Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1979 09 19

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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IAbovel"Frog" Thacker lfar Ianel won his U.S, Nationals title right off the starting line with a fine hoIeshot start against favorite Jim Bernard.IBelow U Thacker again shows excellent reflexes by jumping to an early lead against Joe Thronson Ifar lanel. The champ and the gang bask In victory circle glory. Thacker upsets favorite at Indy NHRA U.S. Nationals By Tom Blattler Photos by Les Lovett INDIANAPOLIS, IN, AUG. 29-SEPT. 5 "Underdog" Roy "Frog" Thacker barely qualifield for the eight-bike Top Fuel field last weekend at the 25th annual U;S. Nationals drag races at Indianapolis Raceway Park. But, when the final race had been completed, it was Thacker and his Kawasaki in the winner's circle in drag racing's largest and richest event. 16 Thacker, a veteran Top Fuel rider from Arlington, VA, piloted his Lynchburg: Kawasaki past favorite Jim Bernard WIth a fine holeshot start in the final round to capture his biggest career victory. The final round marked the first time in u.s. Nationals history in which a HarleyDavidson did not make a Top Fuel final round. Thacker piloted his Kawasaki to a quarter-mile clocking of 7.84 seconds with a top speed of 175.45 mph to hold off the late challenge of Bernard, theYamaha rider of La Mirada. CA, who recorded a quicker elapsed time at 7.75 seconds and a faster speed at 181.81 mph. However, for Bernard, the race is won by the first rider to the finish line and Thacker's holeshot start was enough to claim top honors and first place payoff. Bernard, the NHRA 1977 Winston World Champion in Top Fuel, proved to be the class of the Top Fuel qualifying by taking his Teson/Bernard Yamaha, sponsored by R.C. Enginee-ring, to the number one slot with a fine 7.57 with a top speed of 185.67. Jim's qualifying time proved to be low elapsed time of the Top Fuel competition at this year's U.S. Nationals. Recent IDBA Summer Nationals winner Eimer Trett of Oxford, OH, rode his Harley-Davidson to the second position in qualifying at 7.67 and 182.55 mph. Rounding out the top three slots was Kawasaki-mounted Ernie Rife of Dayton, OH, who clocked at·7.81 at 180.56. On Rife's qualifying attempt, the front wheel on his Kawasaki began to wobble and the 25·year old rider was thrown from his machine after crossing the finish line and struck the guard rail. Rife was rushed to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where he succumbed to injuries. Other Top Fuel qualifiers included former U.S. Nationals winner Joe Thronson of Greenville, MS, riding a Harley-Davidson, at 7.88 and 178.57; Ken Blackburn of Swanton, OH, aboard 'a Kawasaki, at 7.96 seconds and top speed of the event at 184.42 mph; veteran Marion Owens of Oklahoma City, OK, also on a Harley, at 8.05 and 172.41; Honda-mounted Chris Hand of Nauvad, AL, at 8.065 and 168.55; and Thacker, at 8.066 and 115.07, rounded out the eightbike field. Past U.S. Nationals champion T.C. Christenson of Kenosha, WI, was the first alternate at S.25 and 170.15 with his twin-motored ,Norton, and he moved into the starting lineup in place of Rife. In the first round of Top Fuel action, Bernard proved that he was the rider to beat when he de-feated Blackburn and his Kawasaki with a strong 7.61 at 184.42 mph to the Ohio rider's 8.04 and 174.75 clocking. Christenson surprised Hand in the second race of round one with a time of 8.25 and a speed of 165.15 to the Honda rider's off-pace 8.78 and 160.71. A battle of Harleys highlighted the next race with Trett putting away Owens with a time of7.78 and 181.81 to Marion's slowing 8.24 at only 160.71. The cI~t race of the first round found Thacker upsetting Thronson and his Harley with a quarter-mile t:eading of 7.82 at 174.75 toJoe's 7.95 at 178.92 mph. Bernard continued his domination with an easy semi-final victory over Christenson. Jim took his Yamaha through quarter-mile light beams at 7.71 seconds with a top speed of 182.55 to T.C.'s slowing 9.11 at 152.80 mph. By far, the closest race of the entire Top Fuel competition came in the other semi-fmal battle. Thacker just nipped Trett with a 7.94 to Elmer's 7.95 to advance to the fmal round. Trett was charging at the top end with a 180.72 to "Frog's" 175.41, but the Harley rider came up short. With low e.t. in both rounds of eliminations, Bernard was the obvious favorite against the number eight qualifier Thacker. "Frog" figured his only chance was to cut a quick green light off the start - and that's exactly what he did. Off the staning line, Thacker held a bikelength advantage and Bernard slowly cut away at the "Frog's" lead. Jim could not catch up to Thacker's Kawasaki, and Thacker pulled off the major upset to take home the first prize. Top Fuel motorcycles will make their fmal appearance in the 1979 NHRA Winston World Championship Series on Oct. 5-7 at Ontario Motor Speedway in the 15th annual Winston World Finals. •

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