Many of the top pro drag racers are using this weekend’s Rock Batteries Spring Blast at Rockingham Dragway for testing to prepare for the upcoming season.
One of those in particular is Joey Sternotti, who doesn’t go down the drag strip on four wheels. Instead, Sternotti speeds down the strip on two on Ray Price’s Nitro Highly Modified Top Fuel Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Sternotti and the Price Nitro Harley race team’s primary purpose at Rockingham Dragway is to test tune its bike and have it ready for the Screamin’ Eagle Performance Parts Gypsy Rendezvous Nationals on April 18 and 19 in Madison, Ill.
Even though the first event is still a little more than a month away, Sternotti admitted the exhibition runs are one of the few times the bike will be tested from now and until April.
“We might do one more testing in Georgia in a couple weeks, but the testing session here is very important,” Sternotti said. “We’ve got a lot of new equipment on the bike, and we’re hoping to learn some new data. What we hope to learn is ways to make the bike go as fast as it can.”
Sternotti is hoping quality tune-up runs at Rockingham Dragway will be a springboard to a strong 2009 season. Sternotti hooked up with the Price team last year, and the partnership led to a late-season charge for the team and the second-year Top Fuel Harley racer.
With the team building a new motorcycle for most of the year, Sternotti rode his own bike during the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) races leading up to the 2008 AHDRA Screamin Eagle Performance Nationals at the Rockingham Dragway.
Sternotti was sixth in the Top Fuel Nitro Harley division, until he unleashed the power of the new drag bike and ran a 6.289 E.T. (estimated time) at 224. 51 MPH to capture first place. The victory vaulted the New Jersey native to a second place finish in the AHDRA Top Fuel Nitro class points championship.
“It was a very special win, since it was my first Top Fuel win and the first event for the new motorcycle,” Sternotti recalled. “It was just unbelievable, and I’m still on a high from it. I consider the Rock one of the top three strips to race at.”
Price, who owns a Harley-Division dealership in Raleigh, had previously been denied wins at the Rockingham Dragway whether he was steering the wheel or as an owner.
“Over the years, we had tested here 50 or 60 times and raced here about 12 years, but hadn’t had much luck until we broke through last year in October,” Price said.
Price’s Harley drag racing career spanned 30 years before suffering a career-ending shoulder injury in Las Vegas in May of 2003.
According to Price, he went through several different riders before seeing Sternotti race last year, and feeling Sternotti was the right person to race his new motorcycle.
Despite having minimum experience riding a Top Fuel Harley, the 35-year-old driver’s past experience included winning championships in the World Fastest Street Legal Harley-Davidson motorcycle series.
“It was great to chosen by Ray, and the man has a ton knowledge in this field,” Sternotti said. “One of the things Mr. Price has advised me is how to ride these bikes on one wheel. I learned that you don’t steer the motorcycle, you just move your body one way or another to change the direction of where the bike is going. But the reality is you really never have control of it. It’s like riding a missile and you’re just trying to guide it.”
Sternotti explained three weeks ago he set a record in a World Fastest Harley-Davidson event at West Palm Beach, Fla., with a time of 231.75 MPH. Sternotti is hoping for even more milestones in the future.
He will return to Rockingham Dragway for the 2009 Screamin’ Eagle Performance Parts Jim McClure Nationals from Oct. 9 to 11 to try and defend his title.
“We’re exciting about this season,” Sternotti said. “We want to set world records and win a championship. Hopefully, along the way, we can make it a repeat performance here again.”
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