Velocity Racing 2008 Team Report

December 16, 2008
Courtesy of Velocity Racing

Despite increased competition, Barry Henson’s Velocity Racing/American Suzuki team is still the most dominant force in streetbike drag racing. The Velocity team and their associates again won all three major U.S. street tire motorcycle drag racing championships and the European championship as well. “Once again, we’ve pretty much won every no-bar, power-adder, street tire class there is,” said Henson, an outwardly, intensively competitive guy who is also a multi-time champ himself. “I don’t know any other team that’s done as much as we’ve done in the last five years, and Suzuki’s really jacked up about what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

AMA Dragbike Orient Express Pro Street

Mike Slowe captured his third straight AMA Dragbike Orient Express Pro Street championship  the quickest and fastest motorcycle street tire class in the world.
Mike Slowe captured his third straight AMA Dragbike Orient Express Pro Street championship, the quickest and fastest motorcycle street tire class in the world.

Velocity superstar Mike Slowe captured his third straight AMA Dragbike Orient Express Pro Street championship, the quickest and fastest motorcycle street tire class in the world. Combine those with his three MiRock 60-inch championships and Pinks TV win and you’ve got the most successful, no-bar, motorcycle drag racer currently running anywhere in the world.

But it wasn’t an easy year for Slowe or his Pro Street teammate Henson, as the pair made radical changes to their ’08 Hayabusas. Gone were the dry sump systems that protected their engines but added weight and robbed MPH. In was a new, untested, aftermarket clutch with no data history. The consistency the team has thrived on was sacrificed to push development forward, and the championship was a pins and needles affair right down to the final pass of the season at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta.

“The new clutch gave us some inconsistencies, so it kinda got us a little behind the gun,” said Henson. “I’ve been testing it all year, which has caused me to go out first round a couple of times. But I stuck with it. Mikey struggled with it for a while as well, but finally started to get some consistency out of it.”

“I had to develop confidence in the bike, because it’s been spinning the tire so bad,” said Slowe. “But these guys—Barry and the whole crew—they pretty much went over the whole motorcycle before Indy and got it right again. I’ll be the first one to say I was lost. I was out in left field. Sometimes you gotta ask for a little bit of help, and I was asking ‘Help!’”

Benefitting from Velocity’s constant development agenda, customer bikes threatened and Slowe even lost at his hometown track Atco Raceway to Velocity sponsored Trevor Altman. Mikey went to the Valdosta finals only 7 points ahead of second place. “We qualified five or six spots ahead of second place in qualifying, which made us a round up, then we set the eighth mile record,” said Slowe, who secured the championship despite losing the semi to the Velocity sponsored Honda ridden by Cycle World writer Nick Ienatsch. “Nick and the Kent Stotz team did an awesome job, and even though I lost, it’s still gonna be great exposure for the class, for the series, everything.”

It wasn’t an easy year for Slowe or his Pro Street teammate Henson  as the pair made radical changes to their ’08 Hayabusas.
It wasn’t an easy year for Slowe or his Pro Street teammate Henson, as the pair made radical changes to their ’08 Hayabusas.

“It was an up and down day all day long,” said Henson. “We thought every round, this was going to be the round the championship was gonna be over. It was definitely one of the most emotional roller coasters that I can ever remember us having with a championship. It was just unbelievable. I think it’s great for the class, and we enjoy the competition. That’s what makes us do this and look forward to next year. It’s exciting!

“I wanna thank Mikey Slowe for doing what he’s done the last three years, bein’ as smooth as he is and as badass as he is on a bike. He did that all himself. He worked hard all year, and Mikey is the champ because of what he did all year, not what happened at one race.”

“Seven championships in six years,” Slowe noted, totaling up his results in both series.

“Mikey’s one guy who can look himself in he mirror and say ‘I’m a bad mother,’” said Anthony Navarro, himself a Velocity team member, a former MiRock series Pro Sportbike champ, and the builder of next year’s Playthings Pro Street bike for Super Street champ Nick Mazeika.

Slowe’s planning on stepping back a bit this year, and not running for a championship in any one series. “But if someone doesn’t buy my Pro Street bike by the first race of the year, they’ll wish they had,” said Mike. “If I still have the bike, I’m planning on dropping out of the teens the first race out.”

“I’m not sure that sounds like someone who’s stepping back,” laughed Henson, who was Pro Street champ the two years before Slowe took over and plans on returning to the top in ’09. “I’m gonna run for the points in Pro Street next year. I’ll have to buckle down, no more testing at the races, and try and stay in front. I’ll run the ‘A’ bike next year for Pro Street, and I’m gonna step up my help with Trevor Altman and all my Velocity guys that are out there.”

“Barry’s been instrumental to teaching me about the Velocity/Magneti-Marelli system and how to get this bike down the track,” said Altman.

AMA Dragbike HMR Financing Super Street

Although HMR Super Street champ Nick Mazeika’s Playthings Exoticycles GSXR1000 doesn’t pit under the Velocity tent  the bike still features Velocity equipment  expertise  and sponsorship.
Although HMR Super Street champ Nick Mazeika’s Playthings/Exoticycles GSXR1000 doesn’t pit under the Velocity tent, the bike still features Velocity equipment, expertise, and sponsorship.

Although HMR Super Street champ Nick Mazeika’s Playthings/Exoticycles GSXR1000 doesn’t pit under the Velocity tent, the bike still features Velocity equipment, expertise, and sponsorship. So did last year’s champ Victor Gotay, and Slowe won the ’06 inaugural championship outright for the Velocity team. That means that a Velocity built or sponsored Suzuki has won every Super Street championship ever.

“It was great to know once we made the one official pass on Friday night in Valdosta, the championship was locked up,” said Mazeika, who was able to take it relatively easy the rest of the weekend there. “And that’s what we did.”

But the race before, in Norwalk, saw Nick and his team taking it anything but easy. Insiders were first tipped off to a weekend of speed records at Norwalk by Mazeika’s 198 lap in Friday testing—10 mph over the claimed Super Street record. But Mazeika didn’t stop there, hitting 202 Sunday in yet another final round win.

“The team has had a little bit of a problem getting’ a grip on the 1000 this  year ” Henson admitted. “The difference between a Hayabusa and a 1000 is significant  but we got better and ran some 7.90s and moved forward with it.
“The team has had a little bit of a problem getting’ a grip on the 1000 this  year,” Henson admitted. “The difference between a Hayabusa and a 1000 is significant, but we got better and ran some 7.90s and moved forward with it.”

“Johnny ‘Turbo’ Dobrin from Exoticycles did an awesome job building and tuning that bike,” said Henson. “That’s a great bunch of guys, and we are proud to be a sponsor of that bike. We need more people like Playthings owner Tim Uhlman in this sport, business owners from outside the motorcycle industry, coming in and building race teams. That really helps the future of our sport.”

Velocity team racer Darren Burnett finished fourth in Super Street points, also on a turbo GSXR1000. “The team has had a little bit of a problem getting’ a grip on the 1000 this year,” Henson admitted. “The difference between a Hayabusa and a 1000 is significant, but we got better and ran some 7.90s and moved forward with it, so the progress was good. Darren’s gonna have his own Pro Street program next year, but I really enjoyed working with him these past few years and we wish him the best in the future. We really appreciate everything he’s done for Velocity Racing.”

Barry’s young son Sean Henson rode the team’s Super Street Hayabusa to seventh in points.
Barry’s young son Sean Henson rode the team’s Super Street Hayabusa to seventh in points.

Barry’s young son Sean Henson rode the team’s Super Street Hayabusa to seventh in points. “Sean’s really showing some headway,” said Barry. “He’s gonna be my number 1 rider on the Super Street bike next year, so he’s gonna be what we’re shooting for to win the Super Street championship. I think he can do it. He’s been running consistently. The ‘Busa is still a little under gunned in the class with the chassis geometry. So we’re gonna switch to the GSXR1000 solely next year. We’ve got to choose the tool that will get the job done, and the ‘Busa is more appropriate for Pro Street. So under our tent at AMA Dragbike races next year, it’s gonna be me on the Pro Street Hayabusa and Sean on the Super Street GSXR.”

MiRock Orient Express Pro Sportbike

Vincent Demito successfully defended his Orient Express Pro Sportbike championship  thereby increasing the death grip that Velocity has held on the class.
Vincent Demito successfully defended his Orient Express Pro Sportbike championship, thereby increasing the death grip that Velocity has held on the class.

Velocity sponsored Vincent Demito successfully defended his Orient Express Pro Sportbike championship, thereby increasing the death grip that Velocity has held on the class since Mike Slowe started winning what was then known as 60-Inch. “We’ve won the Pro Sportbike championship every year since it’s existence,” said Henson.

Demito got the best of fellow Pennsylvania contractor Anthony Navarro in the final round not once but twice at the Rockingham MiRock finals weekend. “If I’m gonna lose, I’d rather it be him,” said former champ Navarro, who like Demito and Slowe rides a Velocity turbocharged Hayabusa. “Barry got me into this and helps me out 100% whatever I need.”

“I can’t complain about anything, everything was perfect,” said Demito, who won the first four races of the year and six out of eight.

Demito got the best of fellow Pennsylvania contractor Anthony Navarro in the final round not once but twice at the Rockingham MiRock finals weekend. “If I’m gonna lose  I’d rather it be him ” said former champ Navarro.
Demito got the best of fellow Pennsylvania contractor Anthony Navarro in the final round not once but twice at the Rockingham MiRock finals weekend. “If I’m gonna lose, I’d rather it be him,” said former champ Navarro.

“That’s a record,” noted Navarro.

“I really am grateful to have such great guys representing Velocity at the MiRock series,” said Henson. “Vinnie and Anthony are class acts all the way and I’m very lucky to have them on board with us.”

Former Pro Sportbike and current Pro Street champ Slowe returned to Pro Sportbike at Maryland in July with his old ‘Busa, a technological dinosaur compared to Demito and Navarro’s machines. Still, Slowe hustled the bike down the tricky, hot July track for the old school win. “An older ‘Busa with basically stock technology in the right hands is still better than just about anything else out there,” noted Henson.

Worldwide

Steve Venables won his second straight British Super Street championship on his Pro Street spec Velocity Hayabusa.
Steve Venables won his second straight British Super Street championship on his Pro Street spec Velocity Hayabusa.

Steve Venables won his second straight British Super Street championship on his Pro Street spec Velocity Hayabusa. “I also won it in ’05,” said Venables. “This year we won the British championship and both club championships, and set all records for MPH and ET in England and also at Hockenheim, Germany.

“For 2009 I will be on my new Velocity ‘Busa, which I’ve raced in the U.S. with the help of Barry to get some good settings. I owe a lot of my success to Barry and Velocity and can’t thank them enough.”

In addition to Venables’ success, Velocity and Suzuki also scored the number 2 spot in the South African Pro Street championship with Graeme Minne in the saddle.

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle

Henson competed on the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle circuit with a Suzuki TL1000 in 2007, and plans to return to that arena when the new Suzuki motor, being developed by McLaren in the U.K., becomes available through Suzuki. “When we can get our hands on it, I’ll start building a bike for that,” said Barry.

Find out more about Suzuki motorcycles at: www.suzukicycles.com
Find out more about Velocity Racing at: 
www.velocityracing.com