NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Drag Racing at Atlanta Dragway
Since a motor was first paired with a set of wheels and handlebars, riders have felt compelled to race. Down dirt country roads, hard-packed sandy beaches, on board track ovals, race circuits and drag strips, the thrill of top-end speed has always held a firm grip on motorcycling. With the popularity of Supercross, and the resurgence of American road and flat track racing (see our articles on MotoAmerica and American Flat Track), renewed attention has returned to motorcycle drag racing, arguably among the oldest forms of motorcycle racing.
The NHRA Southern Nationals came to Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia over the weekend, and the stands, parking areas, and vendor walks were packed with thousands of race fans. The weekend saw Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle all bring exciting competition, along with several other categories. I went to report on the Pro Stock Motorcycle, having little knowledge or experience with this exciting form of motorcycle racing. I attended the Sunday races, as the early practice and qualifying runs were conducted on Friday and Saturday. Sunday brought bright, sunny, breezy and warm conditions, perfect for racing.
I checked in with Allie Bland, one of NHRA’s marketing directors, who arranged press creds and a photog vest for me to get up close to the action. After roaming the pits and some of the vendor area, the early afternoon race rounds began, and I went trackside. The roar of the Funny Car and Top Fuel is absolutely deafening, and the concussion of their powerplants at launch punches me in the head and chest. It’s scary and thrilling at the same time. The Pro Stock Motorcycle runs just blow me away, as the racers and machines seem to almost instantly disappear down the track as the green drops on the tree. Harley-Davidson has dominated this class for years, with Suzuki machines in hot pursuit, and the class also features several EBRs, powered by S&S powerplants.
The day ultimately belonged to 5-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Andrew Hines, astride his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod, defeating Jerry Savoie aboard a Suzuki TL in the final round with a 6.865 run at 195.05 mph. This earned Hines (of Vance & Hines Exhaust fame) his 3rd victory of the 2019 season, his 51st career win, and it marked Harley-Davidson’s 100th career win in the class- incidentally, begun by Hines himself with his first-ever class victory back in 2004. “”It was a good day, and my motorcycle is nothing like I’ve ever had in my career,” Hines declared. “To get 100 wins for Harley-Davidson, it’s monumental.” Indeed it is.
I met a couple of photographers, also there specifically for the motorcycle races, and they recounted the special attraction this form of racing holds. Brandon Johnson, who photographs for Fuel Tech and several race publications, told me, “I absolutely love a day of drag racing, all the classes. The deafening roar of power all day, the smell of exhaust and burnt rubber, and the shock and awe as they rocket past, it’s addicting, no doubt. I can’t get enough of it.” Warren Petty of CycleDrag.com stated it thus- “There is simply no adequate way to capture this with photos, video, or with words. The concussion you feel in your chest with each pass, each run down the strip, must be experienced in person to be fully understood and appreciated.” I totally agree with both.
“The deafening roar of power all day, the smell of exhaust and burnt rubber, and the shock and awe as they rocket past, it’s addicting, no doubt. I can’t get enough of it.”
Fans of this form of racing are hooked as well. The stands were packed to near-capacity out in the hot sun, with ambient temps in the 80s, but tarmac temps in the 120s. The fans stayed, they stood, and they cheered, all day long. I can see (and feel) why this is so addicting. An adrenaline rush like none I’ve ever felt before.
If you ever have opportunity to take in a day of drag racing, and most certainly motorcycle drag racing, you simply must jump at the chance. It’s a chest-pounding, head-throbbing, thrilling day of man-made “fire and thunder” unlike any other. I’ll be back, for sure.
For highlights, results, standings, photos/videos, and upcoming races, check out www.NHRA.com.
*Photos by Rob, and by Brandon Johnson Photography- BDJimages@gmail.com