Why Don’t Motorcyclists Care About Drag Racing? | MEGAPHONE

NHRA Pro Stock: The Most Popular Motorcycle Racing Series that Motorcyclists Ignore

Victory Motorcycles ' recent announcement that it would field a two-bike team in this year's NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle (PSM) championship got me thinking about motorcycle drag racing, America's most visible form of motorcycle racing that American motorcycle racing fans know virtually nothing about, and care for even less.

At a time when road racing is essentially on life support-last year's AMA Pro road racing series was just 5 national events, with just one factory team (Yamaha), contested mostly by racers with day jobs-the NHRA remains a juggernaut. The straight-line series has 18 national rounds scheduled this year, with sponsorship support from major corporations like Toyota and Powerade, with expectations to draw as many as 100,000 fans to some events (and countless more via its broadcast TV deal). Those numbers dwarf all other forms of motorcycle racing in America—even Supercross—and rival MotoGP in that series’ core markets like Italy and Spain. Given that, why don't most motorcyclists—us included-know the first thing about two-wheeled drag racing?

Victory Factory Racing—a family affair led by 2-time world champ Matt Smith and his wife/co-rider Angie Smith—will compete against the dominant Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines PSM effort, as well as a few dozen Suzuki and Buell/EBR-bodied racers. A gearhead can’t help but be impressed by the motorcycles, powered by purpose-built, machined-from-billet engines displacing as much as 2,600cc (for V-twins; higher-revving inline fours are limited to 1,750cc), generating around 375 horsepower, and capable of sprinting down the quarter-mile in 6.7 seconds at a tick under 200mph. We can’t claim the equipment isn’t compelling.

The racing is good, too, once you understand what you are watching. I attended Frank Hawley Drag Racing School’s Pro Stock Motorcycle course a few years ago in a (failed) attempt to earn my NHRA competition license, and I can assure you that pulling the trigger on a 300-bhp, rigid-framed rocketship then holding on (and holding your sh-t together) for seven seconds is one of the most difficult and intellectually demanding challenges on two wheels. A perfect pro stock launch demands pure athleticism, requiring the reflexes of a black belt, the calm of a fighter pilot, and the nerve of a cliff diver.

So, why couldn’t most motorcyclists care less? There’s a lot of ignorance. Drag racing is easy to bash. How hard can it be to twist a grip and hold on? (Sign up for the Hawley school and find out for yourself…) There’s a lot of elitism, too. The NHRA—like it’s kissing cousin, NASCAR—is often dismissed as redneck, hillbilly, lowest-common-denominator “entertainment” for Mello Yello-addled ADD victims (Mello Yello is another NHRA sponsor). Sophisticated, individual, freethinking motorcyclists do not associate with that herd.

Harley-Davidson, Kymco Scooters (the official scooter and ATV of NHRA), and now Victory Motorcycles are not so close-minded, however. Corporations like these recognize NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing for what it is: A remarkable opportunity to expose millions of potential motorcycle enthusiasts to the excitement of life on two wheels. Maybe we should pay more attention to Pro Stock Motorcycle racing, too. And I should go back to school and finally get that license.