motorcycle memo's w/Tom McCarthy

Here We Go Again

Photos by Tom McCarthy


Well, the 2019 motorcycle drag racing season just became a whole lot more interesting for NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle as Angelle Sampey Drago has joined Vance & Hines Racing as a third competitor, racing out of the VHR stable. She joins new teammates Andrew Hines, who has 48 national event wins and five championships and Eddie Krawiec who has garnered 47 event wins along with four championship #1 plates. She’s in good company considering she has 42 “Wallys” to her credit and three NHRA PSM championships, which she amassed during her years of racing with the NHRA since 1996.

Angelle Sampy Drago has left Liberty Racing and joined forces with Vance & Hines Racing. Will she contend for a title in 2019?


Angelle is slated for a handful of races (four) to start the year. As this season develops, her participation for the remainder of 2019 will unfold. Without question, the Vance & Hines Racing team out of Brownsburg, Indiana, already a powerhouse, just became more so.


In noting the powerhouse teams of NHRA motorcycle drag racing, Jay Turner Racing, out of Liberty, NC is heading into the 2019 Winternationals in Pomona with not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR Top Fuel Harleys to start the season! Considering the NHRA mandates an eight-bike qualified ladder, this vision becomes a rather daunting one for other NHRA Top Fuel Harley teams to face. Think about it, all four JTR bikes are essentially built by Jay Turner and tuned under his oversight.


The racers waging war on the field out of the JTR stable will be Jay Turner, Tii Tharpe, Randal Andras and Mike Scott.


Of further interest to the fans and racers who follow JTR, the shop is now building complete Top Fuel Harleys from the frame rails up. Complete frames are now being created at JTR and the first fully made in-house TFH by JTR will be on race tracks during the 2019 season. And for those of you wondering will his Pro Charger bike be in competition this year, you bet your blower-bike it will!

Mike Romine (shown) of Romine Racing tuned Doug Vancil to a #2 finish in 2018. Can he take it up a notch in 2019?


Also on the topic of race team expansions, Doug Vancil and Mike Romine, who are sponsored by V&H Racing, are slated to have Doug Horne racing with them in 2019. Romine has a drop-dead beautiful bike ready for Horne and all he has to do is re-up his TFH paperwork and he can be on a race track in a matter of a few hours.


Horne has great natural racing abilities on these bikes, he’s a contender, right out of the gate.


More NHRA News: Rickey House, out of Humble, Texas, has a new sponsor for his NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley; Midwest Organics has taken the title spot with House to promote its product Magic Dry Organic Absorbent.  Cat Spot, which was on the bike in 2018, will still be on board with House Racing, but the spotlight now shifts to Magic Dry Organic Absorbent. With the additional infusion of funds, House will definitely be making all 10 Mello Yello NHRA events.


“We want to win the championship this year and we think we can,” stated House in a recent interview. He has been #2 more than once in his Top Fuel Harley career and this may just be his year.


Mike Scott of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has inked a deal with Tridyne Projects and will be racing all ten events with the NHRA TFH teams. This former IHRA champion is mighty hungry for an NHRA title.


Also out to enter the arena in 2019 are the Nitro Syndicate teammates Tony Ruggiero and Mike Beland who are planning on being at Pomona for the season opener. Of special note, Tony’s dad, veteran HD T/F pilot Steve Ruggiero is said to be ready to enter competition in 2019 and he’s a double engine nitro pilot from the 1970’s, still feeling the urge to compete once again!


Of major importance to the All Harley racing crowd, the American Motorcycle Racing Association, also known as the AMRA, is now in transition! A new management team is taking over with the help of Marty and Jane Vandenheuvel, who have run the sanction for the last 18 years. Marty and Jane will be at select events during the 2019 season to assist in a smooth transition to the new owners.

America's only "All Harley" sanction has changed hands but is in good ones. They will again wave the flag in 2019.


The owners’ group of the new AMRA is comprised of Bert Baker, Greg Baugh, Bill Rowe and John “JT” Toth. With veteran racers involved and a solid core to start with, this should be a smooth transition. Further details can be found here.


Top Fuel champion Chris Smith, driving for John Red Rhea will out to defend his 2018 #1 plate with AMRA in T/F. Also Rich Vreeland in NFB, Tyler Wilson in P/F, Greg Frost in P/G, and Shane Pendergast in Pro Mod. The AMRA has a seven-event schedule slated for 2019 with the first event kicking off April 27-28 at Bowling Green, KY.


Man Cup has finally announced their 2019 drag racing schedule: it’s a five-race series, April 5-7 at South George Motorsports Park, July 12-14 at Dragway 42, September 27-29 at Darlington Dragway, October 26-27 at Rockingham Dragway, and November 21-24 at SGMP.


Man Cup Notes: DME has interesting news for the Pro Street racers: they are bringing out a new P/St bike in 2019, which they will be testing in the pre-season. Watch for Jeremy Teasley to be on the new mount at the Man Cup opener at SGMP. Also expect to see DME standout Terence Angelea of Aruba to be in competition this season.


In T/F, rumor has it there will be new additions to the usual field of Pingle Top Fuel motorcycles. In fact, by season’s end, if all goes well, I fully expect a full field of bikes on the ladder, all 6.20 and quicker. I wonder how far away from the first full 5-second field we really are?


Mark Rendeluk is well on the mend and is expected to be at the Man Cup season opener. Mark has overcome his health problems and will be racing the full slate of Man Cup events in 2019. He is adamant that 6.40’s are history and that number will be needed just to be competitive.


In OCR Pro Fuel, Walter Halonski and Preston Bartlett will be swapping places and race sanctions for 2019. This year Halonski will race the Man Cup schedule and Bartlett will race the AMRA schedule. Last season was the reverse of this. The long-term game plan is they do this each season and have some fun every year. Do these two racers have their stuff together or what? Go racing, have fun, repeat!


In notable international news, Jaska Salakari of Finland was recently voted the prestigious Finish Motorcycle Racer of the Year for his 2018 performance.  The prize was awarded at a formal banquet and Jaska is one very happy man.


“This is really good for our sport,” he said. “The SML/FIM do this once a year.” Jaska’s award was by virtue of open ballot voting across several racing disciplines. He garnered 40.5% of the vote; in the EU this is an enormous honor. Jaska predicts deep 5-second elapsed times for his machines will be seen in 2019.  



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