 when he came away with the Pro Dragster No. 1 plate and he hopes 2007 is the year he adds an AHDRA Top Fuel title to his resume. Drums aims to capitalize on his top-notch equipment this season as his plans for next year are unclear due to team owner Mitch Marlowe recently declaring that he will sell off the entire operation at the season’s end.
Last year’s runner-up in the series Jay “The Bulldog” Turner is solidly locked in the championship hunt in the No. 4 spot less than 100 points behind Vancil. Turner has kept pace with the leaders despite not being able to reach the winner’s circle in Top Fuel throughout the first half of the season. Turner enjoyed a strong late-season charge in 2006, including a double-win, Top Fuel and Pro Fuel, at the Jim McClure Nationals in October. Turner hopes to finish 2007 just as successful as he ended 2006.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the season is that two-time defending class champion Mike Romine is outside of the top five following Seattle. In fact Romine is way back in the No. 7 spot with only 312 points. That’s a sharp contrast from last season where he had a runaway lead halfway through the season.
Rookie Joey Sternotti of C&P Cycle Center is proving he has a promising future ahead of him in Top Fuel. Sternotti finished the halfway point in the No. 6 spot with 363 points.
Bob Malloy, Steve Storduer, and Dean Comunal have also scored wins in Top Fuel this season.
With the amount of talented riders and tuners and quality machinery present in the Screamin Eagle Top Fuel category, AHDRA fans are in for an exciting conclusion to the 2007 season.
Jims Pro Fuel
Jay “The Bulldog” Turner has undoubtedly had the bike to beat in the Pro Fuel category in 2007. After record-setting performances and several event victories during the first half of the season Turner has jumped out to a commanding 241 point lead in the championship series.
Second in the series is last year’s class champion Armon Furr. At the outset of the season Furr struggled with mechanical gremlins but has since seemed to return to his championship winning form of 2006. The question now is does he have enough time left in the season to catch the red-hot Turner?
These two veteran racers have a new kid on the block to contend with as well. AHDRA’s youngest pro rider and Pro Fuel rookie, Douglas Horne, 19, didn’t wait long to make a name for himself in the daunting Pro Fuel category. Horne was named the AHDRA’s sportsman rookie of the year last season for his success in the V-Rod Destroyer class, and in Atlanta he earned his first ever Pro Fuel win in just his fifth attempt. Horne nearly duplicated the feat in Norwalk, where he qualified on the pole and finished runner-up. Horne is currently third in the point series with 376 points.
Class veterans John Breckenridge and Willie Herschberger are ranked No. 4 and No. 5, rounding out the elite top five.
S&S Pro Stock
Pro Stock has been the Junior Pippin show in 2007. Much like the way the old Pro Mod class, now Pro Stock, had been the Junior Pippin show for the last three seasons. Amazingly Pippin has now led his category’s point series for the last three and a half seasons.
Pippin has been so dominant in Pro Stock in 2007 that only OJ Marinelli has been able to break up his undefeated streak. Marinelli handed Pippin his only defeat of the season in the final round of the Norwalk race.
Appearing in every final round this season has earned Pippin a gigantic lead with a 278 point advantage over second-place Greg Krenik.
While Pippin appears to be right on track to running away with yet another season title, Krenik and Bruce Beltramini are engaged in a competitive battle for the No. 2 spot. The duo is only separated by a mere 14 points.
Marinelli, with his win in Norwalk, has climbed up into the No. 4 spot with 306 points and has an opportunity to ascend into the top three with a few more strong performances.
Kresto Pro Drag
The 2007 Pro Dragster point standings look a lot like the 2006 standings.
Defending Pro Drag champion Rick Moore has jumped out to a commanding lead in the point series, 279 ahead of No. 2 Will Simplot. Moore added to his already sizeable season point lead with consecutive wins in Atlanta and Norwalk.
Moore was not in attendance for the Kresto Pacific Nationals, where Terry Stewart qualified on the pole with a run of 7.45.
One of the many advantages having such a tremendous lead in the point series is teams can select certain races to skip. With the raging gas crunch Moore and his East Coast based Mid-Continent Motorsports team undoubtedly enjoyed having the luxury of taking Seattle off.
Simplot qualified in the No. 2 spot for the Seattle race with a 7.48. While catching Moore may be out of the realm of possibility for Simplot, he will have to perform at his best to hold off No. 3 in the points Greg Byrnes, who won the race in St. Louis earlier this year.
At Gateway International Raceway Byrnes qualified No. 2 and upset 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.
2006 No. 4 plate-holder “Curly” Jim Fontaine is ranked fourth in the point series and has a chance to challenge Byrnes and Simplot for a spot in the top-three. At the season opener in Gainesville, Fla. Fontaine scored first by ousting Moore in the final and earning the point lead.
Rush Performance Exhaust Pro Gas
Former NHRA Pro Stock racer David Feazell has shifted his focus to the AHDRA Pro Gas series for 2007 and has performed brilliantly. Following the Seattle race Feazell enjoys a sizeable 198 point lead over defending class champion Mike Lozano.
Feazell really began to shine in St. Louis where he reset the class record to an astounding 7.27. He went onto win that same event at Gateway International Raceway and followed it up with another victory a week later at the Texas Motorplex.
Feazell will not doubt be met with some fierce resistance from Lozano who has been known to finish strong. Lozano is renowned as one of the organization’s most talented engine builders and he is determined to hang onto his No. 1 plate.
Other players in the mix that are ranked in the top-five include Lee Hitz, Rick Moore, and Junior Pippin.
Hitz is one of the regular tough customers of the category and Moore and Pippin bring their experience and expertise from other classes to Pro Gas. Moore is the defending Pro Drag champion and Pippin is the defending Pro Mod champion.
None of the aforementioned front-runners made the trip to Seattle where Stan Sheppard qualified on the pole with an 8.01.
Samson Pro Mod
Greg Krenik perpetuated his impressive mid-season hot streak in Seattle, qualifying on the pole with an impressive run of 8.63. Krenik, who also competes in Pro Stock, has been on fire as of late, resetting the Pro Mod elapsed-time record several times and racking up a string of event victories that has him sitting atop the AHDRA point standings.
Following Seattle Krenik has 696 points ahead of second place Randy Borho and his total of 629. Borho got off to a rapid start in 2007 by winning the first two races in Florida and Arizona. The pair of victories matched his win total for the entire 2006 season. Over the winter, in accordance with new class rules, Borho switched from a two carburetor set-up to a one carburetor set-up and has successfully been able to keep his performance solid with little maintenance.
With only 37 points separating Borho and Krenik fans should be in for a long see-saw battle over the next few months to determine who will be crowned champion at the final race in Las Vegas in November.
There is also a great battle going on for positions three through five between No. 3 Greg Kuypers, No. 4 Donnie Huffman, and No. 5 Blake Holliday.
McCaa’s Enterprises Street Pro
Street Pro has undoubtedly seen its share of controversy in 2007.
Defending class champion Andy Simon had utterly dominated the category in 2006. He did so with a unique cylinder head combination that he developed in his speed shop. Instead of having a typical 18-degree motor Simon ran a 0-degree motor, where the valves stand straight up and down.
Last season there was a lot of speculation from Simon’s peers, who accused him of bending the rules. Simon was forced to tear down his machine yet passed every test administered by the AHDRA technical staff.
When 2007 seemed to be headed down the same road as 2006, with Simon decimating the field, his competitors cried out that his unique head combination was an unfair advantage and vaulted him to far ahead of riders that run the more traditional 18-degree set-up. Simon argued that his cylinder is available to every competitor in the class.
In the end the AHDRA decided the best solution for the class was to ban the 0-degree cylinder head.
With Simon still learning his new 18-degree engine, Zach Johnson emerged as the man to beat in the category. Johnson, son of well noted custom bike builder Kendall Johnson, has earned the point lead at midseason and is 15 points ahead of No. 2 Danny Worth and 73 ahead of Andy Simon.
Simon should continue to run faster as he gets more familiar with his new equipment, which should create a great late season battle between the three front runners down the stretch.
Screamin Eagle V-Rod Destroyer
It’s easy to sum up the 2007 Screamin Eagle V-Rod Destroyer season – L.E. Tonglet. That’s the one name that has stood out above the rest.
Tonglet found himself in familiar territory in Seattle where he qualified on the pole with a 9.13. Tonglet has utterly devastated his colleagues this year and has only suffered one round loss all season long. Aside from a rare first round red-light in Texas, L.E. has qualified on the pole and won each and every race so far this season.
Tonglet’s tremendous success has earned him nearly a 300 point lead over his teammate Douglas Horne, who is ranked second in points.
Tonglet has regularly run in the 9-teens at several distinct tracks. Tonglet, who plans to race on the NHRA Pro Stock tour next season, credits his father, Gary, for most of his success. Gary, a former NHRA Pro Stock drag racer in his own right, has said there are a lot of similarities between racing a Destroyer and a Pro Stock bike.
While Tonglet may be running away with the 07 championship there is still a great battle raging in the class for the other nine positions in the top ten.
Screamin Eagle V-Rod
At the beginning of the season Larry Edmondson vowed to no longer be what he refers to as a “Brides Maid.” In 2005 and 2006 Edmondson finished the season second in the point series. Edmondson said in Gainesville that 2007 was his year to finally capture the elusive No. 1 plate. So far Edmondson has made good on his prediction and has earned an 89 point lead in the championship standings.
Edmondson is now determined to maintain the lead in the point standings. In fact he was one of the few competitors in the category to make the long trek to Seattle to make sure he wouldn’t lose any ground in the standings. Edmondson qualified on the pole with a run of 9.48.
Edmondson got off to a great start in 2007 by scoring victories in each of the first three races. However, midway through the first half of the season Edmondson had a scare when he encountered electrical problems on his bike and couldn’t find the cause. Edmondson, an experienced Harley-Davidson technician by trade, was finally able to uncover the wiring glitch after hours of diagnosis back at his shop.
Lou Gerencer has proven to be formidable competition to Edmonson and after Seattle Gerencer is raked second in the point series. Defending class champion Jamie McNaughton is running a limited 2007 schedule and is in third place, over 200 points behind Edmondson.
Dragmasters Hot Street
Dan Norlin, ranked No. 3 in the AHDRA point series heading into Seattle, had the right idea by entering the Kresto Pacific Nationals. Norlin qualified on the pole in the four bike field and appeared poised and ready to make up some serious ground on point leader and defending class champion Bruce Croneberger and No. 2 in the series Charley Douglass. Neither Croneberger nor Douglass were in attendance for the Seattle race.
Unfortunately for Norlin Mother Nature’s heavy showers put an abrupt end to his progress on the West Coast and following the Seattle event Norlin remains ranked third with 370 points, behind the 472 points of Charley Douglass, and the 585 points of Bruce Croneberger.
Earlier in the season in Texas Douglass claimed the point lead with his second win of the year, defeating Jack Landry in the final on a hole-shot.
Since Texas Croneberger has returned to his 2006 form, winning consecutive events in Atlanta and Norwalk to gain a comfortable advantage in the series heading into the second half of the season.
S&S 124 Challenge
Grover Inks was the lone S&S 124 Challenge competitor to show up for the Kresto Pacific Nationals and ran as quick as 10.81 before Mother Nature put a halt to his sure win.
Perhaps class dominator Mike Roberts, who has nearly a 200 point lead in the series, took advantage of his comfortable head start in the championship chase and avoided the long drive out to the West Coast.
Roberts has dominated the first half of the season and reset the class record to a smoking 9.30 in St. Louis. Afterwards he reported the team had just begun to uncover some hidden horsepower. Roberts then went on to shatter the record in Atlanta with an even more impressive 9.15. Roberts predicts even quicker runs by the time he gets to Las Vegas for the final AHDRA race of the year.
Behind Roberts is Lou Gerencer who trails Roberts by a total of 199 points.
Rucker Performance Super Gas
In St. Louis AHDRA rookie and second-year drag racer Terry Tripp scored his much anticipated first ever AHDRA win. The hard earned victory, from the No. 19 spot, put an exclamation point on what has been a standout season for Tripp. The consistent round wins of Tripp have placed atop the point standings, ahead of last year’s class champion Bob “Mr. Super Gas” Drapp.
Prior to this season Tripp had just one final round appearance, coming at the 2006 AHDRA Kresto Pacific Nationals. What a difference a year makes. One season later following that same race Tripp has earned the coveted point lead. Tripp couldn’t be happier that all of his hard work finally paid off.
The road to the championship is sure to be an exciting one as Tripp and Drapp are only separated by nine points. No. 3 Charlie Walker, No. 4 Keith Riddell, and No. 5 Jeff Stevens are also expected to be factors in the championship equation. None of the aforementioned competitors trails Tripp by more than 100 points.
S&S Super Sport
John Cabral is off to the best start of his career in Super Sport and leads the point series midway through the season with a grand total of 449.
Defending class champion Julia Holliday, on the other hand, hasn’t enjoyed the level of success she found last season. AHDRA’s first two-time female class champion is in eighth place, 134 points behind Cabral. If Holliday can get on a hot streak there’s still ample time left for her to contend for her third career title. However she will face fierce resistance not only from Cabral but also from the rest of the top notch competitors ranked in the top-ten.
Bryan Lewallen has found immense success since wining in Atlanta earlier this season. He’s has a little luck on his side as well. In Atlanta Lewallen caught a huge break in the opening round when AHDRA tour regular Gary Douglass’ Sportster encountered mechanical problems. Lewallen proceeded to post sharp reaction-times and consistent elapsed times to carry him to final round victory over David Doremus. Lewallen stayed hot and in Norwalk he earned his second straight event win with another final round victory over Doremus.
Last year’s runner-up in the class Larry Maynhart has also enjoyed a successful season and is No. 3 in the points, just one behind Lewallen.
Pingel Enterprise Super Eliminator
One of the most entertaining rivalries of the 2007 AHDRA season has been between Pingel Enterprise Super Eliminator point leader Dean Druschel and No. 2 in the points Bill Rowe Jr.
The two met up in the final of the Atlanta race with Druschel coming out on top by way of a Rowe Jr. red-light. The rivals again were pitted against each other at the very next AHDRA event in Norwalk. The end result remained the same with Druschel taking the win, running 10.92 to Rowe’s 10.88.
Druschel’s success as of late has earned him a 94 point lead over Rowe Jr. However Rowe Jr. has proven he has the ability and the equipment to challenge Druschel for the lead. Rowe Jr. currently leads the SYN 3 point series.
Roberta Seaman, Jimmy McMillan, Donnie Huffman, Charlie Walker, Curtis Talbott, Kevin Winters, Jeff Farnum, and Jim Day comprise the rest of the top ten heading into the second half of the season.
Screamin Eagle Performance (SEP)
It has been a banner year for competitiveness in SEP and it may come as a surprise to some that at the halfway point the top three riders in the point series are only separated by a mere 41 points. What shouldn’t come as a surprise is the fact Donnie Huffman is leading the way. Huffman is the defending class champion and he has won an astonishing five AHDRA championships over the last three seasons.
Throughout 2007 Huffman has ran numerous consistent 11.50 runs, cut plenty of razor sharp reaction times, and racked up a pile of round wins to earn the No. 1 spot in the point series with 455 points. Despite Huffman’s tremendous success last year’s No. 7 plate-holder Dan Norlin has been able to keep pace and only trails Huffman by 17 points. Huffman and Norlin are very familiar with each other. They are recognized as two of the AHDRA’s best bracket racers and have long been rivals in the SYN 3 ET category.
Greg Best is also within striking distance of the point lead in the No. 3 spot with a total of 414. There is also a tight battle for positions three through nine with only 64 points separating Dennis Copley, Keith Carper, Dean Druschel, Charlie Walker, Kevin Winters, JP Hendrzak, and Bill Rowe Jr.
Syn 3 ET
One could argue that AHDRA’s Syn 3 ET class has become one of the organizations most competitive categories – just ask defending class champion J.P Hendrzak. After seven rounds of racing the 2006 champion finds himself buried in the point series, in the No. 9 spot, nearly 300 behind the class leader Bill Rowe Jr.
Adding to the competitiveness Syn 3 ET regularly sees more entries at any given race than any other AHDRA class. This is due in large part to the very liberal rules. The beauty of bracket racing is nearly any vehicle can compete on a level playing field no matter how fast or slow a particular competitors machine may be. The class rewards consistency more than it rewards quickness.
In 2007 no rider had been more consistent than Rowe Jr. He sits atop the standings with 602 points and has positioned himself to earn his first ever championship. Rowe finished third in the 2006 AHDRA point series.
Right on the heels of Rowe is one of the AHDRA’s most consistent riders Bob “Mr. Super Gas” Drapp, who finished second in the 2006 SYN 3 ET final standings. At the midpoint Drapp trails Rowe Jr. by 58 points. Last season Drapp performed well at several of the races near the end of the season and nearly overtook Hendrzak for the 2006 championship. If he can duplicate his late season success from last season fans will be treated to a great ET championship battle this season.
Other prominent players in the mix are two-time Las Vegas High Stakes Shootout runner-up Dan Norlin, who is third with 520 points, and multi-time champion Donnie Huffman, who is fourth with 493.
Roberta Seaman, Joey Talbott, Keith Carper, Larry Edmondson Jr. and Kevin Winters are also riders to watch as the championship chase unfolds.