MOUNT AIRY, Md. (AP) — 2010 was a good year for Dale Hamilton.
A motorcycle drag racer, Hamilton won 32 races last year. He ended his racing season by winning the National Hot Rod Association’s Super Pro Motorcycle Summit Racing Series National Championship. He was even named NHRA’s Driver of the Year for the Northeast Division 1.
But for Hamilton, 34, the best part was winning not one, but two “Wally” awards.
The Wally, named after NHRA founder Wally Parks, is the “Olympic gold medal” in racing, Hamilton said. When asked what he’s aiming for this year after already winning two of the coveted trophies in 2010, he laughed and said, “Another one.”
Last fall, Hamilton faced off against nearly 100 other drivers, the season’s top point-winners from the 13 tracks in the NHRA Northeast Division 1. He outraced them all, earning a trip to Pomona, Calif., for the national championship series against six other division winners.
Hamilton brought his street bike the same one he used for his division win, but which is slower than his three drag bikes. The drag bike he wanted to race wasn’t quite ready, so he went with his most reliable bike.
As it turned out, the street bike was still powerful enough to earn the 6-foot-7, 350-pound Hamilton the national title in the Super Pro Motorcycle category.
“I’ve won plenty of championships,” he said, “but this is like the Super Bowl of drag racing.”
The national title came with a $5,000 prize, but Hamilton said he didn’t get into racing for the money. Instead, he is excited he can say he won a national title at the same event that famous racer John Force won the Funny Car championship.
Hamilton started racing cars for fun in about 1995, when he was in high school. He quickly switched to racing motorcycles, and by about 2000 he was competing in series.
Racing can easily cost more than racers earn, and Hamilton’s girlfriend, Bonnie Pelphrey, said the two couldn’t race the way they do without the support of sponsor Thurmont Auto Sales.
Hamilton is already busy enough running the family-owned Ace Carpet Care in Mount Airy, and racing consumes a big chunk of his time. But he doesn’t do it alone. Hamilton and his girlfriend, along with their five children ages 12 to 17, spend a lot of time together fixing up the bikes, and they take long weekend trips to racetracks. They cook out, the children race golf carts and dirt bikes, and they hang out with other families who travel to the same racing events.
“We make the racing a family event,” Pelphrey said, adding that her oldest is growing out of her racing phase but that some of the children might end up drag racing themselves one day.
“If it’s a big race, we’re there the day before and leave the day after,” Hamilton said.
For as much time as he’s put into racing, he’s gotten a lot out of it.
“The last five years has just been unbelievably good,” Hamilton said, adding that the past two years were his most successful in his whole racing career. He wasn’t sure if he could out-do himself again this year, but he said his family’s philosophy is just to race “as much as we can, as long as we can.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)