And from the department of “we sure didn’t expect to see this” comes an observation from NHRA’s recent event in New England….

At first I didn’t think too much of it — it’s rather common to have helicopters in the sky during NHRA national event races.   

But upon closer examination there was something very different about a particular model Bell that was airborne above the track and pit area — very often — during the NHRA New England Nationals. 

This was a conspicuously well equipped machine, featuring very high tech/high def camera equipment and it had Police department markings.  And because it was so persistent in the skies above the track circling, that got me to wondering just what the heck was happening – and that’s where this story gets rather bizarre.

This bird in the sky was loaded to the teeth with tech!

It turns out this helicopter as well as a rather large on the ground Police force (both uniformed and undercover) were at the race to monitor some activity.  

One of the names entered within the Top Fuel Harley class division was Peter Geiss, from New York, who is a ranking member of a rather infamous motorcycle gang.  From what we were told Peter, in addition to being a racer, has an official capacity as Sgt at Arms for a New York area Hells Angels chapter.

I have seen in the past a couple of isolated incidents (riders wearing colors) at some independent drag racing events I’ve attended elsewhere.  I am also not naive to the reality that some racers past and present within this class have been or are affiliated. But to the very best of my knowledge, never in the history of NHRA, has a motorcycle drag racer gone down the drag strip during a NHRA national event – with full gang colours.  That all changed during the first round of Top Fuel Harley class qualifying when — exactly that happened.

Now I am not going to be judgmental here.  I am just reporting objectively what everyone present at the race witnessed.

Officially the police presence in the sky and around the race was reportedly done as some sort of preventative measure for the public – taken to be proactive and avoid potential issues with other rival area gangs (Sheesh!  We did hear (but cannot confirm) that was extended to include even a police escort to and from the race track for certain individuals.  

In fairness to Peter Geiss and his race team,  they did run quite well at the event, qualifying #8 with a 6.892 secs – before losing out to eventual winner Doug Vancil in round one.   We also did not hear about any incidents happening and credit for that probably needs to go both directions;  to the Police force monitoring and also to the good behaviour of the motorcycle gang members themselves.

But there in lies some inherent deeper questions.  Were NHRA event officials caught off guard by this or was this pre-arranged approval that now has set a new precedence?  Has an apparent soft-spoken “NC” rule (no colors) now been shelved?   Has a door now been cracked open for other controversial chapters or organizations to be given equally similar latitude for NHRA events in the future?  (…that’s a pretty scary list if you take time to think about it…)

Peter Geiss had some rather precedence setting rides during Top Fuel Harley racing at New England Dragway.

We could touch upon the question as to the cost associated for this Police presence at New England Dragway that weekend to tax payers…but local and state economics is not our strength.  

Bottom line, we don’t know if this was just a “one off” incident or if it was precedent setting.  But in these rather turbulent times — that latter option could be a very slippery slope.  But now that we arrived here — it may be pretty interesting to watch and see what NHRA does or does not do.

If you have any opinion (?) please do share your thoughts (either way) on the: DragRaceCanada/Facebook page.

Post and photos by Bruce Biegler