VETERAN PSM RACER ELLIS TALKS BOAT RACING, PSM CLASS
When the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series begins March 11-14 in Gainesville, Fla., veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Chip Ellis doesn’t have a ride and that’s all right with him.
“I don’t have anything going on right now,” Ellis said. “Last year I was supposed to run a couple of races with Matt (Smith) and then the COVID-19 stuff happened, and we have been messing with these boats some. One of the races I was supposed to race with Matt interfered with a boat race and I was more interested in going boat racing than I was going Pro Stock Motorcycle racing.”
Ellis’s nod to boat racing is because his daughter, McKenzie, 19, drives their family-owned boat and he is the crew chief.
“With my daughter driving our boat, for me, that has been really cool,” Ellis said. “I’ve always had a love for boats even more so than motorcycles, but I couldn’t make a living racing boats. We never really could afford to do it, but a couple of years ago I was able to buy this boat that we have got. I just bought it to ride around the lake and stuff with and just kind of go fast and scare myself. I let McKenzie drive it one day and she loved it. We have made a progression into the type of boat she’s driving now.
“There are some female drivers out there, but nobody is driving a V bottom boat. They are very, very hard to drive. They are temperamental. Man, this kid I’m telling you she can really drive the heck out of this boat. It’s really cool to see the progress she has made.”
McKenzie competes in the modified production class in boat racing. The boat goes around 103 mph in 800 feet.
“We went to the Outboard Drag Boat Association race in November in Bainbridge, Ga., and she won it,” Ellis said. “She ran three races during the year, and she got one win and two runner-up finishes. She has done really, really well in her short career. She’s going to run boats again this year and we’re really looking to step up. We might move up to the Pro Modified class. We are getting the boat ready and we working with different vendors trying to get parts made. We run a Mercury outboard and I build all her engines. We are learning a lot. We have surrounded ourselves with some good people who have been able to help us.
“Now that I’m not driving the boat and I’m able to watch it, it is easier for me to help tune it because it has a computer in it that works the engine trim and that’s very critical on how it takes off and whatnot. To be able to watch the boat and her to do the same thing every time that’s how we have progressed so fast.”
Ellis lives in Mocksville, N.C., and he runs his Chip Ellis Racing shop there where he builds stainless steel headers for cars and motorcycles. Mocksville is an hour from Charlotte.
“There are about four or five Pro Stock cars that are running our stuff, all the KB guys,” Ellis said. “I do all the fab work and McKenzie welds everything. She’s a very good welder. It’s cool that we have Pro Stock guys running our stuff and some of the Factory (Stock) Showdown guys are also running our stuff.”
Ellis last competed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in 2018 when he ran a third Harley-Davidson for Vance & Hines in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif. He qualified No. 1 in St. Louis and made it to the finals in Charlotte before losing to Matt Smith.
Ellis has competed in 143 career PSM national events. He has seven wins and seven runner-up finishes. He has a 147-133 career elimination-round record.
Ellis took a moment to share his thoughts about the state of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“It’s going to be interesting to see,” Ellis said. “The new four-valve Suzuki, I hear, and I didn’t hear it from Andrew (Hines) or Eddie (Krawiec), but I heard it through the grapevine that it is making good power. I’m looking forward to it and I think it will be an interesting year. With the new rule that’s out that’s going to allow the Vance & Hines V-Twin to run with the EBR bodywork, is going to be super interesting.”
As for returning to compete in the PSM class, Ellis isn’t shutting that door yet.
“We are doing our own thing and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind running a few races, but I wouldn’t want to run the whole schedule.”