Ray Price approaches life differently than many 62-year-old men. His golden-years pastime consists of racing a motorcycle at speeds of more than 200 mph down a quarter-mile track.
"It's a tremendous rush," said Price, who competed in the Nitro Harley division of the International Hot Rod Association's President's Cup Nationals in Budds Creek, Md., last weekend. "As you get older, you have a tendency to slow down. This speeds you up, and it does create a tremendous amount of adrenaline. When you're a 20-year-old and you've got your whole life ahead of you, the danger doesn't seem the same. You think about those things, but I love drag racing. I love riding that motorcycle down that strip."
Price advanced to Sunday's Nitro Harley semifinals, where he lost to Bill Furr. Two hours earlier, however, Price ousted 1998 world champion Johnny Mancuso with a personal best time of 6.561 seconds and a speed of 210 mph in the quarterfinals.
"That was our best run ever," Price said. "Everything went right. The motorcycle felt really good, everything held together and the tires held to the track."
In the semifinal, Price's tires did not properly grip the track, preventing him from gathering speed.
"As soon as I hit the throttle, the tires went right up in smoke," Price said. "It's part of drag racing. You've got to read the track and keep up with the conditions."
The three-day event, which drew a weekend crowd of approximately 20,000, featured five professional divisions and eight amateur "sportsmen" divisions. Pro points leader Jay Turner of Whitset, N.C., defeated Furr for the Nitro Harley championship. Other pro winners included Von Smith of Oak Ridge, Tenn., in the Funny Car; Chris Holbrook of Redford, Mich., in the Pro Stock; Laurie Cannister of Clinton, Penn., in the the Super Eliminator; and Ed Hoover of Gilbert, S.C., in the Pro Modified.
Price started drag racing in the 1960s but stopped to run a Harley Davidson dealership he purchased in 1982. After a 13-year layoff, he returned to race Nitro Harleys in October 1995, at age 58.
"Everybody told me I was crazy," Price said. "They said, 'Why do you want to do this now?' The first time I cranked up my motorcycle [as a race warm-up], I started to agree with them."
But Price has since established himself as one of the top racers in the country. He is ranked sixth in the point standings with one race remaining in the season.
"Ray has got his bike running exceptionally well," Mancuso said. "His bike has more high-tech stuff on it than any of the rest of us. Normally speaking, simple is really good, but he's able to pull it off with all that extra stuff on there. Ray is a good racer and he's been racing forever."
Notes: Charles County's Richard Smith, the so-called "Mayor of Waldorf," advanced to the quarterfinals of the Top Dragster sportsmen division.
CAPTION: Ohio's Dave Price accelerates in the Super Eliminator Division at IHRA's President's Cup Nationals.
CAPTION: Crew member Mike Staebler, left, takes in the scene at the Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Md.; Ray Price, above, started drag racing in the 1960s. After leaving the sport for 13 years to run his Harley Davidson dealership, Price returned and is one of the top Harley Nitro racers. He advanced to the semifinals last weekend. "As you get older, you have a tendency to slow down. This speeds you up," he says.