September 25, 1967 in McMinnville, Oregon, Janette Thornley had a
great childhood despite the loss of her father and younger brother
when she was only six years old. After a family trip to visit
relatives ended in tragedy at the hands of a drunk driver, Janette’s
mother and, as she says, “a few of my brave uncles” raised her.
Growing up in a small town, Janette loved being active and playing
volleyball and basketball.
Although Janette grew up without her father’s presence he was always
in her heart and in her blood. He worked in a machine shop and he
rode motorcycles, mostly dirt. Janette’s mom still has trophies from
his accomplishments. Janette’s mom worked as an office assistant in
a doctor’s office. She has her own wild side and Janette insists
this is where she gets her spunk.
At the age of 19, Janette moved to Maryland to work as a nanny. She
worked several other odd jobs until landing a job as a business
systems analyst at T. Rowe Price. Getting back to her dad’s passion
of motorcycling took a while. Janette remembers a fella in college
having a motorcycle but she didn’t ride it or pay much attention to
it. Then in her late twenties her boss, at the time, was approaching
his 50th birthday and said he was going to get back into
motorcycles. Janette’s mind flashed back to her dad, the subliminal
vision of the fella from college, and immediately she said, “I want
to ride.” Within the hour she was signed up for the last motorcycle
safety course of the year. She bought her first bike in June of
1996, an 883 Sportster. Why a Harley you ask? Janette said for no
other reason than name recognition.
Motorcycling required extra income to support Janette’s new hobby so
she became an instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in
Maryland. While at a rider safety program at Indy in 2000 Janette
met some of the Harley-Davidson folks who were getting involved in
their own rider safety program. As it turned out they had a job
opening at H-D in the rider safety program and asked her to send a
resume. Assuming she was not qualified nor the right person she
never took the invitation to send in the resume as anything but them
being polite. During a rider safety training session at her local
dealer six months later she again ran into the H-D folks who said
they had still not found the right person for the job. This time she
applied for and got the job with Harley-Davidson Motor Company. She
left T. Rowe and moved to Wisconsin.
The great part about working for H-D was traveling around the
country to the dealers promoting rider safety. Two shops that
grabbed her attention was Ray Price’s in Raleigh, North Carolina and
Johnny Mancuso’s in Houston, Texas. Both were drag racers and had
drag bikes on display in their shops. Racing brought back found
memories of Janette’s dad taking her out racing his friends in the
hills of Oregon in his VW Bug. She said she will never forget those
days. She knew she had a love for speed and by visiting Ray and
Johnny’s shops rekindled that fire. She said she was just crazy for
Even though she had not watched drag racing in person, Janette was
thoroughly intrigued with it. While living in Wisconsin, around
2004, she visited a local track where spectators were running their
streetbikes. She saw a girl on a bike and thought, “I can do that.”
So she took to the track and had a blast but wanted more. Janette
started going to Wednesday night Bike Nights and soon purchased a
used Sportster with wheelie bars and an air shifter but only ran it
a few times that summer. Without any support for racing such a bike
she soon sold it and walked away from drag racing.
As the economy started
to take a dive in 2007, the country was tightening its belt and so
it was with Harley-Davidson. By 2009, Janette had survived at least
two layoffs and was presented an opportunity to apply for a H-D
District Representative job, which had opened up in Northern
California and close to home. She got the job and the following year
attended an August AHDRA race in Woodburn, Oregon. There she ran
into her old friend Ray Price and his wife. The day at the races
made Janette want to race again more than ever.
She knew she wanted to race but what class was the decision to make.
When she thought about racing, she reflected back on the H-D
Destroyer project that was launched in Gainesville in 2006 in which
she was involved. At nearly 6’ tall and not wanting to race in a
jockey class, Janette figured if she wanted to be competitive she
needed a bike that could get her down the track. She came to the
conclusion that she needed to run a nitro bike. There was lots of
research to do to reach her goal. In early 2011 Janette ran into Ray
Price at the Dealer Show. He invited her to come to a race in
Rockingham. She did and that led to going to a race in Bristol, then
Atco. It was while she was at the Atco event she confided in a
ProDrag racer Freddie Robbins about her goals. He talked her into
sitting on Johnny Mancuso’s Top Fuel Harley. Right there and then
she was ready so she signed up to attend Johnny Vicker’s Pro Drag
School offered in October to finally pursue her dream.
The school took place days prior to AHDRA’s Rockingham event. After
completing the school and obtaining her license, she leased a bike
from Vickers for that weekend’s race. Out of 19 bikes, she managed
to qualify 15th and make the field. Although she went out in the
first round, she had successfully completed her goal of racing a
fuel bike. Janette knew she needed to partner up with someone in
order to compete beyond this point. She approached Ray Price about
campaigning a second bike if she bought the bike and supported
herself. Ray, being the businessman he is, hammered out an
arrangement and a plan was put into place for 2012. Ray gets the
bike from point A to point B, maintains the bike and helps with
Johnny Vickers, who also owns Hawaya Racing, had a complete Pro
Dragster that he had recently sold to a dealer who was willing to
sell it. Janette sold her two streetbikes and became the proud new
owner of a 121 cubic-inch nitro Harley with a Derringer motor.
The above photos are
from a testing session in Bradenton, Florida. That’s teammate,
coach, wrench and all around legend of the sport Ray Price in the
Her first full season event was at the Manufacturer’s Cup in
Valdosta. After two rounds of qualifying, she was on the outside
looking in with a 8-bike field. On her final qualifying pass she
went from 12th to 5th in qualifying with a 7.445 @ 171.90mph. In
round one she took out Dale Nilles from Colorado with a her 7.33 @
170 to his 7.60. In round two she took out Kirby Apathy with another
solid run of 7.37 @ 174mph. That put her up against who else but
Johnny Vickers in the final round of her first full season race.
Johnny beat Janette but she could not be more proud. Some guys
compete for years to get to a final round and here she was less than
six months from sitting on a real dragbike.
At the season opener for
AHDRA in Gainesville, Janette again qualified 5th but was taken out
by inches at the line by Rocky Jackson. In the following race at
Rockingham Janette returned the favor. After four events Janette is
sitting in the #5 spot in the AHDRA Pro Dragster class. Finally let
me give a shout out to Janette’s mom. Drag racing is far safer than
you know. Come to a race and see your little girl race, she’s good.
Racing is hard work.
Crew and fellow racer, Freddie Robbins
Other Areas of
Residence: Roseville, California
Occupation: Harley-Davidson District Representative.
Home track: Woodburn Dragstrip, Woodburn Oregon
Team Name: Dream Chaser Racin’
Crew Members: Freddie Robbins as well as Justin Heinle,
Jeremy Hoy, Mark Morgan, Ray Price and even some help from Tommy
Sponsors: None – hoping to add in the future!
Accomplishments: Successfully completed the Nitro Pro Drag
School in October of 2011 and obtained my All Harley Drag Racing
Association (AHDRA) 6.90 competitor license. I purchased my own drag
bike, December of 2011
Best ET 7.33
Best mph 174.55
Competed and qualified in 4 of the 5 races I’ve attended this year.
Bike was broke the one I didn’t qualify.
Finished Runner-Up in one of them; Manufacture’s Cup, Valdosta GA
Made semi-finals at AHDRA Carolina Nitro Nationals held in
Rockingham North Carolina May 5-6
Goals: My goal for 2012 season is to learn a lot, have some fun, and
win a few! I also hope to share my passion about racing and
motorcycling with everyone. It has truly changed my life. Lastly, I
would love to open a few doors in order to help with my expenses.
I’m doing this on my own, without regrets (so far anyway ).
Interest outside of racing: Mostly socializing – LOL! I love
people and we are all so very different and interesting. I love
riding my street bike, although without right now due to my drag
bike purchase. I recently committed to a new 2012 RoadGlide; I
couldn't stand it any longer, I was born to ride!! I love road
trips; long and short. I love spending time with my mom and pop and
other family members that can put up with me!
Favorite foods: I love fried food – doesn’t matter what you
want to fry, I’ll eat it!! Not in the diet these days so I’d say a
good spinach salad works with grilled chicken -
Favorite movie: Oh boy, can I really say this – but my
favorite all time movie is Pretty Woman.
Do you own a classic car or truck? I do, I have an old ’58
English Ford Anglia which I’m in the process of getting it road
ready, Hot Rod I believe. My father was working on the restoration
38 years ago and my mom kept it all these years. Hopefully will
bring it to the Woodburn Oregon race and show it off.
1996 H-D 883.
Hero: My grandmother, mother of 9 and my mother. My
grandmother was an amazing woman and my mom has followed in her