Friday, 04 June 2021 16:02

Tharpe tries to put last year's DNQ behind him; Turner defends Top Fuel title in AHDRA Nitro Summer Nationals at The Rock

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Tii Tharpe, Top Fuel Harley NHRA World Champion. Tii Tharpe, Top Fuel Harley NHRA World Champion. Rockingham Dragway

ROCKINGHAM — For two-time NHRA Top Fuel Harley champion Tii Tharpe of East Bend, racing at home, as he will in this week’s AHDRA Nitro Summer Nationals at Rockingham Dragway, always is fun.  Well, almost always.


After mechanical issues left him watching from the sidelines last year as racing partner Jay Turner won the opening event in AHDRA’s new era, Tharpe is anxious to make amends this week and re-establish himself as the king of North Carolina’s imposing Top Fuel Harley contingent that also includes Walnut Cove’s Tyler Wilson.

The quest will not be an easy one. Also expected to contest the Top Fuel title are 2020 runner-up Ryan Peery of Milford, Ohio, veteran Rich Vreeland of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Tracy Kile, Asheville, and Don Becker of Palm Coast, Florida. 

Pro qualifying sessions at 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday will set the lineup for Sunday eliminations beginning at noon which will crown champions in Top Fuel, Pro Drag, Pro Mod and a host of sportsman categories.

Adult admission is $45 for the weekend (including Friday’s 4-10 p.m. test-and-tune session), $40 for Saturday and Sunday or $25 for any single day. A $5 discount on any ticket is available on the track website at www.rockinghamdragway.com.

Tharpe, whose day job is running SPEVCO, the Pfafftown-based designer and builder of unique specialty vehicles, was the NHRA World Champion in 2017 and 2018, succeeding Turner, who won the two previous years. The veteran began the current season as runner-up to reigning champ Randal Andras at the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Florida.

One of the most awe-inspiring vehicles in racing, Top Fuel Harleys are not for the faint of heart, which is why riders don’t even climb aboard the 240 mile-an-hour behemoths until after the crew has fired the engine and made sure everything is copacetic.

The Pro Drag category likely will deliver an equally intense battle for the championship with defending champ Sam White of Chapin, South Carolina, set to face off once again with multiple series champion Preston Bartlett of Palatka, Florida, national record holder Kirby Apathy of Deland, Florida, and local standout Jay Beasley of Winston-Salem, among others.