Good Times and Old School Drag Racing

By Tom McCarthy

When you wake up in the morning at a dragway, in the pits, you stumble out of your car as the full moon is setting over the hills, and you notice the flicker of campfires through the early morning light. The smell of wood smoke is noticeable as you make your way to the common restroom area, not really awake yet.  But you get a sense of the good times right away and you know it’s going to be a great day.

For Street Eliminator racer #509, Jonathan Grayson of Raceland, LA, life is good. A street/strip Harley, a tent and some good times are all you need.

Because you’re at a drag race and you’re surrounded by budget-minded racers and fans trying to make the most of it all, there is a communal sense of acceptance.  There is a measure of fun in that. People who don’t know each other are all in it for the same basic reason: chasing the good times.

The heavy morning dew at 42 degrees covers all the parked motorcycles by the owners’ tents. Never mind the empty beer bottles and cans, they will be picked up later. Just be sure there is enough wood to keep the campfire going. The signs of the good times are everywhere if you know where to look.

Pro Fuel racer Tyler Wilson of NC won the P/F class by defeating Gary Stroud in the final round of racing.
RIGHT: The hottest Pro Fuel drag bike on the planet is owned, built and driven by Kirby Apathy of DeLand, FL. He holds the world record with a 6.85 elapsed time.

Even in the sh#thouse there’s a laugh to be found.  Some numbnut playing a prank on someone lit off a pack of firecrackers last night. Shards of paper scraps and unexploded rounds are laying on the men’s room floor.  I’ll bet whoever the unfortunate was seated in a stall trying to go, he got a measure of help with that.  Just the thought of that poor schmuck trying to take a dump and some prankster of a friend lighting off a whole pack of Black Cats is enough to make Johnny Knoxville smile.

AMRA (American Motorcycle Racing Association) motorcycle drag racing is “Old School” fun drag racing.  Sure, the racers are serious about their racing and are seeking national records. But racers who compete during an AMRA event (sometimes referred to as “The Marty Party” after the Association’s Owner Marty VandenHeuvel), everyone knows that by six o’clock on any given race day, Marty better have a beer in his hand or there will be hell to pay. “Heck I’d rather have that beer at five if you ask me!” he once quipped in casual conversation.  Yes, AMRA motorcycle drag racing is truly old school drag racing where people can still race, have fun; old school style. “Hell, all you need is a few hundred friends, some drag bikes and some beer and we can have some fun,” according to the man in charge.  And he’s right about that.

Out on the track, rules are rules and racing is racing, but off the track and especially in the pits, good times rule.  You can find a foot-long corn dog or enough fried food from the concession stands to keep cardiac doctors in business for years to come. Try the catfish at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, KY, I recommend it highly. But watch out for the Italian sausage, peppers and onions; they put a cheese sauce on it that must have been left by the aliens on their last visit. Nasty only begins to describe it.

Harley-Davidson Pro Fuel racer Gary Stroud of IN, is a decades-long veteran of Harley drag racing. Here, he and fellow veteran Kirby Apathy mix it up with the front wheels in the air on the launch.

On the 1,320 feet of racing surface, the action is very real and fun to watch. Over 95% of the motorcycles at an AMRA drag race are Harley-Davidsons. Similar bikes like Indians are also welcome.  These are motorcycles you can easily identify and see most anywhere out on the streets of America. Yes of course there are the highly modified “race only” machines that blast down the track at speeds of over 200 MPH, but for the most part, the drag bikes racing at AMRA events are street/strip bikes. They are just highly modified to take a serious beating on weekends.

Brian Conley Jr. of IL, races his 2015 Indian Scout in three classes at AMRA events for 3x the fun. It’s a great bike and proves you don’t have to spend a million bucks or be fancy to go drag racing and have fun.

The Nitro Funny Bikes at the AMRA Spring Rally and Drags were the fastest, most exotic bikes at the April 28-29, 2018 event. AMRA does recognize and race Top Fuel Harley, but only at selected events. At Beech Bend Raceway during the Spring Drags, 2018, the Nitro Funny Bikes (N/FB) were the “Cock o’ the Block” in a manner of speaking.  Ryan Perry of Milford, OH, was the number one qualifier with a stout 6.81 elapsed time (ET) at 203-MPH. He then ran the table and went on to win the race for the class and looked damn fine doing so, defeating Rich Vreeland of PA in the final round, 6.66 (yikes!) to 6.76 ET in a close one.

Adam Mieczkowski has his 2009 Street Glide parked fireside at the J & J Racing tent. With a sunset, campfire and good friends at a drag race, life is good.

In the Pro Fuel (P/F) class, Kirby Apathy of DeLand, FL was the #1 qualifier with an excellent 7.16 ET at 179 MPH, not too shabby for a carbureted, high-gear-only motorcycle! But some tough luck for Kirby ended his day early in Round One against North Carolina’s Tyler Wilson, when Kirby’s bike faltered and Tyler stormed by for the win. Tyler Wilson of Walnut Cove, NC is a former Man Cup P/F champion and he went on to win the P/F class for the event, defeating Gary Stroud of Valparaiso, IN on a hole-shot.