Turner was dominant in the 2016 IHRA season winning three times in six races and qualifying either first or second in four of the six. At the season-opening IHRA AMSOIL Nitro Nationals in Orlando, Turner was the No. 1 qualifier, set low elapsed time and top speed of the meet but lost in the first round.
A month later in San Antonio, the first day of competition was cancelled due to high winds - the Good Vibrations Texas Nationals fueled by Sonoco became a one-day show on Saturday. Turner didn’t qualify well, but races aren’t won in qualifying. The Julian, N.C., driver upset No. 2 qualifier Tii Tharpe in the first round, outran Randal Andras in the semifinals and defeated Rickey House in the final to claim his first Ironman of the season.
“It was a long day, but it worked out,” Turner said in the winner’s circle. “We struggled and spun the tire in qualifying on the first pass. We broke some stuff in the transmission that takes a while to fix; it’s such a small unit. We missed the second round of qualifying, but we were still confident going into the race. It (stunk) we ended up having to run all of our teammates, but it is what it is. It was three good races. The transmission issue didn’t fix itself completely; we just crushed through it. It kind of gave up a little in the final. It was still a good race, and we put on a good show for the fans with side-by-side passes. It feels good to get a win for the 2016 season.”
After a semifinal run at the Presidents Cup Nationals fueled by Sonoco, Turner took a slim points lead. The next week, he won his second race of the season at the Mopar Canadian Nationals presented by Williams Racing with a final-round win over Tracy Kile. That gave him two wins and a semifinal in three races. With the win, Turner increased his points lead but it wasn’t easy.
“It was a struggle,” Turner said. “Every round, it was something – spark plug, blowing out the heads, starter cards, fuel-system boxes, oil pump - everything. Every round was a struggle. The final round was smooth – I think we just willed it to the winner’s circle. It wanted us to quit, but we weren’t quitting.”
Turner saved perhaps his best race for Castrol Raceway among the bright yellow fields of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. At the Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals presented by Good Vibrations, Turner was on his game. The No. 1 qualifier defeated Frank Capone, Nate Gagnon and Tracy Kile on the way to the winner’s circle.
Turner entered the race with a 70-point over Jake Stordeur in the Nitro Motorcycle point standings; Stordeur was eliminated in the first round. With Turner’s No. 1 qualifier, his victory and just one race remaining in the season, the four time IHRA Nitro Motorcycle Champion’s points lead seemed insurmountable – on paper.
“This weekend, the track was phenomenal,” Turner said in the winner’s circle. “The grip was awesome. Hats off to the IHRA crew for giving us a great racing surface here in Edmonton. I think (the win) probably wrapped it (IHRA Nitro Motorcycle World Championship) up as long as the truck doesn’t break down going to Michigan.”
US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich., was awarded the 2016 IHRA championship finale when the event scheduled for Dragway 42 in Ohio was canceled due to construction delays. Turner simply needed to qualify for the show to clinch his fifth IHRA Nitro Motorcycle World Championship. With persistent rain showers in Michigan that weekend, qualifying was reduced to two rounds, and as fate would have it, Turner’s bike had issues – he never made it to the starting line to make a qualifying attempt – his worst-case scenario became reality. Turner failed to qualify for the race opening the door for the second-place driver.
Bob Malloy won the Presidents Cup Nationals fueled by Sonoco in June and entered the season’s final race in second place. Malloy was in position to capitalize on Turner’s misfortune, but he needed a perfect weekend to steal the championship. Malloy’s first-round loss ended his hopes and gave Turner and team a huge sigh of relief – Turner became the five-time and defending IHRA Nitro Motorcycle World Champion.