On the weekend of March 21, 2014, the Top Fuel Harley racing season for the IHRA Nitro Jam series will commence in Tucson Arizona at the Southwestern International Raceway, under the banner of the IHRA Southwestern Nationals, presented by Good Vibrations Motorsports. The International Hot Rod Association is putting it’s best foot forward this year in this latest rendition of IHRA drag racing by presenting the fans with five professional categories of entertainment one of which is the class of T/F Nitro Harley drag bikes.
The IHRA, which is a prominent drag racing sanction who’s roots go back to 1970, has done it’s best to evolve with the sport of drag racing and keep pace with the times. Today the sanction is predominantly sportsman racing driven, but still wisely involves the professional ranks of drag racing for the entertainment of the fans. The IHRA, who is never afraid to try something new to present the best show they can to the fans, made the decision in 2013 to launch into the 2014 season with the following five professional categories of racing at it’s twelve major events this year: Nitro Funny Car, Nitro Altered, Mountain Motor Pro Stock, Jet Dragsters, and Nitro Harleys.
This series will feature traditional qualifying for the professionals on Friday followed by elimination racing on Saturday. There are some twists to the IHRA show when compared to other racing sanctions. Qualifying is not open qualifying in the traditional sense in that only professional drag racers under contract to the IHRA will be racing in the professional categories.
The IHRA’s reasoning for this is clear as stated by the IHRA’s media relations lead man Larry Crum “We look at this as presenting the racing fans with kind of an All-Star review of the racers within the professional racing element of our show.”
This being indicated, what the IHRA now has is a rock solid show they can count on to provide drag racing fans with quality entertainment. While the limited number of entries will not provide fans with the variety they would get at some events, the more streamlined show is less likely to suffer costly oil downs and other time delays that sap the life out of a fast paced, action packed show. While there will always be the occasional unscheduled mishap that comes with racing; that’s to be expected. However the new IHRA format is predicated on keeping this to a minimum, therefore imparting maximum entertainment value for the fans dollars. Their choice of including nitromethane powered T/F Harley’s into the show was an excellent choice.
A qualified eight bike field of Nitro Harleys can complete their first round of eliminations in about 15 minutes while filling the stands with nitro fumes, tire smoke and excitement. The IHRA can count on the fence lines being elbow-to-elbow with fans who want to see the bikes carry their front tire for 1320’ and the Top Fuel bikes will readily oblige while belching flames into twilight skies.
When the IHRA decided to implement this course of action, in the motorcycle drag racing world, the sanction reached out to Jay Turner, of Julian, N.C. to help provide the IHRA with some of the best in Top Fuel Nitro Harley talent. Jay started piloting nitromethane powered Harley Davidson drag bikes back in 1989, and for much of the last decade, whenever the IHRA has needed a few Top Fuel Harleys to match race and put on a show for the fans, Jay has always come through for the sanction. So it was a natural that they would reach out to someone with a proven track record to help out with getting the IHRA and it’s fans the kind of talent drag racing fans want to see out on the race track.
The last time Nitro Harley’s raced for points in a series with the IHRA was 2002.
That year, Doug Vancil, of Albuquerque, New Mexico , won his second consecutive IHRA Screamin’ Eagle Nitro Harley-Davidson championship. The Nitro Harley class ran with IHRA from 1998 through 2002, with five good years of competition. On January 23, of 2003 when then IHRA President Bill Bader announced that the Nitro Harleys would not be contested in 2003, he did so by mentioning in his official press release that “We are leaving all options open and won’t rule out a return of the class in the future.”
Now some 12 years later, V-Twin thunder will once again thrill IHRA audiences with an $18,000 purse per-event, at stake for the Nitro Harleys. The series also includes a championship points fund valued at greater than $60,000 with $25000 slated for the year end points champion. While some racers feel put out about the lack of open qualifying opportunities, the reality of this situation is the hosting sanction, who is putting up the money for this entertainment investment, feels it’s investments are best supported by procuring the best racers it feels can help fill the stands.
The twelve races of the 2014 IHRA Nitro Jam Series kicks off in the desert South West of the United States, swings east to the Atlantic coast, heads north all the way up into Canada, heads back west to the Pacific Coast and will end the season next fall in the great state of Tennessee. There’s a ton of travel involved for the teams, but it’s good for the sport of motorcycle drag racing to see the T/F Nitro Harley’s have a home this season with the International Hot Rod Association.