Harley-Davidson To Back 1998 IHRA Top Fuel Harley Program
19 March 1998Norwalk, OH: Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the International Hot Rod Association have reached a formal agreement that will bring the excitement and thrill of nitromethane-burning motorcycles to selected IHRA national events in 1998. In 1997, the IHRA ran a field of Top Fuel Harley-Davidsons at the Prolong Super Lubricants / Ohio Lottery World Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. That experiment, which was witnessed by a large throng of spectators, was deemed successful, and the sanctioning body has worked with the motorcycle manufacturing giant to establish the exotic drag racing machines as a regular eliminator for the current season.
"Harley-Davidson is a company recognized worldwide, so the IHRA is very proud and excited to be involved with them on this level," stated IHRA President Bill Bader, who owns Norwalk Raceway Park where the initial test was done. "Top Fuel Harleys are a premier form of drag racing competition, and our feeling is that the fans who attend Snap-on Drag Racing series events are going to be thrilled at having them added to our racing program at selected events this season."
"Screamin' Eagle Performance Parts, part of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, is excited to be sponsoring the Screamin' Eagle Top Fuel Harley-Davidson Nationals," said Pete Amenda, General Manager-Performance Parts at Harley-Davidson. "A core part of our business strategy is to support Harley-Davidson racing at various levels and with several sanctions. This Top Fuel effort with the IHRA is a means for us to reach both our core customers as well as those familiar with the Motor company, but maybe not its Screamin' Eagle Performance Parts product line."
As a result of the agreement, six Screamin' Eagle Top Fuel Harley-Davidson Nationals have been added to IHRA's regular Snap-on Drag Racing national events for 1998. The events where Top Fuel Harley will be contested are the Winter Nationals (Bradenton, Fla. - Mar. 27-29), Southern Nationals (Darlington, S.C. - April 30-May 3), Summer Nationals (Cordova, Ill. - July 3-5), CARQUEST Northern Nationals (Stanton, Mich. - July 31-Aug. 2), Prolong Super Lubricants / Ohio Lottery World Nationals presented by Ethanol (Norwalk, Ohio - Aug. 27-30) and North American Nationals (Epping, N.H. - Sept. 11-13). The dates were selected to provide maximum exposure and to minimize any conflict with drag motorcycle events already in place during the active summer season.
In addition to being part of the competition at these races, each of the six Harley-Davidson fields will benefit from a 30-minute, stand-alone television package that will be broadcast on ESPN-2. Both Harley-Davidson and Red Line Oil have already committed to bring IHRA's program to this venue.
"This year, our support includes nationwide television coverage of all the IHRA Top Fuel Harley-Davidson races," remarked Amenda. "Again, this will help us reach out to both the experienced racing enthusiast and those new to the Harley-Davidson family. Screamin' Eagle is aggressively promoting our brand and products, and the IHRA is a valued partner in this effort. We look forward to a great and exciting season of Top Fuel Harley-Davidson racing."
The bikes have competed at the IHRA national event level several times during the past two decades. Now highly developed, Top Fuel Harley-Davidsons are presently capable of 200+ mph performances in the six-second range. Engines in the bikes are based on Harley-Davidson's original V-Twin engine. However, like their Chrysler-based Top Fuel Dragster counterparts, the motors are very exotic, featuring billet components and having the ability to burn high percentages of nitromethane. Launching on their 14" rear slicks, the machines often carry the front wheel beyond the eighth-mile.
The program will function in a manner very similar to IHRA's present Top Fuel Dragster eliminator. All competitors will receive three opportunities to qualify, with the eight quickest entries returning for eliminations on Sunday. The purse is slated to pay $4,000.00 to win, $2,000 to runner-up, $1,000 to semifinalists, and $750.00 for first round finishers. In addition, points will be awarded for the program and a resultant factory 'Screamin' Eagle Top Fuel World Champion' will be crowned at the end of the season.
Licensing for the class will not be done by the sanctioning body but will require that all contestants be active members of the Top Fuel Harley Riders Association (TFHRA), a well-established motorcycle racing group. To ensure close, safe competition, riders will need to hold active competition licensing from either the American Harley Davidson Racing Association (AHDRA) or the American Drag Bike Association (ADBA) as well. Both organizations are involved in hosting races at sanctioned Harley-Davidson motorcycle drag events, similar to what IHRA does for automobile competitors.
"Harley drag racing has been in existence for 20 years," stated Thomas Popowich, the Project Coordinator between the TFHRA and the IHRA. "The marriage between the TFHRA and the IHRA will provide the long-deserved recognition and exposure the sport needs to propel it into the next millennium."
Credit for the program needs to be given to fuel bike racer John Russell, of Norwalk, Ohio, who initiated the original negotiations with the Norwalk track in 1996. Russell won the AHRDA Top Fuel Shootout race in Sturgis, S.D., last season, which featured the largest field of fuel-burning Harley-Davidsons ever assembled. He is a long-time racer, and he saw the possible attraction of adding the vehicles to IHRA's current slate.
"Harley Davidson, being the all-American motorcycle, has always been the bike of the working man," said Russell. "It's a natural match for the IHRA fans and the company. These bikes are individualist, all different, and I think the IHRA way of racing is very suited to us. Bill Bader's help and foresight needs to be commended here, because without him, it would never have happened."
Russell admits that it took a lot of effort on the part of many parties to get the program where it is today, but that final result is one that he and the other competitors in the division are excited about.
Rider John Mancuso, owner of Mancuso Harley Davidson in Houston, Texas, participated in the Norwalk program last year, and he is also excited about what is occurring.
"I think it's an exciting prospect for both the Top Fuel Harley racers and the IHRA," Mancuso remarked. "It will give the IHRA fans a chance to see Harleys in action and expose them to American motorcycle racing, which is a highly developed form of competition just like car racing is. In addition, it will also expose the motorcycles in front of a whole new group of fans both live and through the television programs. This should benefit us all in terms of sponsorship and backing. As riders, we look forward to bringing new excitement and our own fans to the IHRA as well."
Incidentally, Mancuso holds title to being the quickest Top Fuel Harley campaigner currently active, having ridden as quick as 6.68 at over 207 mph on his entry.
Harley-Davidson made the information regarding their IHRA agreement known in a recent copy of 'Hog Tails,' a company-based periodical that goes to Harley owners. Additionally, the company's Daytona Beach catalog, distributed at the famous Bike Weeks in that Florida city only weeks prior to the season-opening Winter Nationals, will also carry the announcement. That special publication, which is also mailed to Harley-Davidson owners, has an estimated circulation of 1.2 million readers.
Harley Davidson motorcycles were founded in 1903. Headquarters for the company are based in Milwaukee, Wis., with manufacturing facilities located in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Kan., and York, Pa. In 1997, Harley Davidson dealers sold a total of 135,000 motorcycles, consisting of a line that featured 22 different models.
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