Journal - 04/08/00
Rockingham Harley Drags

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I have made arrangements with Ray Price, owner of Ray-Price Harley-Davidson/Buell in Raleigh, NC, and Harley Drag Racing Hall-of-Fame legend, to follow him and his crew through one of the most exciting sports events in the Harley lifestyle...Top Fuel Harley Drags!

This journal is in two parts... the pre-race preparations and a little behind-the-scenes look at the Team that goes into making this a success. Page two will be done immediately after the race on the weekend of April 7th, 8th and 9th at Rockingham Dragstrip in southern North Carolina. At this point it looks like I will be arriving early on Saturday, staying Saturday night in the on-site Campground and if Ray participates in the Finals on Sunday, will stay for those results. Part one...this page, will be posted several days prior so you can begin to see the races in a new light. If you can't join me in Rockingham, come on back after the 9th for the updates. - Muthuh

Close to home, his two Rockingham, NC races each year is a big draw for Rays local fans from the Triangle area of NC... (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill). At this event, several of the members of the local H.O.G. Chapter sponsored by his Raleigh Dealership will make a run to "The Rock" for a weekend of camping, partying and sniffing Nitro fumes and burning rubber. Sure, there'll be the campfire, the Bar-B-Q, the Budweiser and the thunder of Harleys throughout the grounds, but everything stands still when Ray bellies up to the line on his 174 cu. in., 650hp, nitro-methane powered Harley. Well...belly down is more like it - as Ray straps on a Kelvar vest and race leathers, and lays down inches away from this V-Twin behemouth...eyes on the tree, fist on the throttle, finger on the button controlling the 2-speed airshift transmission....his only thoughts are less than 7 seconds away at the finish line. And at over 210 mph it's a brief thought, too!

With races nearly every weekend during the season, the Shop is a busy place mid-week. Scattered throughout this facility near the dealership, are frames, and engines, and parts and pieces stuffed amid the huge lathes and drills and machinery needed to fabricate nearly everything they need for a Top Fuel Harley stab at the National Championship. Nick Richendollar, the Team Crew Chief is the Man here. A member of Rays Racing Team since 1994, he makes certain Ray's lil' scooter is ready for the short putt down to the other end of a quarter-mile strip of asphalt.

It takes a great deal of logistics to take this operation on the road nearly 7 months out of the year. While the familiar Custom 42-foot Blue Bird Bus and the trailer which serves as the portable shop is in town, it is meticulously maintained by Fuzzy... I made the mistake of asking Fuzzy what his last name was, for this journal, and he replied, "Just Fuzzy."... then gave me a look that said, Don't ask again. I didn't.

Fuzzy doesn't go to many of the races, as his responsibilities take up most of the week when the bus is in town. Ray and Nick and a new Team member this year, Ronnie Johnson, do the bus driving and race preparations. With a schedule that can have the team driving 1000 miles between tracks, it is easy to rack up 25,000 miles a year on the road. Complete with full living arangements, kitchen and race shop, the Ray Price Racing Team Bus serves as home for several months for the team.

I caught up with Nick and Ronnie in the shop just after the Darlington Races in March '00, and found the new bike nearly completely torn down, something that apparently isn't uncommon between races. All parts are checked for wear and stress, and tolerances checked and re-checked. There's very little left to chance when your boss is hurtling down the track at over 200 mph.

With all the accumulation of engine blocks and crankshafts and pistons and bits and pieces allover the shop, you'd think it'd be an image of chaos, but to watch the guys go about their work, it was obvious they knew exactly where everything was and why it was there. While I was in the shop, Fuzzy brought in the news that TNN (Cable TV) was going to air a 12-event schedule with the IHRA - International Hot Rod Association - starting August 6th, 2000. Every Sunday night for 12 consecutive Sundays (8/6 - 10/22) TNN will showcase five classes of IHRA Drag Racing. Included will be the Screamin' Eagle Nitro Harley class where Ray competes. Beginning at 10:30 (EST) for an hour, TNN will air events from the country's top drag racing strips.

This story continues on Page 2 AFTER April 9th!


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