event: 23nd annual Jim McClure All-Harley Nitro Nationals
when: October 10-12, 2013
where: Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina, USA

Rain Silences Nitro Harleys at The Rock

story and photos by Tim Hailey

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Wheels Up Wednesday, Harley-Davidson style, courtesy of Ken Miller

The 23rd annual Jim McClure Nitro Nationals made it down to the last couple of Top Fuel Harley-Davidsons in the third and final qualifying round before a heavy storm, followed by persistent drizzles, soaked Steve Earwood’s legendary Rockingham Dragway on October 10-12. The American Motorcycle Racing Association season ended there and champions will be crowned as soon as AMRA’s Marty Vandenheuvel completes a careful calculation of point totals.

Tommy Grimes....the "Love Shack" is far in the rearview

AMRA world record-holder Tommy Grimes qualified number one in the headlining Top Fuel class with a 6.33 at 223.21 mph on The Rock’s PJ1-prepped, record-setting quarter mile. Clemmons, North Carolina resident Grimes rides the Jeremy Hoy-tuned bike owned by Harley Hall-of-Famer/Raleigh Harley-Davidson dealer Ray Price.

A man and his bridge....in front of the span that bears his name, Ray Price talks to team manager Mark Morgan

Texan Rickey “Sharkey” House qualified second, followed by the always exciting Joey Sternotti and Virginia badass Robert “Ziggy” Stewart.

Top Fuel was the class run by the late Jim “Da Judge” McClure—the West Virginian known as the Father of Top Fuel Harley drag racing. His wife Phyllis was at the event.

Nitro Funny Bike number one qualifier Jim Doyle

Jim Doyle of Springfield, Massachusetts, qualified number one in Nitro Funny Bike with a 6.74 at 182.53 mph. Doyle also is the Funny Bike points leader. Spring Rockingham winner Jake Stordeur qualified third.

Dale Nilles

Pro Fuel points leader Rocky Jackson squeaked into the Rockingham field on the bump spot in a pretty tight group. Philly’s Kevin Garrow qualified number one with a 7.37 at 165 mph, followed by Wilkesboro’s Dale Nilles—the first Harley winner in the MIRock Superbike Series when he won 4.60 at Rockingham in August.

Mike Pearce

Pro Gas points leader Mike Pearce qualified number one in that class with an 8.068 at 159 mph.

Morry Straubel

Points leader Morry Straubel qualified number one in Pro Modified with an 8.42 at 154 mph.

Tim Grindle qualified number one in S&S Racing Outlaw Street

Pennsylvanian Tim Grindle qualified number one in S&S Racing Outlaw Street with an 8.65 at 153 mph. Points leader Nick Gonatas Jr. of Youngstown, OH qualified second.

Points leader Dennis Fisher qualified number one in V Mod with a 9.02 at 140.40 mph. Modified points leader Gary Douglass qualified third behind Justin Collier’s 9.14 and Dickie Johnson’s 9.61. Hot Street points leader John Toth qualified number one with a 9.43 at 140.46 mph.

Troy Young

Troy Young qualified number one in 1250 Heads-Up with a 9.87 at 132 mph.

Pennsylvanian David Dennick leads Dresser points but played second fiddle to Paul Vicory’s 10.48 at 126 mph in Rockingham qualifying.

Billy Doherty

Super Comp points leader Keith Richner qualified second behind Billy Doherty’s 8.909 in the 8.90 index class.

Greg Best qualified number one in Super Gas

Raleigh’s Greg Best qualified number one in Super Gas, .012 off the 9.90 index. Points leader Dennis Waldron ran the same number but did it second, so that’s where he qualified. Waldron also leads Top Eliminator points.

Brad Croneberger

Brad Croneberger, of the Croneberger racing family out of the Keystone State, qualified number one in Super Pro, only .001 off the 10.30 index. Points leader Dave Doremus qualified sixth.

Croneberger did even better in Pro Eliminator, nailing the 10.90 index dead-on. Points leader Steve Legg qualified ninth.

Donnie Huffman

Travis Ellis

Street Eliminator points leader Donnie Huffman qualified second behind South Carolinian Travis Ellis, who was .005 off the 11.50 index. Lakeland, Florida H-D dealer Huffman also leads Eliminator points and qualified number one in Top Eliminator with a 9.32 at 129 mph.

Michael Ray took the opportunity to test with Matt Smith Racing at The Rock. "We want to get Michael back comfortable on a Buell after a couple races on a Suzuki," said Smith. Ray will be racing his bike with MSR at Vegas and Pomona. And in 2015? No commitments.

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle stars Matt Smith and Michael Ray lapped their Buells in front of the Rockingham crowd, and Star Racing’s Chaz Kennedy toted the wheel on a couple of Dressers.

A post-qualifying concert on Saturday went on as planned despite a steady sprinkle.

Rockingham Dragway will welcome the AMRA’s thundering herd back in the spring of 2015.

EARLIER: Nitro Harleys to Shake The Rock

story by Tim Hailey and Rockingham Dragway, photos by Mike Swanson

Tommy Grimes throttles the Ray Price Top Fueler out of the Rockingham waterbox

Nitro Harleys are to legendary Rockingham Dragway what butter is to bread—a more natural combination never existed. And so it is that Rockingham owner Steve Earwood welcomes the American Motorcycle Racing Association back to his PJ1-prepped, record-setting quarter mile for the 23rd annual Jim McClure Nitro Nationals on October 10-12.

This race would be special for the thunderous racing equipment alone, but pair that kind of action with the event’s dedication to the late Jim “Da Judge” McClure and you have the stuff that legends are made from. The late West Virginian McClure is widely considered the Father of Top Fuel Harley drag racing.

If he is to repeat as Top Fuel champion, AMRA world record-holder Tommy Grimes may have to stave off a "Shark" attack. Texan Ricky House, the man rivals call "Sharkey," is the biggest threat to another Grimes' victory astride the fuel burning hybrid of Harley Hall-of-Famer Ray Price of Raleigh. House, a resident of Humble, Texas, is trying to overtake an idle Randal Andras for the No. 1 spot in AMRA points.


To do so he'll have to deal with Grimes, the Clemmons, North Carolina veteran who set records in his last two appearances at The Rock. He lowered the elapsed time standard to 6.197 seconds last fall and, last spring, raised his own speed record to 227.27 miles per hour. Grimes pilots the Nitro Harley of veteran Raleigh Harley-Davidson dealer Ray Price.

Among the others battling for Top Fuel points will be Larry Stanley of Norton, Ohio and Joey Sternotti of West Blackwood, New Jersey.

Mark Cox in 2013 on the Bojangles bike MORE 2013 McCLURE NATS PHOTOS

In addition to Top Fuel, Sunday's eliminations also will crown winners in Funny Bike, Pro Fuel, Pro Gas, Pro Modified, Pro Stock and a host of other Harley-exclusive categories.

The battle in Pro Fuel may be the most interesting of all. It features reigning NMRA champion Dale Nilles of Wilkesboro, N.C., who became the first Harley winner in the MIRock Superbike Series when he won 4.60 at Rockingham in August. Nilles will face Rocky Jackson of Youngsville, Louisiana, Rebel Glover of Holly Hill, Florida, Hawaya Racing owner Johnny Vickers of Millers Creek, N.C. and the rest of the field. Vickers held his Pro Fuel school at The Rock on Wednesday and Thursday.

In Funny Bike, Jim Doyle of Springfield, Massachusetts will try to wrestle the No. 1 plate away from Jake Stordeur of Delaware, Ohio, who won the class in the spring.  

2013 Nitro Funnybike #1 qualifier Chris Streeter MORE 2013 McCLURE NATS PHOTOS

Mike Pearce leads Pro Gas points, Morry Straubel leads Pro Mod, Gary Douglass leads Modified, Dennis Fisher leads V Mod, Denis Waldron leads Top Eliminator and Super Gas, Keith Richner leads Super Comp, Dave Doremus leads Super Pro, Steve Legg leads Pro Eliminator, Donnie Huffman leads Street Eliminator and Eliminator, Nick Gonatas Jr leads S&S Racing Outlaw Street, John Toth leads Hot Street, and David Dennick leads Dresser.

Ease up on 'em Huff! Donnie Huffman won 3 classes at The Rock in 2013! MORE PHOTOS

And if the thunder of Nitro Harleys isn’t enough music to your ears, a post- qualifying concert on Saturday is just your ticket.

Speaking of tickets, Admission is $45 for all 3 days, $35 for Saturday and Sunday, or Saturday or Sunday only for $20. Gates open at noon Friday for test and tune ‘til 8:00pm, 8:00am Saturday with qualifying starting at 10:00 am, and 8:00 am Saturday for first round of eliminations starting at 11:00 am

Bring your boots, gloves and helmet and race at this event.

Rockingham Dragway is at 2153 US Hwy 1 North, Rockingham, NC

Find out more about PJ1 motorcycle products

This guy's getting ready to spoon with his motorcycle MORE 2013 McCLURE NATS PHOTOS