BRISTOL, Tenn. - Mike Romine has a nice streak going and a little rain wasn't any reason to keep him extending it another year. What's the streak? He's won at least one Screamin' Eagle Nitro Harley Exhibition Tour event at an NHRA POWERade event for the last three years.
Romine took the victory Sunday at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, beating Larry Brancaccio in the final round. It's the third time Romine's Top Fuel motorcycle has won an NHRA exhibition event.
"It's the second win with me on the bike but the third for the bike," Romine said. "In 2003 I hurt my back just before the race at Joliet (Route 66 Raceway) and we had Mark Conner ride the bike and he won. Then we won the same race last year. It's great we have a win before we even get to Joliet this season."
Romine's bike broke near half-track, slowing to a 10.536-second pass at 76.75 mph, beating Brancaccio, who broke at the 100-foot mark. It was the worst run of the day for Romine, but he was still the best in the final.
"There is a lot of luck involved with this sport," Romine said. "You have to run well but a little luck every now and then helps get you the win. On a day like today when they were rushing us through the rounds, we were consistent and we didn't have any major problems until the finals and even then, we had that race covered."
The rounds were raced on a quicker pace than usual because of the rain that turned the Thunder Valley Nationals upside down. Rain forced NHRA officials to cancel all qualifying runs on Friday and most of them on Saturday. The Nitro Harley competitors had just one round of qualifying, held Sunday afternoon.
"We sat around for two days because of the rain and we didn't have a great run during the qualifying pass because we had a problem." Romine said. "We fixed that and went out and ran a great pass and won first round and kept going from there.
"We started to get a little anxious about racing because every time they got the track dried and ready to go, and we started getting ready for a run, the rain started again. The great thing is that we got the race in and we don't have to come back and finish it later. Even better, we won the event."
Romine beat Doug Vancil in the first round. Vancil went 6.851 at 207.37 and Romine was the clear winner, but no time or speed was recorded for Romine. Romine went on to beat Mike Lehman with a 6.612 at 210.87 to Lehman's 6.709 at 206.45 in the semifinal.
The rain was by far the biggest challenge for the exhibition tour. Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said the competitors turned a long weekend into a positive experience for everyone involved.
"Everyone loses when it comes to rain delays and cancellation of qualifying rounds and it was frustrating because you can't do anything about the rain," Paluso said. "It was a long weekend for all the competitors but they were all patient and they still put on a great show despite the challenges with the weather.
"The fans here really love racing and they were thrilled to have nitro bikes on site. I'm just glad we were able to get one round of qualifying in because it helped the performance numbers improve throughout the day."
It was Romine's first victory at Bristol Dragway.
"The fans were the best thing about Bristol," Romine said. "They have a big crowd here and they love the Nitro bikes with the front wheel in the air. This was a good experience because the sanctioning body did a good job keeping this race on and the track was as well prepared as possible. It's a beautiful place and with all the rain, they did a great job keeping it ready to race on."
The race was the second of three stops on the NHRA tour for the Nitro Harleys. The top 10 Screamin' Eagle Nitro riders from the AHDRA (All Harley-Davidson Racing Association) are invited to make the special appearance at the NHRA event. The final stop on the NHRA tour for the Nitro Harley-Davidsons will be at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., Sept. 29- Oct. 2.
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Source: Harley-Davidson Motor Company Communications Department