Courtesy of Los Angeles Times By Shav Glick
erry Vance can go from 0 to 60 m.p.h. on his Suzuki motorcycle in 1.2 seconds. It takes him a little past 60 feet. By the time he has ridden a quarter-mile, he is going faster than 160 m.p.h.
The acceleration is so swift on the 225-horsepower pro stock drag bike that Vance doesn’t even start to focus until he has traveled about 300 feet.
“As you leave the line, you’re running by memory,” Vance said Wednesday, shortly before departing for Indianapolis, where he will compete this weekend in the National Hot Rod Assn.’s U.S. Nationals. “You push a couple of buttons and you’re into third gear, around the 300-foot mark, before you can focus on the tachometer and the dials. You can’t see the rider in the lane next to you but you can hear his motor. It’s really hard to concentrate, but you have to get all the way to the finish line before you sneak a look to see if the other guy’s alongside you.”
Vance used to be even faster. Riding a top-fuel bike at the old Orange County Raceway on Aug. 23, 1984, he became the first motorcyclist to exceed 200 m.p.h. in a quarter-mile when he hit 203.
Pro stocks replaced top-fuel bikes on the NHRA program a few years ago because the fuelers were so powerful and so expensive that the number of riders diminished until there were not enough for competition.
“Running a top-fuel bike for the year cost about $125,000,” Vance said. “You can run a pro stock program for $65,000, with the machine included.”
Vance, 32, rides the NHRA’s five-race season and also rides in four races in the East Coast-based International Drag Bike Assn. He is defending champion in both and is again leading both this year.
His affection for fast cycles goes back to when he was 10 or 11, living in Lawndale.
“I had a paper route and I saved enough money to buy a mini-bike frame,” Vance recalled. “I planned to earn some more money and buy an engine, but my Dad took the motor from our (lawn) edger and put it in the mini-bike. We had to clip the edges of the lawn by hand after that, but I’ve been riding ever since.”
Vance’s father, Jack Tipps, raced sprint cars at the old Carrell Speedway and has been a motorcycle enthusiast most of his life.
When Vance was 16 and a junior at Lawndale High, he had a Honda 750cc street bike that he decided to test one Wednesday night at Lions Drag Strip in Wilmington.
“It had a lot of horsepower and was pretty fast,” Vance said. “Russ Collins was there with his three-engine Honda that was the hot setup back then, and he asked me if I’d like to try some of his trick parts on my bike. I ended up working for him and I’ve been in the drag racing business ever since.”
In 1980, Vance and an old high school friend, Byron Hines, started their own business, Vance & Hines Performance Products, in Santa Fe Springs, and recently opened a chain of motorcycle performance centers. Hines is also the tuner for Vance’s racing bikes.
Surprisingly, in a career covering 15 years of racing the fastest two-wheelers in the world, Vance has never crashed during a race.
“I had an awful scare once down in Bradenton, Fla., and to this day I’m not sure what kept me from going down,” he said. “I was on a fuel bike, and the rear tire came off the rim. It was swollen up and kept on running along the pavement. I shut the throttle off, but I must have looked like a 180-m.p.h. tricycle going through the lights with the rim, tire and front wheel all on the ground at the same time.”
Vance will be the defending champion and favorite at Indianapolis, where the finals will be held Monday. He set national records of 8.14 seconds elapsed time and 163.57 m.p.h. for a quarter-mile July 13 during the Summernationals at Englishtown, N.J.
SPEEDWAY BIKES–Mike Faria of Colton won 5 of 6 main events as he dominated qualifying for the U.S. championships at Costa Mesa Oct. 11. Faria lost only 1 of 30 races at six different tracks, finishing with 124 points to 83 for runners-up John Sandona of Reche Canyon and Rob Pfetzing of Garden Grove. Other qualifiers, with points: Steve Lucero, Riverside, 71; Eddie Ingels, Pinole, and Gary Hicks, Glen Avon, 68 each; Keith Chrisco, Costa Mesa, 65; Bart Bast, Auburn, 60; Brad Oxley, San Clemente, and Bobby Schwartz, Costa Mesa, 57 each; John Cook, Roseville, 54; Ronnie Correy, Fullerton, 49; and Jim Sisemore, Woodland, 44. Bast is a cousin of seven-time national champion Mike Bast and Hicks, 17, is the grandson of former national champion Cordy Milne. . . . Exempt from qualifying were defending champion Alan Christian of Huntington Beach and British League riders Sam Ermolenko of Corona and Lance King of Fountain Valley. . . . Ermolenko will be the only U.S. rider in Saturday’s World Finals in Poland. . . . Regular racing will resume at all local tracks this week. . . . Gene Woods is appealing his suspension for missing the opening U.S. qualifier in Auburn, but at the moment he is suspended for the remainder of the season and the first half of next year’s season.
SPRINT CARS–Brad Noffsinger will celebrate his 26th birthday Friday and if he continues to dominate the California Racing Assn. season, he will become the youngest champion since Jimmy Oskie won in 1969 at 23. Oskie, a five-time champion, will be among the CRA regulars battling Noffsinger at Ascot Park Saturday night in the 50-lap 7-Up Sweepstakes. Noffsinger, who has won three of the last four CRA races, leads Mike Sweeney by 204 points.
MOTOCROSS–David Bailey, who won the national 500cc championship last week, has been named to the U.S. Motocross des Nations team which will compete Sept. 21 at Maggiora, Italy. Also named to the all-Honda team were Rick Johnson, 250cc and supercross champion, and Johnny O’Mara, who will ride in the 125cc class. The U.S. has won every competition since 1981 and hopes to repeat in order to defend the title in 1987 at Unadilla, N.Y. It will be the first time the international event has been held in this country. . . . The weekly CMC motocross will be run Friday night at Ascot.
STOCK CARS–Ascot Park and Cajon Speedway will offer double doses of racing this weekend, adding Monday night Labor Day shows to their regular schedules. American-made full-bodied factory stocks will run a 250-lap enduro Sunday night at Ascot with 99 cars entered. Monday night the pro stocks of the Curb Motorsports series will compete in a points race along with four other classes. . . . The Bill Shannon Memorial, honoring a charter member of the El Cajon Racing Assn. who died five years ago while returning home from the track, will be run Saturday night at Cajon. A 150-lap factory stock enduro is scheduled for Monday night. . . . Saugus Speedway will keep its one-night formula with NASCAR sportsman, street stock and Figure 8 competition Saturday night, followed by a destruction derby.
MIDGETS–Dick Nichols of Sanger has retired as the United States Auto Club’s western regional director and will be succeeded by Tommy Hunt, 39, a former sprint car and midget driver from Rancho Cordova, Calif. Hunt is owner of Hunt Magnetos, a firm that has been affiliated with racing for more than 40 years. . . . Three-quarter midgets will run Saturday night at Ventura Raceway.