A field of new names, old familiar faces, and double winners filled the Summit Motorsports Park winners circle as the Midwest’s largest motorcycle drag racing series—NHDRO—completed their first trip to the popular Norwalk, Ohio, track with the Midwest Fall Nationals/World Finals presented by Liguori Drag Racing.
The race marked the end of NHDRO’s 2021 championship points season, and a continuation of the series’ commitment to securing the best tracks for its family of racers.
The Home of Big Money, NHDRO kicked off the weekend with a $10,000 Box vs. No-Box Shootout. And even though the race brought in racers from all over the country, it was Norwalk stars (and brothers) Kevin and Craig Adams who came out on top with $4500 each—Kevin with the No-Box win, Craig in Box. The brothers split the $1000 runoff bonus without making the lap.
“The Shootout went good,” said Craig, who ended up racing a few guys from Norwalk along the way. “In the finals of Box I raced Casey Cozad, and we just ran in the finals the week before at Norwalk’s last point race.
“Thanks to Niki and Brian Welch for all the NHDRO big money races they put on, and Eatmyink Motorsport Media as always for the coverage.”
“Friday was bittersweet for me,” said Kevin, who’s won other NHDRO No-Box Shootouts this year. “Winning the No-Box side of things at the track I grew up racing at, and to top that off my brother won the Box side. No-Box seems to be my thing this year.
“Thanks to Joe Marasco for having this bike running and shifting with this Holley V6, Greg and Maria Kubach for supplying me with these awesome bikes, and as always—my wife and kids (Connor and Gavin), and my dad, brother and mom, who have always supported me. Also, I would like to thank Brian and Niki Welch for having these awesome races and Eatmyink and all the other media outlets that cover our great sport!”
An old face but a new winner, Rudy Sanzottera did everything but runner-up in MTC Pro Street—qualifying number one, setting low ET and high MPH, then winning the event and the championship.
Rudy pulled into Norwalk on a mission—only 13 points ahead of Josh Ford, whose nitrous Suzuki Hayabusa won the season opener at National Trail.
Sanzottera’s Quicktime Racing trailer favors big-ass, side-mount, intercooled turbos on their ‘Busas, and all three of them were running well at Norwalk. Ford’s nitrous bike was struggling and never had a chance against an onslaught of Quicktime personal bests. “I was wanting all my teammates in the 6’s this weekend,” said Rudy, whose teammate (and brother-in-law) Brad Christian did reach that milestone while Brett Ware fell just short. “We worked hard on the bikes and all were super-fast.”
The final boiled down to Rudy and Christian—the defending champ. But Brad had a throttle blade stick wide open after his burnout and was unable to make the run, giving Rudy the win—the first-ever Pro Street win for the hardest working man in the class.
“I had an up and down year with broken parts, and could not buy a win with this bike,” said Rudy, whose performance started to turn for the better in the back halt of the season. “We put our heads down and went to work, finally finding all the weak links and coming up with better parts.
“When we came to Norwalk I had fresh parts and was willing to throw them at this bike to win the race and championship. We unloaded and were very fast to the eighth mile. I was trying to break the chain in so we did not have what happened in Indy happen to us again.” The performance leader in the final at NHDRO’s Indy race in August, Sanzottera’s chain broke—costing him the win and destroying the clutch cover.
Sanzottera ran his personal best in Indy, then bettered it by a ton at Norwalk. “I was not expecting a 6.70 flat the first round of qualifying, I was just picking away at the tune-up.
“I would like to thank all of my team, and my father for looking down on me Sunday. It was a hard weekend. This was a hard fought championship, and it cost me a lot of money and parts to win. Without the help of sponsors and people looking after me I could have not done this.”
Rudy thanked DME Racing, Wössner, Low Dollar Motorsports, Fuel Injector Development, APE Race Parts, Big St. Charles Motorsports, Western Powersports, Aim Machining, CRT Turbo Center, Emily Evans, Jeff and Ann Lindeman, Brad Christian and Jessica Sanzottera, Brett Ware, Landon West, Remi Malone, Steve Nichols, Brandon Doller, Cole Seitzinger, and NHDRO’s Brian Welch.
Norwalk racer Jimmy Muntain has decided to get professional and liquidate some toys, including his beloved Grothus Dragbikes/Klemme Performance Motorcycles Pro Ultra 4.60 bike. “I’d like to send this bike out with one more win,” Muntain said at the start of the weekend, and he did.
Muntain lost the tree by .021 to final round opponent Bob Foster, but was .036 closer to the number for the 4.63 to 4.66 win.
“I went into this race with a chip on my shoulder to win,” said Muntain. “I always planned on going to Norwalk because that’s our home track, and also the greatest track in the world in my opinion. Couldn’t think of a better note to end the year on and end the run I’ve had with the best bike I’ve ever raced. I’m just glad I was able to put together another winner circle picture with my old man standing next to me. 4.60 is the most fun class I’ve ever competed in, and we will be back better than ever as fast as possible!”
Muntain beat number one qualifier Heath McQuinn in round two when McQuinn’s nitrous failed to activate with an .020 starting line advantage.
Dan McCarten lost with an even bigger .0197 to .049 advantage against Foster in round two when his bike failed to shift. Despite the loss, McCarten secured the championship.
“This season started at National Trail Raceway,” noted McCarten. “After burning up a clutch in testing I swapped it out for a ‘new’ used one from Turtle Cole. That resulted in a final round appearance I let go because of a maladjusted chassis, which I just couldn’t keep in the groove the entire lap and lifted.
“Leaving in second place, I decided to pursue the series one event at a time and see where it went. After the second event we moved into first place and held that position through the remainder of the season. It’s not like it wasn’t without several different racers keeping the heat on the entire way, the way it should be. Both Jeff Jones and Joey Brandgard made a huge push after Indy and closed the gap to keep the pressure on.
“Both Jones and Brandgard had the math necessary to take the championship. Jones didn’t make the trip leaving only Joey Brandgard with an avenue to the top. By the time qualifying was over, the deal was sealed. There just weren’t going to be enough rounds for the possibility to be caught.
“In another twist of fate, during Q3 I broke third gear and didn’t figure I had much of a chance come raceday. In his opening round of Top Gas, Brandgard also hurt third gear in his bike with no time to address it before E1 of 4.60. We both joked in the lanes that it would be a race to 200 feet, then a foot race to the eighth! I was able to coax mine through third into fourth gear to take the round and solidify my first championship in 4.60.
“None of this would have been possible without the help of many people. First and foremost is the best woman I’ve had in my life since my mother, Michelle Curtis. This woman has been by my side and supporting me through the last few years of nothing but headaches.
“If it weren’t for Mark Mueller stepping in to help me at every event plus, there’s no way this would have happened. Thank you so much buddy! I would be remiss if I also didn’t thank Billy Vose for several points of help along the way, from some troubleshooting on the bike to a few on the rider himself. They all paid off huge, thank you!
“Thanks to Kurt Sikora for doing all my last minute and sometimes unbelievable machine work, and of course helping me through the last few years of struggles with a multitude of mechanical mayhem.
“Jeff Jones and the Fast Time Motorsports racers and family. Nobody does this alone. It takes family, friends, effort, sacrifice and a little luck along the way.
“In some ways, I’m glad it took a few years to accomplish this feat. The climb to a championship was definitely a journey that tested me at several levels, making me appreciate the results so much more.”
Jeremy Teasley showed that his decision to focus on NHDRO this year was a good one, winning two championships—Schnitz Racing Top Gas 8.20 and BB Racing Super Comp.
Teasley didn’t win either class at Norwalk, but he did runner-up to Brian Babiak in an all-streetbike BB Racing Super Comp final. Number one qualifier Teasley and Babiak were separated by only .001 at the tree, with Brian running closer to the number in a double breakout race.
“Just a lot of luck on my side Sunday helped me with the win,” said Babiak. “Special thanks to all my family and friends, Brian and Niki at NHDRO, Dave Liguori for sponsoring the event and helping me set up my FuelTech earlier this year, and thanks to Summit Motorsports Park and staff for hosting the event.”
The Schnitz Racing Top Gas final was an all-dragbike race, with Michael Hall taking the win over 2020 champ Joe “Big” Deck. Hall nailed Deck with an .008 to Joe’s .054, then ran closer to the number in another double breakout race.
Number one qualifier Joey Brandgard broke his transmission in round one, as did title contender Thomas “Turtle” Cole.
Michigan racer Doug Fisher had to travel all the way from his home track of U.S. 131 Motorsports Park to win the rain-delayed Schnitz Racing Top Gas final from that event against David Beshera. “I let him run around me, hoping he’d break out, and he did!” laughed veteran racer Fisher. “Dave’s a good guy, and a good friend.
“Thanks to Ken Schwartz for the extra $500.”
Like Teasley, Joe Klemme also won two championships: Advanced Sleeve Dirty 30 and MPS Pro ET. And like Fisher, Klemme won a rain-delayed U.S. 131 final, beating Rylan Rowe for the Dirty 30 win from that event.
“We’ve have had a lot of success this year and also some failures,” said Klemme. “Drag racing is a lot like life in general—you set goals and work hard trying to achieve them. Whatever successes we’ve had this year are a total team effort from myself, my brother Tom at KPM—who builds and maintains our stable of dragbikes—and our crew John Mealy and Tim Genung, who prep the bikes and get us to the staging lanes and back to the trailer between rounds.
“I would also like to thank my wife Paulette for supporting me in what I love to do, my brother-in-law Ed Grothus at Grothus Dragbikes for supplying us with the best chassis components available, and Jeff Rosser for his help at this NHDRO race. There are still more goals to be accomplished this season.”
Jeff Kocanyar won the Norwalk Advanced Sleeve Dirty 30 title, beating Drew Nearhoof in the final. Neither will brag about their lights, with Kocanyar taking the tree .110 to .120, and Nearhoof breaking out. Number one qualifier Rodney Woodall lost in round three.
Ronnie Raymond won Saturday’s MPS Pro ET race, beating Don Stokes—who broke out first and worst despite a .001 light. “Well I don’t know what to say but I really enjoy racing people that I get to meet. It’s like one big family,” said Raymond.
“I’ll thank the family that puts on the race—Brian and the whole family from NHDRO. And real good friend Mike Mullendore and his dad Mark, and Kris Halstead.”
Sunday’s MPS Pro ET winner was Matt Knaggs. Matt cut a better light despite having to wait over six and a half seconds after runner-up Gerald Vaughn took off with a strolling 14.74 dial-in.
“I decided to ride the GS just to get some tests on it,” said Knaggs. “And it performed well but not consistent, so I had a lot of luck on my side.
“But I love how much my team gets jacked up and excited when we win, it almost brings me to tears to see them happy. I feel like I let them down when I lose.”
Marty White and his “Katanabusa” were also double championship winners in Kevin Dennis Insurance Street ET and M2.Shocks 8.70 Quick Street.
Kevin Haag won the Norwalk Quick Street race, taking the tree by .058 against Phil Tinsley in the final and letting Tinsley pull back towards him at the stripe.
“It was fun,” said Haag. “I haven’t really raced in the past two years ‘cause of working so much, and seeing my friends get to go and not me. Big shout out to them for always being understanding and asking me to go.”
Number one qualifier Joe Holt lost in round two.
Blake Niedbala won Kevin Dennis Insurance Street ET on Saturday and runner-upped on Sunday. Saturday runner-up Robert Neizmik had a healthy .042 starting line advantage, but ran .009 under his 8.95 dial-in. Niedbala redlit against Sunday winner Michael Thompson.
“Man, I’ve gone rounds before but that was hands down the most exhausting race weekend I’ve ever had,” said Niedbala. “Going rounds like that was very tough. Not only was the competition tough, but going that many rounds two days in a row, cutting a good enough light every pass while staying consistent. It was wild. I mean I’ve spent years trying to build an extremely consistent bike. But I still have to cut a light every pass, hit all my shift-points, and launch the same. And adjust for temperature and wind for each day. It’s a lot of work, but at the same time I had the time of my life going rounds and making it to two finals. None of it would have been possible without the help of my family and helpful friends that were there with me.”
Ryan Schnitz Racing Road Course saw a rematch of the U.S. 131 final, but this time Nico Grier got a huge head start on spinning Kyron Drake and took the win in the instant green, no-time class with road course requirement.
One helluva VooDoo Grudge night saw money races pop up the old fashioned way, and lots of test laps by the elite JTR camp of race bikes, including “American Express” and the turbo GSXR1000.
Carson Schnitz won the Scooter race, and Bryson Sprague beat Sophia Teasley in a battle of 6 year-olds on electric Striders. Inside info is that they’re negotiating a re-run in Louisville.
122 children all got Norwalk’s famous pound of ice cream for free, courtesy of High Risk Motorsports, Vansboy Racing, Highsmith Family Racing, and NHDRO.
Brian and Niki Welch look forward to welcoming the NHDRO family to a special, no-points event on October 1-2 at Ohio Valley Raceway near Louisville, Kentucky.