It is a season that begins in Gainesville, Florida, in the first week of March, and zigzags its way back and forth across the country like a snake on acid, ending in Las Vegas in mid-November.
The All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) is a great circuit that allows V-Twin owners to showcase their efforts on the pure performance side of customization. We attend countless bike shows every year that showcase the appearance side of customization. Tons of chrome, untold hours of fabrication by master builders and skilled up-and-comers alike, and paint schemes that make you question where the airbrush artist spent his youth or at least the night before he painted. These bike shows are like traveling art exhibits. We don't drink much champagne or eat finger sandwiches with the bread crust removed, and we don't limit who gets in on opening night. If those shows are the industry's gallery art, then the AHDRA circuit is the performance art side. Function takes the lead over form...and function means fast.
Your ticket into an AHDRA event is virtually a full access pass to the world of V-Twin racing. With the exception of the immediate starting area, you have access to the lineup area and the pits-which means the bikes, the crews, and the pilots. A walk around the pit area has everything from ET bracket racers and thoroughly juiced up, turbocharged Sportsters and V-Rods, to the 600 horsepower, nitro-guzzling Top Fuel bikes and their pilots in tractor trailer rigs that are set up to cure virtually any ailment that may befall them over the course of the weekend. While wandering the pits you may get to see a fuel bike fire up to test, and usually with that test comes a face full of nitro exhaust. For the uninitiated attendee standing too close, this blast will make them scream for the closest fire hose before their eyes melt and drip down their cheeks.
The vendor area is packed full of twowheeled trinkets, as well as all things that will make you go fast. AHDRA attracts major sponsors in our industry, all displaying their latest. Mac Tools, Buell, Vanson Leathers, Drag Specialties, S&S;, Metzeler, and even the world's largest domain name purveyor, GoDaddy.com (a major sponsor for Valerie Thompson's V-Rod Destroyer) to name just a few.
Who knows who you'll see at one of these events some famous names and exciting racers. Last season in Phoenix, AZ, at the Screamin' Eagle Performance Parts Arizona Nationals, Willie G. Davidson and his wife Nancy came out to address the riders meeting. They stayed and took in a day of racing so that Willie could "quench his thirst for fuel," as he phrased it. We kept waiting for him to say "I love the smell of Nitro in the morning." OK, too many old movies in the hotel. After addressing the riders he made his way through the pits and the vendor area for a walk around meet and greet, along with the customary photo ops and handshakes.
Phoenix was a very exciting event and saw the return of Wink Eller to the asphalt. Wink had not been on the quarter mile circuit since the mid '90s, when he moved his efforts to the Bonneville Salt Flats to chase land speed records (he's become something of a salt legend). Zero to fast in under seven seconds in a quarter mile is way different than zero to fast over an eight-mile course on the Salt Flats. Wink went all the way to the semi-finals in the Pro Drag class, where he lost to Will Simplot, who won the class for the weekend.
Chicago Joe, a fixture on the circuit for years, had the toughest weekend of anyone in Phoenix. On Saturday, in the qualifying rounds, Joe toasted his Pro Fuel bike at the starting line. He later brought out his Top Fuel bike. He made a pass and got all the way to the time line when the bike got a little wobbly, and word was he grabbed a little too much brake. Joe's untimely dismount came at around 180 mph-the bike went one way and Joe went another. He wound up on a Life Flight helicopter for a ride to a local Phoenix hospital. There he found out that he had broken a wrist which required 12 pins, a broken collarbone, and some serious road rash, among other things.
Every season has its ups and downs. Many of the teams operate on shoestring budgets, and travel and parts are expensive. AHDRA has East, West and National Points championships. Many teams only race close to home or in their respective geographic division. Though dollars may at times be in short supply, enthusiasm, tenacity, and good times flow like a freshly tapped keg.
AHDRA hosts 14 race weekends all over the country. Whether you want to run your own ride in an ET class, pick up some tips on go-fast stuff that the pros use, or just watch V-Twins run up to 225 mph, the drags are a great way to spend a weekend. The 2008 season just fired up, you can find the schedule and all the necessary info at www.AHDRA.com. Tell 'em Scooter sent you.