The world of business is filled with avid sportsmen, and the world of sports is filled with enthusiastic businessmen, but it's rare to find an individual who embodies the best of both worlds. Terry Vance is one of those people.
Vance went from being a weekend drag racer to the founder of one of the most successful aftermarket companies in the world to winning championships as both rider and team owner, all while moving motorcycle racing closer to the mainstream. It was at least partly because of his enthusiastic support that the NHRA added motorcycles to their already successful program. The NHRA program provides the greatest television exposure of any motorcycle competition in the world while exposing the bikes and riders-and their sponsors-to their most diverse and largest audience.
Vance quit riding at the end of 1988 season after a career that included 27 NHRA national event wins in Top Fuel Bike and Pro Stock Bike and numerous championships. Before long the company moved into roadracing, where they were also successful. It was on a Vance & Hines Yamaha that Thomas Stevens won Yamaha's only AMA Superbike crown in 1991, with Eddie Lawson winning the 1993 Daytona 200 on a V&H Yamaha. Vance & Hines later worked with Ducati, while continuing their involvement on the dragstrip.
With the sagging economy putting...
With the sagging economy putting a dent in racing everywhere, the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle team is the only one currently still running two riders. The team's significant financial backing is a testament to Vance's business acumen.
The Harley-Davidson roadrace program of the 90s quickly fell behind after a promising start. The team campaigned essentially the same motorcycle throughout the decade with predictable results, despite throwing around huge rider salaries. It was late in the 90s during discussions to take over their floundering road racing program that the subject of dragracing with Harley-Davidson came up. At the time Harley was working on the V-Rod, their most radically different engine platform ever, and wanted to support it through competition.
Vance's partner Byron Hines was skeptical. All of their success had come aboard Suzukis. Byron's son Matt won the NHRA Pro Stock titles from '97 through '99 riding Suzukis based on the same air-cooled GS1000 motor that Vance had won on back in the 80s. "Why would you want to race another bike?" Vance remembers Hines asking.
The Screamin' Eagle/Vance...
The Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines duo of Hines (left) and Krawiec aren't like other teams where the competitive instinct between teammates becomes an insurmountable wedge. "There's no such thing as either one of us being ignorant towards one another or where we'll never help each other," said Krawiec.
Vance saw the bigger picture. He saw what Harley-Davidson could bring to the company away from the racetrack. He knew Harley-Davidson was an American icon, and a partnership could pay huge dividends in Vance & Hines' core aftermarket business, which was heavily catering to the sportbike crowd at the time. "You've got to remember we started selling Harley products in 1995, so for us to really give our products some validity we needed to be somewhere in competition with Harley," Vance said. Once the business deal was worked out, the racing program started to take shape. "I thought optimistically we could get it done in six months, but it took a year a and half. Byron had to design a motor from a clean sheet of paper"-almost literally. It wasn't done on a computer. But for Vance "to see Byron create this thing and see it fired up was a huge thrill for me because I realized he'd get the credit he never got before. For a long time, just about all of our careers, I didn't believe he got the credit he deserved."
The results weren't immediate. The team didn't qualify their first year, while Matt Hines continued winning races on his Suzuki. "We had never not qualified for an event and when we ran the Harley we didn't qualify for the whole season," Vance said. "The last three we didn't go to."