Jamie Emery vividly remembers when he proudly showed his father he could balance a several hundred-pound pro-fuel Harley by his side 13 years ago. Ever since, he has been showing everyone else just how well he can race a motorcycle.
This weekend, the Coltons Point resident is among roughly 100 competitors at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek for the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) eighth annual Mid-Atlantic Harley-Davidson Nationals.
Emery, now 25, was spending that memorable summer day at the racetrack, watching his father, Tom, race a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and dreaming of the day he'd be big enough to do the same. Tom frequently explained to Jamie that when he got big enough to hold the bike on his own he'd be allowed to race it. Not a moment sooner.
"I always thought to myself and told Dad, that's going to be me someday," Emery said of the days watching his father race. "As soon as I was big enough to hold a bike up, he put me on it and turned me loose."
The 1992 Chopticon High School graduate has moved through the circuits of motorcycle racing, much like a baseball player rising through the minor leagues. He raced motocross as a youth and moved on to Harley Pro Fuel Bikes as a teenager. In 1993, he ranked third in the AHDRA and second in the now-defunct East Coast Racing Association (ECRA). The following year, Emery was the ECRA national champion.
In '96, Emery moved on from the pro-fuel bikes to Nitro Methane Top Fuel Harleys, the top of the line in motorcycle racing. He now reaches speeds of almost 200 mph while hurtling down a quarter-mile racetrack, which he can cover in less than seven seconds.
The Top Fuel motorcycles were a big step, both competitively and financially -- a bike costs about $70,000. He placed sixth in AHDRA that season and 11th the following year. Last season, Emery began racing in the elite International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), placing seventh and regularly qualifying fastest for races.
Despite his passion for motorcycles, Emery said it is not the racing he enjoys most about his career. It's family that keeps him going. Jamie's racing team is made up entirely of family members. His mom, Ann, is the team owner and manager. Tom is crew chief and Uncle Mark is Tom's assistant. Jamie's fiancee, Erin Allingham, often accompanies them at races.
Nearly every weekend the family piles into their mobile home for the often 12-hour trip to the next stop on tour. The time is spent catching up on the past week, spinning stories and sleeping.
"Who else has a 25-year-old son who wants to spend every weekend with Mom and Dad?" said Tom Emery. "It keeps him out of trouble, and he's made a lot of friends. I personally do it for him."
Ann became an instant drag racing fan soon after meeting Tom. Though she is Jamie's biggest supporter, Ann admits it sometimes is difficult watching him zip down the track.
"People always ask me, `How can you watch him go down the track at 200 miles per hour?' " Ann Emery said. "Well, if he has that need for speed, there are a lot of worse things he could be doing. But yes, my heart thumps a little bit every time he leaves the starting line."
Emery is easily the youngest Top Fuel driver in the IHRA -- which is composed of 16 racing teams that must meet specific speed qualifications. Though Emery feels that riding motorcycles since he could walk should earn him veteran status, he has often been humbled this season by his competitors' experience. Emery is currently 11th overall in the IHRA.
He has participated in all eight nationals at Maryland International Raceway and said the Mid-Atlantic event -- which concludes today -- is special to him because it's really the only event his friends get to come see.
"This was the first event I rode this [Top Fuel] bike in," Emery said. "I like this event because it's my home track. Everybody who comes out to watch knows me because they're from around here. . . . It's a lot of pressure. It's actually harder to race in front of a hometown crowd than another event."
CAPTION: Jamie Emery, above, reaches speeds of nearly 200 mph while drag racing on his Nitro Methane Top Fuel Harley-Davidson. But he says the best part is spending racing weekends with his parents, Ann and Tom, below.