race reports

Top Fuel Harleys at Gainesville, Florida

Harleys Thunder at the Gators

Words by Tom McCarthy

Photos by Tom McCarthy and Steve Gruenwald

Beau Layne pulls away from Bob Malloy in the final. 


During the 50th running of the NHRA Amalie Oil Gatornationals, the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harleys showed up in force to bring the thunder and thrill the fans of this prestigious event. Sixteen of the 1,000-HP two-cylinder machines pre-entered to vie for eight competition spots on Sunday’s elimination’s ladder.


The Gators is race number three of a ten race series for the Top Fuel Harleys, making this a serious benchmark in the championship points chase within the NHRA sanctioned events. Coming into this event, Doug Vancil led the championship point’s race with 170 points followed closely by Beau Layne with 144 points and Tii Tharpe with 107 points. Rickey House was in fourth with 86 points and Jay Turner held 70 championship points. This season isn’t over by a long shot, but anyone outside the top five have a slim to none chance at the points championship.


In 2018, Tii Tharpe won all the marbles on the last race of the season in the last round of racing by defeating Doug Vancil at Indy where the season ended for the big bikes. 2019 will again see the Harleys wrap up their season during the US Nationals and it comes up quick during a ten-race season. Starting off fast and furious is necessary in NHRA Top Fuel Harley drag racing.


At the Gators, the 16 bikes entered produced a 6.43 bump spot with Jake Stordeur of Ohio occupying that spot on the competition ladder. DNQ’s included Armon Furr, Tracy Kile, Jay Turner, Chris Smith and Billy Jackson.

Chris Smith did not make the field. 

Oil leaking from Armon Furr’s bike took care of his qualifying attempt. 

The number-one qualifier was the man from Japan, Takeshi Shigematsu with a new record 6.101 elapsed time at 233.68 MPH.


Interestingly, the #1 qualifier at the season opener at Pomona was Doug Vancil with a 6.24 and in race number two of the season the top qualifier was Jay Turner of Liberty, NC, with a 6.20 and that was the first #1 qualifier for a supercharged Top Fuel Harley in NHRA competition. Jay’s new Pro Charger equipped Top Fuel Harley is waking up and may soon be a force to be reckoned with.

Rex Harris of Jay Turner Racing watches the computer screen. 


Prior to qualifying, DJ, Tak’s crew chief commented, “I’ve been working on refining the tune-up on this and it’s starting to come around. If the track will hold it, watch out.” Shigematsu’s bike is also equipped with a Pro Charger and has covered the quarter mile in as quick as 6.02 seconds. He’s a prime candidate for running the sport’s first 5-second elapsed time ever.

DJ looks on as Shigematsu makes an adjustment. 


On Sunday, the pairings were Tak vs Stordeur, Layne vs Scott, Vancil vs House and Tharpe vs Malloy.


As eliminations began, Layne got the better of Scott, 6.29 to 6.47 and that 6.29 was a career quickest pass by Beau.

Tii Tharpe 


Then in a huge match up, Bob Malloy was set to face national #1 Tii Tharpe, who really needed the round wins to gain in NHRA points. Malloy was off the line first with Tharpe .023 seconds late on the launch, he then executed his quickest pass of the weekend, posting a 6.23 elapsed time. But Malloy posted his quickest pass of the event with a 6.20 ET that gave Malloy a .054-second margin of victory to trailer Tharpe.

Bob Malloy 


The Doug Vancil vs Rickey House match-up next became of great importance as with Tharpe going out in round one, if Vancil were to advance rounds, this would yield huge gains for the Vance & Hines team. But House, who has been long overdue to storm to the front, suddenly emerged as the dragon slayer he really is.

Rickey House’s Harley gets a start.

Doug Vancil


Vancil launched hard, as he always does, with a .041 RT to the tree and posted a very stout 6.23 ET, good enough to beat 95% of the T/F bikes currently in competition, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the bid by Rickey House of Humble, Texas.


House pretty much dropped a house on Vancil by leaping off the line with a .015 RT, going right for the jugular, then stormed down the track with a 6.20 @ 225 MPH pass, thundering by Vancil just before the finish line. MOV = .051 seconds! Harley fans watching were stunned as both big guns went silent in the first round.


In the final match-up of the session, Tak Shigematsu and Jake Stordeur locked horns and it was a good drag race. They left the line together and seemed to trade the lead with Tak pulling ahead just before the finish line. Tak won the duel 6.75 to 7.02 for Jake, then just as Tak reached the end of his run “Bam” the motor let go, sending pieces of the engine block flying. Unfortunately for Tak, he won this battle but it cost him the war.


At the start of second round of eliminations, Layne was ready for the call, but Shigematsu was not as he windowed his engine block during the first-round win over Stordeur, so Layne took the competition solo win. This put him in the final round for the second time in as many races.


During the match up between House and Malloy, House left the starting line strong but within a matter of feet his Magic Dry/Cat Spot Top Fuel Harley suffered a mechanical malfunction and slowed to a crawl. Meanwhile in the left lane, Malloy thundered away to victory setting up his first trip to the finals in 2019 against TFH sophomore sensation Beau Layne.


When that final round battle took place, many NHRA fans were on their feet with anticipation, knowing the wheels up Top Fuel Harleys would put on a show. And for half the race course they did until something went away on Malloy’s bike. At the start of their race, Malloy got off the line first with a .074 reaction time and Layne was right there with him posting a .076 RT to the starting line tree. The NHRA announcer commented that Malloy was drifting slightly to the center line and lifted as Layne won the round 6.47 to Malloy’s 7.27.


This win was Layne’s second consecutive NHRA win as he continues to climb the points ladder and challenge the big dogs, Doug Vancil and Tii Tharpe. Top Fuel Harley drag racing is certainly getting interesting this year.




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