Ladies of the AMRA

By Tom McCarthy 

During the 34 years of the American Motorcycle Racing Association’s long and storied competition, for decades, women have found their way into the high speed battles alongside men, going just as fast and just as quick as their male counterparts. There are single women who race and also husband and wife combinations where the wife is racing and the husband is right there beside her, supporting her, helping her chase her dreams. While some may think of motorsports as male dominated, the truth is, racing is open to anyone who wants to race.

In the AMRA, women have been motorcycle drag racing step-for-step with the men for quite some time now. In 2019, the ladies who compete do so with great diversity within the classes up and down the high performance spectrum.

For example: Janette Thornley, of North Carolina, who finished National #2 in AMRA Pro Fuel class this year, was just a handful of points away from her third National Championship #1 plate when a rain-out caused her championship to wash out of reach. She was literally in her Vanson racing leathers, suited up, race ready, when Mother Nature rained out the event. Janette took it in stride and commented, “That’s not the way we wanted to end the season, but it is what it is.” 

Her significant racing efforts are fully supported by her husband, Buddy, who is her crew chief, and he makes sure her bike is race ready for every event. In 2019 they raced a full slate of AMRA races in the Pro Fuel class which has Janette producing elapsed times quicker than 7.5 seconds at speeds close to 180 MPH. Her personal best on her Pro Fuel nitromethane powered bike: 7.20 @ 185 MPH! In 2019 Janette was in the final round four times out of six events, winning two races and was runner-up at two more.

One of the wildest and most talented lady racers on the AMRA circuit is Miss Stacey Bortz, of Pennsylvania. The fiery red-head is just as beautiful as her drag bike built by her crew chief Gregg Dahl of GMS (Greggs Machine Service). She has finished in the top-ten of Outlaw Street, which is a class comprised of low, long-wheelbase drag bikes, with no wheelie bars allowed. She has gone as quick as 7.90 seconds and as fast at 175 MPH.

Her very exotic bike is a 2018 GMS Avenger chassis made from Docol R8 tubing. The engine is a GMS 144 CID motor with EFI that can spin up to 9,000 RPM. The primary drive is a Bandit Machine setup with a modified MTC Lock-Up clutch feeding power to a Baker Torque Box transmission. This seven-second rocket ship is a handful most men would shy away from. Gregg and Stacy are looking forward to quicker and faster times in 2020.

Sharon Dubois finished 2nd in points in the very fast and highly competitive class of Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson sponsored Top Eliminator. The class runs on a 9.30 elapsed time index. Speeds are typically in the 140 MPH range and she handles that very well on her V-Rod highly tuned Destroyer.

Heather Van Fleet, of Toledo, Ohio, races in the Vreeland’s HD sponsored Super Gas class, running on a 9.90 index and typically sees speeds of close to 130 MPH. In commenting on her years of AMRA racing she stated, “I won the first national championship during the inaugural season of the Super Pro 10.30 class during the 2010 season.” She’s been racing Harley drag bikes over a decade now; she had this to say about racing drag bikes, “Racing is the thrill of life in seconds at a time. Can your bike go faster, quicker than their bike? Maybe yes, maybe no, but for this round: can I drive mine better?” She also commented, “The pilots and builders that take American made motorcycles down the track are a special group of competitors.”

Kimberly DeShields, of Nashville, Tennessee, finished 3rd in AMRA points in the Pro Eliminator class and she also finished 5th in points in Super Gas. She’s a blur of motion when she’s out there on her bike. Her 10.90 bike and in 9.90 trim will go 130 MPH when needed, and she’s very adept at racing in both classes on the same weekend which is a TON of work. Typically she’s eight to ten hours in the hot sweaty leathers all day without one complaint. On a typical race weekend, when she’s not on her bike racing, you can often spot her near the starting line watching her opponents very closely. She’s a #1 plate looking to happen.

Jen Swope, who finished 12th in Vreeland’s Harley-Davidson S/G points is not shy when asked about racing her V-Rod Destroyer. When asked why she races it she responded with, “I love that it’s just you and your machine and a solitary goal. Everything slows down, your peripheral vision closes in with the only thing in sight: taking the stripe.”

Licia Danford, finished 7th in points in the highly competitive Thundermax Eliminator class which saw 169 participants in national points during the 2019 season. To finish Top-Ten in a class that has over 160 entrants speaks for itself, she’s very good on that Sporty she races. The same can be said for Sandra “Sam” Barkley, who races in Pro Eliminator class; these ladies bring-it every race weekend.

So for the ladies reading this story: what are you waiting for? Why stand on the sidelines and watch when that can be you out there taking names and kicking butt! Get to the next AMRA event and join in the fun!