Star Racing owner and NHRA legend George Bryce, 56, is calling for change in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Bryce has started a movement asking NHRA and its fans why he can’t purchase the same equipment Vance and Hines have won four championship titles with, a Harley-Davidson V-Rod PSM?
As one the most successful men in drag bike racing, Bryce had been a mainstay in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle since the beginning. As a rider, he appeared in the category’s very first final alongside Terry Vance, and in total, Bryce and his teams have amassed six NHRA national titles and an astounding 77 event victories.
After nearly winning another championship in 2008, Bryce vanished from the NHRA scene. After more than 20 years with the organization, what really caused the successful rider/crew chief/team owner to take his ball and go home? In this interview Bryce describes why he felt he had no choice but to sit-out.
Cycledrag.com – Since missing the championship by just eight points in 2008, Star Racing hasn’t attended a single NHRA race. How exactly did this come about?
George Bryce – That season Chris Rivas was riding our Drag Specialties Buell and we were very competitive. We set the track record and won at the last two races (Vegas and Pomona). After missing the championship by eight points to Ed Krawiec (Vance and Hines V-Rod racer), I felt like we gave it our best effort and went out on top.
We had every intention of coming back and during the off-season we were making big plans for 2009. We were re-upping sponsorship deals and doing research and development to make our motorcycle go quicker. We had a lot of things in the works so we could more than pick up those eight points we missed the championship by.
Around Christmas time the rules came out for the 2009 season. I went to the computer, looked at the changes and my jaw dropped. I was convinced it was a misprint. The new rules stated the Harleys could have dual overhead cams with no pushrods and four valves per cylinder. (An increase from the two-valve motors the Harley team was required to run in 2008)
I thought it just couldn’t be right because it left the S&S Buells with pushrods and only two valves per cylinder at the same cubic inches as the Harley V-Rods. Anybody who understands racing knows if you are going to have a four-valve run a two-valve, you would have to reduce the cubic inches of the four-valve to fairly run heads-up. AMA Superbike, FIM and every other racing organization recognize that a four-valve has an advantage over a two-valve.
I immediately called Don Taylor, who was the tech director at NHRA. I had known him for a while and thought he was very knowledgeable and did a great job. I told him what I saw in the rules and he said, “It can’t be right.” He looked at the website and said there was a huge mistake. Two weeks later, he didn’t work for NHRA anymore.
Cycledrag.com –What was your mindset at this point?
George Bryce – We lost by eight points and the championship-winning team gets an advantage? We were beyond surprised.
Cycledrag.com – It sounds like you believe there may be a conspiracy in the NHRA? Please elaborate.
George Bryce – I’ll put it to you this way, we won the last race, had a big party, and when we pulled the plug and quit, not one person from NHRA or National Dragster called to see what’s going on. After 20-plus straight seasons in the class, nobody called to see why we weren’t coming back or what happened to us. They knew why. They just didn’t want to hear it.
In 2008 we applied for revisions to update the camchest on our S&S/Buell engines and NHRA said no. Then that winter, they threw the rule book off the top floor of the NHRA building in Glendora, Calif. and let the Harley team have whatever they wanted.
Based on that and where the economy was going, we decided the smartest thing for us to do would be to stay home and see where the rules go. We hoped we could lobby for change. All we wanted was a chance to fight a fair fight.
And by “fair fight” Bryce believes he should have the ability to purchase the same motorcycles Vance and Hines have won championships on.
Recently on Facebook, a group was created supporting Bryce’s cause. One of Bryce’s latest status updates reads, “Why can the public not purchase a Pro Stock V&H V-Rod? How many championships will NHRA let them win till they make them offer them to others like we had to?”
Bryce also publicly posted a message to Vance and Hines’ Terry Vance.
“Terry, we want to buy one of those engines like Eddie and them run.
We want to put one of them in our bike and see how fast it goes 😉
How much are they?
We can trade one of our S&S 160 pushrod engines that we ran 6.87 with in 2007.
It is fresh and makes 360 HP…new pushrods too.
How much boot do we need to add to get one of them puppies?
Also we want to buy one of those V-Rod bodies and scoop kits too.
We won’t paint it like yours…we are thinking, like yellow and red 🙂
How much do they cost?
P.S. we want to buy one of them motors with no pushrods and all them buckets too.
Please call me anytime at 1 800 841 STAR, thanks GB3”
Cycledrag.com – Have you made any progress in your request to purchase a PSM V-Rod?
George Bryce – Anytime I corner an NHRA official and ask why Vance and Hines is not required to make their V-Rods available to the public they say something like, “That was grandfathered in before my time” or “I have no response to that.”
It’s a unique situation in all of motorsports. Vance and Hines is the only team in racing that can have these proprietary motorcycles that no one else can buy, race or even look at.
Cycledrag.com – What do you believe is the reason or reasons behind the seemingly unfair rules?
George Bryce – I always say follow the money and you’ll find your answer.
Harley spends a ton of money to bring their rolling dealership display to the NHRA races. They rent a piece of pavement that really doesn’t cost NHRA anything, but brings a ton of money in, nearly a million a year if I had to guess.
I could see Harley wanting a set of rules that showcased their brand of motorcycle as the dominant brand. If the NHRA tells Harley the rules they want are ridiculous and Harley comes back and says, “OK, we can’t afford to come to NHRA this year,” the NHRA marketing department would find a way to make Harley happy. Instead of the tech department making the rules and dictating to the marketing department, it’s the other way around.
I believe if you were a fly on the wall in Glendora when this deal got signed, someone from Harley said something like, “We will come back if you let us win a championship. That’s how we can afford our sponsorship.”
NHRA can’t guarantee a championship but they can give Harley an unfair advantage in the rules, and make it appear like actual racing and competition is taking place.
I’m on the rules committee and it was a slap in our face to go to all of those rules meetings, when in reality, all you have to do is make a deal upstairs, and it will trickle down to tech.
Cycledrag.com – Who do you blame for this situation?
George Bryce – I’m not mad at Harley one bit. They are putting their company in a position to sell motorcycles. It is smart marketing. I just wish there were other companies that could compete on an even playing field.
Cycledrag.com – Given your strong views, what do you believe is the future of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle?
George Bryce – Mark this down, when Harley stops paying the marketing dollars for the class, and they will, the end is near; the class will be in trouble. If the “next” marketing dollar, group, team or company does not show up and fill the void, the class will end just like Pro Stock Truck did.
Cycledrag.com – Do you believe NHRA faced you with a greater struggle bringing the S&S/Buell platform to the class than Vance and Hines had to deal with bringing the Harley V-Rod to the category?
George Bryce – Absolutely. NHRA told us if we wanted to sell 160-inch billet engines, we had to make them available to everyone, so we went out and serviced the entire industry. S&S and Star Racing built 16 turn-key motorcycles to build our category into a bigger and better class. We brought in about 15 new teams and ended up selling 60 of those Pro Stock engines worldwide.
The Vance and Hines V-Rod engine was never sold to anyone, nor are they required to sell to anyone. They have been racing them for almost ten years, but nobody else can have one.
What really makes it unfair is that Vance and Hines controls the Suzuki market too. Right now we have a situation where Andrew Hines (Harley V-Rod rider) is battling L.E. Tonglet (Vance and Hines-powered Suzuki rider) for a championship. Andrew brings L.E. the motors and says, “Here, see if you can beat me with these.”
To me, L.E. Tonglet is the blue-collar, working man’s 2010 NHRA PSM champion because he is racing at a totally different level than Andrew, and on occasion, still whipping his butt.
It looks like L.E. is close, but the reality of the situation is Andrew’s bonus for winning the championship from Harley will be far more than what L.E. would get from his sponsors. That will play a factor.
Terry Vance is a smart business man and Byron Hines is an equally smart engine man. When you put the two together it’s tough to beat. I’ve been fighting that battle for my entire career. We have been fighting for second place our entire career. Everyone here is proud to have 77 wins against those odds.
The only thing Vance and Hines doesn’t control is the S&S powered Buell market. Since we stopped racing NHRA, we’ve backed off our research and development and the weight of advancing the Buells in the class has rested on the other teams. Competitors like Matt Smith and Hector Arana have done an awesome job advancing their program. I applaud them.
Cycledrag.com – So if all of this is true, how did Hector Arana win the championship on an S&S-powered Buell in 2009?
George Bryce – Hector was advancing his performance and at the same time, Vance and Hines were unveiling their new dual overhead cam, four-valve motors. While Hector was improving his program, Vance and Hines were in the “teething” stages of their new program. If you look at the stats, Andrew did a poor job of driving in 2009, while Hector did an excellent job of driving. Hector was able to sneak up on Vance and Hines. This year it’s Andrew who has done a great job of driving. He’s been near-perfect this season with seven finals in a row prior to Vegas. There will be no sneaking up on Vance and Hines ever again.
This is not just about George Bryce or Star Racing. This is about motorcycle drag racing, NHRA PSM racing and the spirit of the NHRA rules. It seems only fair that in order to race and win with a particular configuration, it should be available to all, just like the Suzuki GS and S&S-powered programs are required to be. The intent and spirit of the rules are to make them available to all.
Cycledrag.com – With all that you have said here, is there any chance you could end up back in the NHRA PSM class one day?
George Bryce – Yes, if we could get the right team together and the rules were fair, we would come back. We’ve finished in the top three about 15 times. I’m not interested in going back just to go back. If we come back we would have to feel like we have a chance to win, pushrod for pushrod.
In the meantime, Bryce along with his wife Jackie, have continued focusing on building their company into one of the most prominent and well-respected drag bike businesses, as they have done for the last 31 years. Also, Bryce says he potentially has some big projects in the works, but nothing he can talk about right now.
Despite feeling forced out of the NHRA, Bryce maintains a positive attitude.
George Bryce – I’m blessed that my passion has turned into my vocation. We have a great shop and a great group of guys we work with. I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night and in between I do what I love. To me that is success.
It will be interesting to see what NHRA does about this.
Not till the Money from HD runs OUT.
Way to go George!!! I agree 100% make them sell them. Or let you build a 4 valve overhead cam 60 degree motor. Put my vote in for the later.
As long as the money from Harley is flowing into NHRA pockets nothing will be done.
I want a real PSM feild that is fun to watch and is close and the top 6 to 8 are in the hunt for the championship… That is a true PSM class…
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It is definately about H-D’s money. Would love to see what L.E could do on the V-Rod with their huge advantage.
Who be Geroge Bice ? Tell him 2 loose da bars and den do som talkin. What doz L E stand 4 anyways…..R-man out !!
R-man are you from this planet ? and George thumbs up to you, we’re behind you all the way.
It’s a shame that NHRA has become an organization which sells out to such a facist ideal. To give a team such an unfair advantage over the rest of the class is disgusting and a slap in the face to all who compete and to all the fans who watch. For the advantage to be so open and obvious, the message it portrays is worse. I guess
making rules to allow Harley to be on top so long as they are sponsoring the NHRA is acceptable to some, just shows the only way they (Harley) can be on top is by lining the pockets of NHRA should take a little luster off those trophies they have amassed the last 2 years. Im not putting the blame on V&H, they are just doing their job. Its just easier to win a knife fight with a handgun.
This type of behavior has become the norm in all american big business. Just like the way the CEO of Goldman Sachs looked at the senate committee with a dumbfounded look on his face when they asked him why he and all his buddies deserved million dollar bonuses paid for by our bailout money, when they should have gone out of business. These type of business dealings have gone on for so long now, it’s just the way it is..
Harley has always figured out a way to cheat. Harley claims the V rod they sell to the public is the pro stock champion when in reality it is a motorcycle that can only be used by the cheating team of vance and hines. The harley followers think this is a 1250 harley motor that is well tuned made by harley, what a bunch of crap this is,total fools, sickening.
George was partially right on 2 valve vs 4 valve. You can decrease cubic inches on the 4 valve OR you can add weight to the motorcycle which NHRA has done several times. The Suzuki’s are very close, sometimes faster than the Harleys. As long as the Suzuki’s have some good races with LE and Michael Phillips running well then nothing is going to change. Its funny that not long ago nobody but Vance and Hines would even touch a V Rod.
George Bryce is just “telling it like it is”. The Vance and Hines V-Rod’s are nothing but prototype bike’s. That is all they have ever been. Nobody else can buy one, or have one, so they are prototype’s. As for NHRA, just looks like they are just doing “business as usual”. That is what happen’s when a racing organization run’s off anybody and everybody in their employ that know’s anything about racing, and just keeps a bunch of “yes men” and “bean counters” on their payroll. It really is sad to see what NHRA drag racing has become in the last decade or so.
Aaron is right. When the V&H Vrod first appeared I work for a motorcycle dragracing team. Remember when the V&H Vrod first appear, lot of people noted “wait a minute, the Vrod that is available to the public does not have belt driven cams. How is that legal in accordance with the NHRA rules?” but nothing was ever done. Also when the V&H Vrod first appear, it was stated that those dragbike would be available to the public when production of more bikes were completed. That never happen.
To be fair, the production bike is a 4 valve chain driven cam bike just like they run in PSM with twice the cubes…
That’s the point though, doubling the capacity is where the problem lies.
What’s even sadder is the story of the history of the V-Rod. Erik Buell worked with Porsche in designing, building and testing the V-Rod, financing the entire program with his own money (Harley had all but cut funding in the research and development dept. at Buell and now we know why). After he was satisfied with his final product, Buell presented his new motorcycle to Harley-Davidson (who actually owned the Buell line of motorcycles) for marketing and the fangs came out. We’ll be taking that said Harley without so much as a thank you to Mr. Buell for his time, hard work and compensation for his own personal money he had invested in the project. What they did do was give Erik Buell, the Buell brand, his workers and Buell motorcycles the AX! Kicked em all in the nuts then walked off with his ol’ lady if you will. Harley-Davidson is headed in the wrong direction. The top 5 executives from Harley had a reported 15 million dollars in salaries and bonuses last year! Meanwhile, they outsourced most all of the the parts manufacturing, laid off hundreds and hundreds of blue collar workers in Wis. and Penn. and they also froze their workers wages until 2017! Will prices in stores and at the gas pump remain frozen until 2017???? I hope these greedy, over paid, cold hearted S.O.B.’s, whom most have never even ridden a motorcycle, go out with as much pain and misery they have caused others “below” them. How many families could of lived off that 15 million dollars and gotten by with just what they needed? When is enough enough?
This corporate greed is out of control and it’s bringing down the curtain on what’s left of this country. Live for nothing or die for something.
Although I am new to motorcycle drag racing, I see the sport dying. I think it’s dying because the sport does not “cater” to the average motorcycle rider. At local tracks it’s kind of an “add on” to the other car classes. Spectators follow those classes because they own one of those “manufactured” cars they can go to the corner lot and purchase.
The “purchasing public” supports motorsports because they are loyal to what they drive; same is true for motorcycles. All competitive bikes and cars should be available to the purchasing public.