Heading into Rockingham all eyes seemed firmly focused on the season-ending Top Fuel points battle between leader Takeshi Shigematsu and No. 2 in the series Doug Vancil. During the first-half of the season Vancil got off to a great start with his new 2007 big-bore 196 cubic-inch motor and appeared to be headed for another AHDRA No. 1 plate. Shigematsu, on the other hand, missed the season-opening race in Gainesville but came on strong in the summer, winning both Bristol and Woodburn to take the point lead.
In Rockingham Vancil struck first in qualifying by recording a stellar 6.25 at 212 mph to take the No. 1 spot. The run was just two-hundredths behind Vancil’s national ET record of 6.236, set at Rockingham Dragway in 2006. Shigematsu qualified fourth with a 6.38. In between Vancil and Shigematsu were No. 2 Joey Strenotti, 6.34, and No. 3 Mike Romine, 6.36.
In the opening round of eliminations Shigematsu was plagued with mechanical problems and No. 13 qualifier Jake Storduer gave Vancil an early Christmas present, pulling off the upset with a 6.82 to Shigematsu’s 8.03.
Vancil capitalized on Shigematsu’s stumble by defeating Brook McCabe, Virginia-winner Jay Turner, and Tommy Grimes aboard his new Mid-Continent Motorsports ride, to advance to the final.
On the other half of the ladder two-time defending champion Mike Romine returned to his championship winning form to defeat Derrick Nelson, Bob Malloy, and Sternotti.
In a classic final round showdown between two long-time rivals Vancil slowed to a 9.06 as Mike Romine ran a rapid 6.42 to take the event victory. The Rockingham win gives Romine a huge season-ending morale boost in what has been a challenging season for the former champ. The victory propelled Romine into the No. 5 spot in the championship series.
Heading into the two final races Vancil has closed the gap between himself and Shigematsu to just 23 points.
At the beginning of the season Jay “The Bulldog” Turner said this would be his season in Pro Fuel. Boy, was he ever right. Fresh off his win in Virginia Turner was poised and ready to continue building on his hefty 241 point lead over No. 2 in the points Armon Furr.
However in qualifying neither Turner nor Furr were able to grab the top spot. Instead veterans John Breckenridge and Chris Streeter qualified No. 1 and No. 2 with respective runs of 6.55 and 6.77. Turner was third with a 6.82, while Furr could only muster an 8.47 to get the No. 15 spot.
On race day No. 8 qualifier Randal Andras upset Breckenridge in the quarterfinals with a 6.86 to Breckenridge’s 7.85. Andras pulled off yet another upset in the subsequent round by defeating No. 5 qualifier Jake Stordeur to earn a trip to the final.
Andras earned himself the event win by taking out the category’s hottest rider, Jay Turner in the final with a 6.92 to a 13.58.
“The Desert Dawg” Greg Krenik perpetuated his astoundingly successful season in Rockingham with another event victory in S&S Pro Stock. Krenik qualified on the pole with an 8.14 at 155 mph. He also led qualifying in Pro Mod.
After a late night on Saturday preparing both machines for eliminations, Krenik enjoyed a smooth first three rounds in Pro Stock, advancing with times of 8.12, 8.14, and 8.24. In the final Krenik used a .041 holeshot and an 8.24 to beat James Surber’s .057 and 8.23.
“Greg got the holeshot win on James Surber by only 0.006 seconds,” crew chief Steve Allstaedt said. “Greg did his job by cutting that light. That was one of the closest races I’ve seen.”
Karen Raffa, Greg’s wife and spotter said “This event was very deceiving to find the spot to launch Greg from. With all the clutch issues, I thought it was me lining him up wrong. Greg said to just keep doing it the way I’ve been doing it all season and it’ll all work out. He was right, he had his all-time fastest 60 foot times on the Pro Stock today.”
Defending Pro Drag champion Rick Moore, veteran Willie Hershberger, and 71-year-old Sonny Burres have treated fans to great late-season battles in Pro Drag.
In Rockingham Burres qualified in the No. 1 spot with a run of 7.46, ahead of Hershberger’s 7.63, Moore’s 7.65, and No. 4 Mike Nolen’s 7.68.
Nolen upset Burres in the semifinals when Burres fouled-out on the starting line with a -.322 reaction time. Moore advanced with a semifinal victory over Kersten Heling with a blazing 7.48 to Heling’s 7.83. The 7.48 also granted Moore lane choice in the final.
Both men, Moore and Nolen, ran their best times of the weekend in the final. Moore recorded low ET of the of the weekend with an impressive 7.36 to hold off the 7.47 of Mike Nolen.
NHRA Pro Stock championship contender Chip Ellis, on his DRAG Specialties/S&S/G-Squared V-Twin Pro Stock bike established new performance records for the AHDRA Pro Gas class in Rockingham, en route to his event victory.
Chip Ellis seemingly took ownership of the track with amazing runs of 6.87 and 6.88 that broke records for gasoline powered v-twins in the AHDRA.
“We ran pretty good,” said G2 crew chief and co-owner George Smith. “The atmospheric conditions were ideal. It was dry and clear and didn’t get too hot. The track was tight and we weren’t spinning down track at all. Frankly, if we’d run any less than that, I would have been disappointed. George Bryce, Ken Johnson (chief mechanic) Chip, and I were able to work together and experiment. We also tried some improved parts that the S&S guys provided and we were able to experiment with the tuning of the bike. The engines made good power and Ken did his usual flawless job preparing the bike. Chip was surging well on the launch. We were able to run a couple of 1.06 sixty foot times. That was really satisfying.”
In the final Ellis defeated Junior Pippin with a stellar 6.87 to Pippin’s 8.07.
“The Desert Dawg” Greg Krenik qualified on the pole in Pro Modified, just as he did in Pro Stock, granting Krenik yet another double-pole position event.
However Sunday’s accolades in Pro Mod belonged solely to No. 3 qualifier Randy Borho, who perhaps enjoyed the best performance of his career. Borho upset Krenik in the semifinals with an impressive 8.58 to Krenik’s 8.65.
In the final Borho established a new AHDRA Pro Mod record with a rapid 8.55 to defeat Tom Hannum.
The win extended Borho’s lead in the point series to 72 over No. 2 Krenik.
For the past two races Street Pro has looked a lot like it did during 2006 when Andy Simon dominated the competition. Earlier in the year Simon decided to take several races off after his cylinder-head combination was banned. He spent the downtime rebuilding a new configuration with well-noted engine builder Mike Lozano.
As Simon made his return in Virginia the positive results of the new motor program showed immediately as he qualified on the pole and defeated point leader Zach Johnson in the final.
The veteran racer was treated to more of the same in Rockingham as he again qualified on the pole with an 8.62 and defeated Zach Johnson in the final with an 8.69.
So the question remains – Has the Andy Simon era returned in Street Pro?
It was noted in this issue that in Virginia Lou Gerencer added his name to the elite and exclusive list of racers who have won more than one class at the same event. In Rockingham Gerencer added his name to an even more exclusive list of racers who have doubled at consecutive events. That gives Gerencer a total of four event victories in just two events.
Gerencer qualified in the No. 1 spot in both S&S 124 Challenge with a 9.55 and Screamin Eagle V-Rod with a 9.29.
Gerencer defeated Mike Motto in the 124 Challenge final with a 9.48 and topped J.P. Hendrzak in V-Rod with a 9.42 to pull off the elusive double-double.
L.E. Tonglet of Metarie, LA, has assembled an incredibly successful season in V-Rod Destroyer and had amassed nine wins heading into Rockingham. In qualifying Tonglet recorded a great 9.10 to earn yet another pole position and appeared to be headed for win No. 10 of 2007.
However in round No. 2 Tonglet slowed to a 9.42 and No. 10 qualifier Jeff Stevens ran 9.40 to hand Tonglet only his third loss of the season.
Stevens was unable to complete the Cinderella-ride and was defeated by Valerie Thompson in the next round. The victory granted Thompson a bye run into the final.
On the other side of the ladder Tonglet’s teammate Douglas Horne battled his way to the final in Tonglet’s absence just as he did in Bristol earlier this year.
In a great side-by-side final Horne took the win via a .053 holeshot and 9.265 to Thompson’s .115 light and quicker 9.262.
Former AHDRA champion Michael Ray, who has shifted his focus to the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle-tour, made an appearance in Rockingham and immediately made his presence known in Hot Street.
Ray qualified in the top spot with a 9.82 at 130 mph, ahead of No. 2 Charles Cannon’s 9.99, and No. 3 Charley Douglass’ 10.03. Defending class champion Bruce Croneberger finished qualifying fourth with a 10.10.
During his Sunday morning bye run Ray held nothing back and established a new Hot Street ET record with a jaw-dropping 9.68. Ray defeated his next two opponents easily to earn a final round berth with lane choice. Ray ousted Douglass with a 9.76 to Douglass’ 9.87.
Rockingham is renown as one of the most popular and heavily-attended AHDRA races of the year. This year’s event lived up to its reputation as S&S Super Sport saw one of its greatest turnouts of the season with 38 entries showing up to do battle. Derek Christensen took the pole position with a 10.306, just one-thousandth of a second ahead of No. 2 Joey Talbott’s 10.307.
Larry Maynhart of Swanton, OH, struggled on Saturday to run on the 10.30 class index and qualified 19th with a run of 10.44. Sunday was a much different story for Maynhart and his 2002 V-Rod.
Maynhart ran close to the index all throughout Sunday, including an impressive 10.31 and .012 light to defeat No. 6 qualifier Joe Petersen in the quarterfinals. Maynhart was again impressive in the final as he used a .014 bulb with another 10.31 to defeat No. 4 qualifier Charley Douglass.
Chuck Kennedy of Adell, WI, captured the first AHDRA win of his career with a strong outing in Rockingham. Kennedy began the weekend by qualifying in the No. 11 spot with a 9.75 on the 9.70 class index. In all 33 competitors were entered in the category.
In the final Kennedy defeated his good friend Dan Lesnock with a 9.73 to Lesnock’s 9.82.
“My Suburban Motors Harley Davidson V-Rod Destroyer performed flawlessly all weekend,” Kennedy said. “This is my first career AHDRA win and to race and beat one of my friends in the finals was great. My hat is off to Dan Lesnock a true sportsman. He and I usually pit with each other but this race after they parked us we were told the spots were reserved so we were split up, when I went back for the finals my bike was very hot and Dan stopped me as I was passing by and had his crew put fans on the bike to cool it down before the finals.”
Kennedy thanked Lesnock for the sportsmanlike gesture.
“I’d also like to extend a special thanks to the Houpt family at Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson in Thiensville Wisconsin, Chad Zdriok, the Higgs Family At Wild Pig Pipes, Bill and Pam Riggs, poor boy’s racing St. Augustine Fl. Brian and Tammy Moen at Big Sky Harley-Davidson Great Falls MT. Jamie McNaughton, and my wife Peggy for putting up with me,” Kennedy said.
David Higgs of Ormond Beach, Fla. emerged as the rider to beat in Pingel Super Eliminator during Saturday’s qualifying session. Higgs ran dead-on the 10.90 class index with a 10.902. He was followed closely by No. 2 Gary Bass and his 10.902, and No. 3 Lane Boger and his 10.908.
Unfortunately for these three aforementioned top three qualifiers, none of them were able to reach the quarterfinals in the hotly contested category.
Instead it No. 10 qualifier Henry Provenzano and No. 21 qualifier Curtis Talbott who outlasted their adversaries. In the final Talbott scored a huge head start with a .021 to .090 holeshot and went on to take the event win with an 11.02 to Provenzano’s 11.16.
Chip Sutinen of Team Half Fast Drag Bike Racing of Ypsilanti, MI qualified 12th on Saturday for the SEP field after a rocky start when a slippery launch put him into the opponent’s lane at the starting line during the first round of Syn 3 ET qualifying.
Sutinen overcame his qualifying woes and performed brilliantly on Sunday, by advancing to the final to defeat defending Syn 3 ET champ JP Hendrzak.
This marked Sutinen’s second appearance in the finals this season and his first appearance in the winner’s circle in only his second year competing in the SEP class.
“I want to thank the good Lord first and foremost, and my awesome and loving wife, Maus, who together have made my dream a reality. The Rock has always been a special track for us,“ Sutinen said . “October 18th is the anniversary of when we tied the knot at The Strip in Las Vegas on the starting line during the AHDRA World Finals event in 2003, so the AHDRA event in North Carolina in October has become the place we celebrate that. The Rock is also where I captured the No. 1 qualifier spot in Syn 3 ET in 2006. To win here for us is probably like winning Indy for the NHRA folks.”
This victory at the Eastern Finals catapulted Sutinen to finish the season in the top 10 of the Eastern Division – moving him from No. 13 all the way up to No. 7.
Team Half Fast would like to thank: Supernate of Super V Cycles in Riverview, Florida for his valued friendship, tutelage, and remarkable motors; Airgas of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Product One Autobody of Taylor, Michigan, for the awesome paint on the drag bike; and Sensational Signs and Graphics of Fayetteville, North Carolina, for truly sensational graphics.
AHDRA multi-class competitor Dan Norlin, of Aurora, CO, has been on an incredible hot streak as of late. He captured double wins in Woodburn and Sturgis and rode his immaculate V-Rod to a runner-up performance in SEP in Virginia.
In Rockingham Norlin, a two-time runner-up in AHDRA’s Las Vegas High Stakes Shootout bracket race, was again unstoppable. This time he impressive reaction time and near-perfect reaction times to chop his way through the SYN 3 ET ladder.
Norlin, who qualified in the 29th spot based on his .054 reaction time, defeated Tom Levak Jr. in the final with 11.52 on an 11.48 to Levak’s 12.40 on a 12.45.