Top Fuel Harley-Davidson rider’s Doug Vancil and Takeshi Shigematsu treated fans to one of the most thrilling late-season championship battles in AHDRA history. Heading into the final race of the year, The Rush Las Vegas Nationals, Vancil was clinging to a slight 33 point lead over his Japan-based adversary.
From the outset of the season Vancil, a former AHDRA and IHRA, champion was an odds-on favorite to unseat defending two-time champion Mike Romine. Vancil had finished second in the series in 2005 and third in 2006. For 2007, with the help of Byron Hines, Vancil created a beefier 196 cubic inch motor, 37 cubes larger than the 159 cubic inch motor he began 2006 with.
Shigematsu looked to be a championship contender as well after running a stellar
6.24, the quickest Nitro Harley-Davidson pass at the time, in Virginia at the end of the 2006 season. Shigematsu would also have 22-year veteran crew chief Don “DJ” Johnson on his side. But after missing the season-opening race in Gainesville, Fla, many wondered if Shigematsu could attend enough races to be a championship contender, especially since he was traveling to the events all the way from Japan, a 17-hour plane ride away.
Vancil got off to a great start by winning race No. 2, the Arizona Bikeweek Nationals. The former two-time IHRA champ continued to amass solid performances and began to reside atop the point standings.
Shigematsu proved his critics wrong by climbing back into championship contention by scoring a pivotal event victory in Atlanta, defeating Vancil in the final. The victory sparked a summer hot streak for Shigematsu that included a pole position in Seattle and consecutive wins in Bristol, Tenn, and Woodburn, OR.
The two continued this see-saw battle for supremacy, until finally just one race remained.
Neither Vancil nor Shigematsu were able to qualify on the pole in Vegas. Instead it was Phil Schmidt who took the top spot with a brilliant 6.32. Vancil qualified fourth with a 6.38 and Shigematsu qualified fifth with a 6.43, meaning if both of these men won their opening round match-up there would be a head-to-head runoff for the championship in round No. 2.
As both individuals were victorious in round No. 1, fans couldn’t have asked for a more exciting and clear-cut way to determine the 2007 champ in round No. 2.
With anxious crew members watching on these two riders crept into the staging beams and Shigematsu was away first with a tremendous .033 reaction time to Vancil’s .068. In fact Shigematsu couldn’t have had a much better start. It was the best light of Top Fuel eliminator.
However Shigemitsu’s lead soon vanished as he smoked the tire and Vancil raced to the stripe first with an impressive 6.39 to Shigematsu’s 6.91. Vancil’s crew chief and wife Julie celebrated euphorically, as her husband clinched his long-awaited No. 1 plate.
Vancil must have felt fortunate to have run the 6.39 when he needed it because in the next round he ran into mechanical woes and was ousted by eventual class winner Jay “The Bulldog” Turner with a 17.27 to Turner’s 6.41.
Turner went onto the final and defeated Joe Sternotti on a huge .070-.241 holeshot. Turner ran a slower 6.48 to Sternotti’s 6.37.
Turner also won the Pro Fuel category completing the elusive “Nitro Double.” It was the second time this season The Bulldog accomplished the extraordinary feat. It was a fitting way for Turner to send off his boss and team owner Johnny Mancuso, who announced he plans to retire after the season. With the win Turner climbed to third in the final AHDRA point standings.
Jay “The Bulldog” Turner certainly knows how to throw a going away party for his soon-to-be retired team owner Johnny Mancuso.
After dominating the Pro Fuel class all-season-long, Turner, who regularly competes in both Top Fuel and Pro Fuel, pulled-off the very rare nitro-double by winning both classes at the same event. Although the feat is atypical Turner is starting to make it seem commonplace. This was his second nitro-double of the season, and third in the past two seasons.
“We’ve done it before but having a double up to end the year is extra special,” Turner said.
The AHDRA “Night Of Champions” banquet was held on Monday November 19th in Las Vegas and Turner received his Pro Fuel Nitro Harley Championship award and was also crowned with what he considers the most special award, the “Jim McClure Memorial Award.”
This distinction is reserved for the elite in nitro Harley-Davidson drag racing that have exhibited performance and sportsmanship. The award is presented by McClure’s widow, Phyllis McClure, and Red Line Oil. Turner thanked his sponsors, family, friends and fans and stated he is planning on a great 2008 season.
Junior Pippin’s exceptional performance in Las Vegas was a great representation of how the majority of the season has went for the 54-year-old rider.
Pippin has become one of the most successful AHDRA racers of the new millennium. Pippin has won six championships in the last eight years and he has led the Pro Modified/Pro Stock points chase for a full four consecutive seasons.
In Vegas Pippin qualified No. 1 with an 8.26, edging out the 8.27 of No. 2 Shaun Reno, and the 8.32 of No. 3 Greg Krenik. In all nine competitors showed up to do battle.
In the final Pippin again displayed why he’s the class champion with an impressive 8.34 to defeat Krenik and his 8.40.
Pippin thanked Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson, G-Squared, and Bob Taft of Rat’s Hole Place.
Former NHRA Pro Stock racer David Feazell crossed over to AHDRA Pro Gas in 2007 and immediately established himself as the one of the category’s most elite racers. Feazell made several trips to the winner’s circle this season, including in St. Louis, where he reset the class record to an astounding 7.27.
Feazell was so dominant he locked up the championship before even entering the final race. Doing so certainly wasn’t an easy task, as Feazell had to contend with defending class champion Mike Lozano.
With the championship already decided, Lozano and Feazell would battle for bragging rights in Vegas. The duo qualified in the top-two, with Lozano taking the pole at 7.32 to Feazell’s 7.39.
The two met up in the final and it appeared the symbolic garb of class dominance was officially passed onto Feazell, as he defeated Lozano with a 7.43 to Lozano’s 7.46. Feazell finished with 874 points to Lozano’s 524.
“I want to thank Auto-lite, Jessel, and Theils Wheels,” Feazell said.
After earning the first win of his ten-year-long AHDRA racing career in Pomona, Terry Stewart felt very good heading into Las Vegas.
“We had so much energy heading into Las Vegas,” Stewart said. “We couldn’t wait to get there.”
It seemed Stewart would face even tougher competition in Las Vegas. He qualified in the No. 5 spot with a 7.53.
“I came out on a brand new tire for Las Vegas and I have found these Mickey Thompson’s take a few hits before they are right,” Stewart said. “The first pass was pretty tough. I had to stick my leg out and wrestle the bike. I was a freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestler for years, and wrestling the bike down the track was one of my toughest matches ever. I’m glad I was able to stay in it because it turned out being our best pass of the weekend.”
During eliminations Stewart battled his way through the field, like he did in Pomona, and advanced to the final to again take on 71-year-old Sonny Burres. Stewart collected his second consecutive win with a 7.53 to Burres’ 7.57.
“I’ve been racing for 10 years now and to get my first two wins back to back is very special,” Stewart said.
Stewart again dedicated the victory to his teammate Terry Thaney, who is recovering in the hospital.
“Id like to thank God, my wife and my family. There’s also two guys I need to thank that have been behind me 100-percent, Thymon VanWaveren and Clarence Hightower,” Stewart said. “I’d also like to thank CP Pistons, Lyndall Racing Brakes, Dynatek, Kresto, all the contingency sponsors, and Karen Raffa for doing such a great job promoting the sport.”
After a tremendously successful season, Pro Mod point leader Randy Borho needed to go a couple of rounds in Vegas to secure the championship and hold off the quickly encroaching “Desert Dawg” Greg Krenik.
Borho was able to win much more than just a couple rounds. He won the entire event. After qualifying on the pole Borho was awarded a bye in the opening round and defeated Donnie Huffman in the semis.
In the final Borho defeated No. 3 qualifier Gerry Homes, who fouled out. Borho ran 8.74 to Holmes’ 9.06 to collect the win and solidify his ownership of the championship trophy.
2007 proved to be a thrilling and controversial yeah in AHDRA Street Pro.
After wining most of the races and lowering the elapsed-time record several times last season, defending Street Pro champion Andy Simon began 2007 the same way he ended 2006. It appeared Simon would be headed for another season of dominance. However a few races into the season the AHDRA deemed Simon’s unique cylinder head combination illegal and the defending champion disappeared for most of the summer.
In his absence Zach Johnson stepped-up big time by winning most of the races and building what looked like an insurmountable lead in the point series.
Simon returned with a new combination at the end of the season and in Las Vegas he qualified on the pole and won the event. However it wasn’t enough to catch Johnson in the point series. Johnson took home the title and finished 88 points ahead of Simon.
17-year-old L.E. Tonglet capped off one of the most successful seasons in the history of the AHDRA by qualifying on the pole in Las Vegas and winning the event.
Amazingly it was the young rider’s 11th win of the season in what has proven to be one of the AHDRA’s most competitive and heavily-attended categories.
In the point series Tonglet finished 350 ahead of his closest adversary, his teammate Douglas Horne.
For 2008 Tonglet is hoping to make the jump to NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle.
At the outset of the season Larry Edmondson Jr. declared that 2007 would finally be his year to win the V-Rod championship. Edmondson had finished runner-up to his teammate Jamie McNaughton the last two season.
“I’m not going to be the bridesmaid this season,” Edmondson said from the season-opening race in Gainesville, Fla.
Edmondson made good on his prediction and went undefeated for nearly the first half of the season. After a slight late-season slump Edmondson was determined to secure the No. 1 plate in Vegas.
Edmondson defeated Mike Roberts in the quarterfinal and went on to simply break the beam during his semifinal bye run to capture his long-awaited championship.
In the final Edmondson ran into mechanical problems and was defeated by his teammate Jamie McNaughton.
The season-long see-saw battle in Hot Street between defending champion Bruce Croneberger and Charley Douglass was decided once and for all in Las Vegas. After these two had went back-and-forth for the top spot of the Hot Street points standings for most of the year, they were pitted against one another in a winner-take-all Las Vegas semifinal.
Douglass, who had won the previous race in Pomona, was first off the line with a .046 reaction time to Croneberger’s .074. Douglass held onto the lead with a 10.15 to Croneberger’s 10.17, to take home the win and the championship, in perhaps the race of his career.
The newly crowned champion made the weekend even sweeter for himself by ousting No. 1 qualifier Charles Cannon in the final.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Douglass said. “I have to thank my dad, my girlfriend, Energy One, Shenandoah Harley-Davidson, Muggs, and God for keeping us safe.”
At the beginning of the season Mike Roberts predicted he would smash the 124 Challenge record by the time he got to Las Vegas in November. Boy was he ever right.
In fact Robert’s eclipsed the previous 124 Challenge record a handful of times before mid season. In St. Louis he won the event and lowered the elapsed-time record to 9.30 and predicted that the team has just begun to uncover some hidden horsepower. Roberts made good on the prophecy in Atlanta with an outstanding record run of 9.15 to qualify on the pole.
Roberts had such a lead heading into the final race, he didn’t he even need to show up to win the title. But, he did, and much like he has done all season, he dominated the field.
Roberts qualified on the pole and defeated Lou Gerencer in the final with a 9.60 to Gerencer’s 9.85.
“Mr. Super Gas” Bob Drapp couldn’t have picked a better way to end the 2007 season.
Drapp sliced through the Super Gas bracket, much like he has done for most of the past two seasons, and advanced to the final where he defeated Bailey Whitaker. The event victory was a fitting way for Drapp to celebrate his second consecutive AHDRA No. 1 plate.
“It has been two great seasons,” Drapp said. “I learned a lot about what it takes to be a champion out here.”
Drapp thanked his wife, Jordan Cruz, Donnie Huffman
In Las Vegas Bill Bentz emerged as the Super Sport racer to beat. In qualifying Bentz took home the pole position with a stellar 10.309, just a mere nine thousandths off the 10.30 class index.
On Sunday Bentz continued to consistently record elapsed-times in the 10.30 range, and eventually advanced to the final where he defeated Rich Vreeland, when Vreeland broke out with a 10.29.
“Las Vegas was especially fun this year for the Eagle Cycle Racing team with Vikki and I both making it to the Semi Finals, being the No. 1 qualifier in SS, and then taking a win,” Bentz said. “I would like to thank Victoria, Brittany, Bobby, and Connie Bentz. A special thanks to our sponsors Grand Canyon Harley Davidson, especially Kyle Rose, Lee Brannan, Chris, Eric, Craig, and all the Staff at Grand Canyon. In addition, I would like to thank Bob at BMP, Hale’s Motors, Interstate Batteries, and K.C. Custom’s. Last but not least I would like to thank the AHDRA staff for making this possible.”
John Cabral was crowned class champion, finishing 34 points ahead of No. 2 Larry Maynhart.
Dean Druschel enjoyed tremendous success in the Super Eliminator category all throughout the 2007 AHDRA campaign. Druschel was looking to end his championship run with a victory in Las Vegas. Druschel didn’t win the race but the outcome was equally gratifying for him.
In the final Druschel was defeated by his teammate Larry Maynhart with a 10.95 to Druschel’s 10.99. Maynhart was thrilled by the win.
“This was my first SE final round appearance, and to go against my teammate Dean, it was the most fun I have had racing. We have been waiting to race each other in a final for a long time, and I was happy to do it with our sponsor, Dale Miller there. Congrats to Dean on his SE championship, but I get the winter bragging rights!” Maynhart said.
“Big thanks to our crew, Danette, Stephanie, Dave Druschel, Dirt Bag and Tim Stoltz. Thanks to Dale Miller for an awesome year, and his continued support, and also to S&S Cycle, Outlaw fuels, Energy one, Metzeler Tires, Red Line Oil, Pingel, Faber Enterprises, Eagle Star, Vanson and Poorboysracing.org. Their contingency support is well needed & greatly appreciated.”
After winning the High Stakes Shootout bracket race the day before, Dan “The Man” Norlin went far enough in SEP to wrap-up the 2007 class championship.
“It feels great,” Norlin said. “Winning the the Shootout and the SEP championship were two of my goals this season, and we accomplished them both at one race.”
Norlin was eventually defeated in the quarterfinals by AHDRA regular Stan Shepard, who used that momentum to defeat Joey Talbott in the semis and earn a trip to the final.
On the other half of the bracket no one was able to stop Greg Best, who advanced to the final after defeating John Stover in the semis.
In the final Best took the win an 11.61 to Shepard’s 11.72. With the victory, Best finished the season No. 2 in the SEP points chase.
In Las Vegas, the red hot Wayne Pugh aboard his V-Rod Destroyer appeared to be well on his way to his second consecutive ET win. In Pomona, Pugh, who is a member of The Desert Dawgs Racing Team, won both the ET and Super gas categories.
Pugh was on his game again in Vegas and advanced to the ET final to take on Eddie Golson, who had also performed incredibly consistent during the day. In the final Pugh fouled out on the line and Golson captured the victory in his very first AHDRA appearance.
“I’d like to send a very special thanks to my crew. To my dad, who is the crew chief and my girlfriend Linda, who is the engine tuner, and also my teammate Lenny. A special thanks to my sponsors Vette- RX and Rocky Mountain H. D,” Golson said. “It was our first event and first win, and I look forward to next season when we will be running in Super Gas and ET. I have to say that everyone at the track was very nice. I even had a fellow racer loan me a hundred dollars so I could test, never met him before, as I needed to get to the ATM, Thanks racers.”