Janette Thornley is owner/ operator of a nitro burning, carbureted, 121 ci Pro Fuel Harley and Dream Chaser Racin’. One of the few female pilots
in the USA. A two time NHRA Pro Fuel Champion (2016 & 2015).
Born 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 it.
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
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
racer Freddie Robbins about her goals. He talked her into sitting on Johnny Vicker's Pro Drag Harley. Right there and then she was ready so she
signed up to attend Johnny 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 tuning efforts.
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.
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.
Team Name: Dream Chaser Racin’
Crew Chief: Buddy Foss
Sponsors: LAT Racing Oils; Fullerton CA
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 7.302
Best mph 185.15
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 April 13-15
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.
First Motorcycle: 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 footsteps.
2016 NHRA Pro Fuel Harley Champion
2015 NHRA Pro Fuel Harley Champion
Pro Drag Champion at NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series, Summit Motorsports Park May 19, 2013
Who is Janette Thornley?
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