Racer readies for Mile Highs

Mike Berry works to get pro stock bike ready for drag races

Tom Munds
Mike Berry works on assembling the motor on his pro stock motorcycle. Berry manufactures many of the parts for the motor and runs tests on the engine in his Englewood shop. He said he has been struggling to make his bike competitive. He said he hopes to be ready and qualify at the Mile High National Drag Races July 19-22 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
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Mike Betty revs the engine, waiting for the green light at the recent National Hot Rod Association race in Chicago. Berry, an Englewood businessman, said he is struggling to make his pro stock motorcycle competitive. He hopes to qualify at the upcoming Mile High Nationals July 19-22 at Bandimere Speedway.
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Mike Berry continues working to translate good ideas into improved performance of the engine he'll be riding in the pro stock motorcycle class at the Mile High National Drag Races July 18-20 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.

“We have been struggling all year,” the Englewood businessman said. “Oh, the bike is running but we just haven't been able to put the (right) combination together to raise performance about 3 percent so we can place in the field.”

A pro stock motorcycle uses a 160 cubic-inch racing engine mounted on a specialized frame and body that resembles a production bike.

The motor produces more than 370 horsepower, launches the bike from a standing start and provides the power so that the bike reaches upward of 190 miles an hour in the less than 7 seconds it takes to reach the finish line a quarter mile away.

Riders race side-by-side in a pro stock motorcycle drag race. A rider positions his bike, takes his place, revs his engine and when the green light goes on, the bike and driver launch off the starting line. The torque from the engine lifts the front tire off the ground for the first 60 or 70 feet of the quarter mile race.

“You launch off the line in a hurry,” Berry said. “I guess you would compare it to sitting on the end of a gun barrel and catching the bullet as it is fired. It is a rush and I love it.”

Berry, a Littleton resident, is an independent racer who, with help from a friend from Tulsa, John Hamock, tries to compete with teams with major sponsors.

“At least one of the full-time teams has four motorcycles with sponsors that provide a budget of about $3 million a year,” he said. “We make a lot of our parts and do a lot of other things as we try to compete on our own dime.”

The veteran racer said running at the Mile High Nationals is a challenge for all the teams entering the competition.

“The altitude means there is less oxygen in the air,” he explained. “That means just about everything has to be developed just for this race. Even with all the adjustments, the altitude and thin air means a power loss of about 20 percent.”

He said racing a pro stock bike has special challenges because it doesn't have a supercharger or turbo to increase airflow to the engine.

“We have a bike that will run at the Mile High Nationals,” Berry said. “There will probably be 20 or 25 bikes entered and only 16 qualify for the race. We don't just want to qualify, we want to finish high in the final standings. That is why we are still making adjustments and changing parts to try to improve performance. We'll keep working and hope we will have a bike that runs well at race time.”

Berry grew up in Lakewood, lives in Littleton and started his business, MB Precision Machining, in Englewood about 25 years ago.

“I love racing and, while we don't have a lot of success, I stick with it,” he said. “In a way, racing is my advertising because it promotes my business. My business manufactures parts for my bike, others see my parts, want them, and become my customers.”

He said he loves racing enough to want to do it full time. But, he also has a thriving business so it is a balancing act between running his business and racing.

“I'll admit I have given thought to putting my business on the back burner and racing full time,” Berry said. “But it is only a thought because I have a comfortable lifestyle I really like and full-time racing means all that would change dramatically. So, I just stick with racing part time and wishing I could get to more races.”