Rick Stetson and a Rare Occurrence in Motorcycle
Drag Racing

It’s not often that the car guys recognize the motorcycle drag racing guys when it comes to the accolades for achievements. It’s very rare indeed that a motorcycle drag racer is formally recognized by the automotive upper crust.

One should not harbor the impression that car racers look down on motorcycle drag racers, in fact most car racers look at drag bike pilots with a measure of admiration; “Those guys are nuts to drive them things.” Yes, we hear that a lot in the motorcycle drag racing world. When your leather suit is your roll cage and it’s just you and the throttle, things get real – real fast. Drag racers realize this and respect the drag bike guys for it.

So it’s quite an honor that a New England Hot Rod Club, “The Orientals” which is a car club, would honor a motorcycle drag racer with an induction into their New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame. On June 26, 2016, The Orientals, based in Massachusetts, are inducting Rick Stetson, Dick Clark, Jay Blake, Jim Mahan, Tom Howell and John Corcoran into their hallowed Hall of Fame.

Mr. Stetson, the motorcycle drag racer and engine builder from Northboro, Mass., is the lone bike guy name hiding in among the car guys who helped shape New England drag racing during the past 50 years.

Rick Stetson still races his Hot Rod, known as "Suzi" in Top Bike events at New England Dragway in Epping, NH.  (Tom McCarthy photo)

Rick is not the only motorcycle drag racer ever to be formally recognized by the automotive drag racing fraternity; Mr. Elmer Trett was named by the National Hot Rod Association as one of the NHRA’s greatest drivers ever to go drag racing. He’s #50 on the list and it’s a great honor of the highest order for Elmer to be so named and he earned it. No one disagrees with that. And no one I’ve talked to disagrees with Rick Stetson’s induction as a Hall of Famer; he’s earned his place in New England drag racing history as well.

The members of the Orientals Hot Rod Club have chosen Rick for his over 40 years of involvement in drag racing both as a competitor and as a prominent engine builder. Rick has been a highly visible figure in New England drag racing since the early 1970’s.

As a young man, Rick first attended drag races with his dad during the 1960’s in Maine at Sanford, the birthplace of New England drag racing. Rick’s dad, who had an appreciation for hot rods, brought Rick to the drag races more than once and the bug bit him hard. Years later, in the early 1970’s, Rick came to live in central Massachusetts, and with New England Dragway just an hour north of Boston, Rick chose to take up drag racing himself on his own hot rod: a souped up 750 Honda motorcycle. Its choice was a combination of what he could afford at the time and what he loved to do.

Rick started off as a sportsman motorcycle drag racer, his late 1970’s motorcycle drag racing was spent terrorizing fellow racers with his 750 Honda that was about as far from 750 cc’s as you could get with stock engine cases. His whole world changed in 1980 with Suzuki’s introduction of the GS1100 DOHC 4-V engine, a power plant he would come to master and use as a weapon of choice for three decades.

Yes, he stared off as a sportsman racer, but his love of Pro Stock motorcycle racing held a special place in his heart and he competed in Pro Stock bike many times over the years. Rick played a vital role in helping his friend, Ed Ryan of Boston, develop the first 9-second Pro Stock Harley Davidson. In return, Ed crewed many times for Rick when Mr. Stetson was competing in NHRA Pro Stock bike in the 1980’s. Rick won the NHRA Gatornationals in the class Pro Stock bike in 1986, and the NHRA Cajun Nationals in 1987 for P/S bike, and he also has a Wally for an NHRA Pro Comp win in 1983 at the NHRA Southern Nationals.