Barry Henson Wins a Wally
American Suzuki sponsored rider Barry Henson stepped up to the plate and knocked one out of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park for his sponsors, winning the Pro Street Bike class (also sponsored by American Suzuki) at the NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals at the famed track in Englishtown, New Jersey. It was a clean sweep for Henson's Velocity Racing teams, as the top three qualified bikes were all Velocity sponsored, turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusas.
It was the first time that Henson has raced one of the 550 horsepower Pro Street bikes since an off-season leg operation kept him sidelined as a rider for much of this year. "I had a couple passes at Milan, Michigan before showing up, but I haven't ridden since the AMA/Prostar World Finals last year," said Henson. "I was a little rusty."
Not that anyone would have noticed. Henson was never less than third through three rounds of qualifying, finishing second with a 7.376 at 198.96 mph. Velocity sponsored rider Mike Slowe led qualifying early aboard Anthony Navarro's bike--built to MiRock's Pro Sportbike rules. Navarro stretched the 'Busa's wheelbase out to 66 inches-the limit of his swingarm but 2 inches shorter than the Pro Street limit of 68. Despite the disadvantage, Slowe ran all three qualifying passes at over 200 mph, qualifying second with a 7.377 at 201.13 mph.
Fresh off of a win at Milan's Street Wars race, it was Phil Stoll on Ronnie Mitchell's Velocity sponsored "Casper" that took the top qualifying spot with a 7.353 at 197.10 mph. Dragging the clutch a little too long, Phil slowed to a 7.585 in round 1 of eliminations but still vanquished Glenn Stickels. Slowe beat Tim O'Neil with another 200 mph lap and Henson joined the weekend's 7.30 club with a 7.308 to sideline Sam Boles.
Barry lowered the ET standard to 7.277 in the semis--the quickest Pro Street pass since the bikes were raised to 3 inch ground clearance two years ago. That was enough to beat Slowe, despite Mikey's 202 mph blast. Kent Stotz redlit and slowed against Stoll, setting up what would be the fastest ever side-by-side Pro Street final. Stoll buried Henson at the tree with an .011, but lost that advantage with a marginal 60-foot time. Henson made up for lost ground and took the win by 4 feet with a 7.308 at 199.05 to Stoll's 7.436 at 200.65.
Henson's won two AMA/Prostar championships and scored many race wins, but this was his first at an NHRA national event, and thus his first "Wally". It was a spectacular showing by the Velocity team, one that left the car racing crowd buzzing after each pass by the amazing bikes. "After the finals of Pro RWD, which is their marquee class, they held us up to check the track," said Barry. "I thought 'Oh no, now everybody's gonna leave the stands.' But nobody left.
"A lot of good, spectacular things happened this weekend. We were able to qualify the top three positions and that's pretty outstanding for our team. We were the only three bikes in the .30's, and we set numerous bests. We ran the quickest side-by-side pass, fastest side-by-side pass, it was the quickest field ever, and we ran the quickest pass since the 3 inch ground clearance rule.
"It was just one of the best weekends we've had racing together. We had so much fun and the hospitality of the track was awesome. We really want to thank Javier Ortega of the NHRA Sport Compact series, Eddie Krawiec at Englishtown, Morgan Broadhead at American Suzuki, and Matt Polito of Dragbike.com for the efforts they put into this event."
The next event for the Velocity/Suzuki team is the AMA/Prostar National Finals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, November 3-5, 2006