NHRA: Schultz Hopes to Continue Atlanta Motorcycle Dominance
9 April 1998COMMERCE, Ga. -- No NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series professional category competitor has been as dominant at Atlanta Dragway as Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Dave Schultz. The Fort Myers, Fla. rider has won eight bike titles at the track, including seven straight from 1990 - 1996.
He hopes to keep the trend going at the 18th annual Fram Nationals, April 16-19. The $1.6- million race is the fifth of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
The Sunoco Suzuki rider says he has always liked the Atlanta quarter-mile.
"Atlanta has a little bit of a tenuous personality, and I like that," says Schultz, who owns six NHRA Winston championships. "From lane to lane it takes two different strategies. There's a pretty precise groove for the bikes to keep them straight and smooth. That's probably where my advantage lies. Typically, our races there have been in the time of year when the weather can be unpredictable and have drastic changes from one day to the next. In the past I've been able to respond to a totally new tune-up quicker than the rest of the guys could."
Today, however, Schultz realizes other teams have put their programs in a position to challenge. He says it's tougher now than ever in the category.
"The advantage I once had is starting to go away because there's several guys out here who are considered the heavy hitters now," said the 49-year-old Schultz, the winningest NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in history with 42 victories. "My experience won't spread the gap as much as it did in the past because there's a lot more experienced riders out here now."
In the past, fans of the category were treated to the Dave Schultz - John Myers Show. Today, younger riders like defending Winston champion Matt Hines, Angelle Seeling and John Smith have moved into contention.
"I'm pretty resolved that our class is tightening up a lot," Schultz said. "Matt and Angelle are doing a good job, but you also have some other people that haven't showed their hand yet, that can be players and sneak up on you in any round. They might not put together a string of four good rounds, but they might have one of four that could be the one when you're in the other lane. That's starting to happen more of the time."
In the interest of the category, he says it's the best thing that could happen.
"This is something I've worked for, for a long time," Schultz said. "I actually find myself working harder on other people's stuff now than I do my own. I'm enjoying seeing the class grow. When John (Myers) and I were winning all the races, it slowed the growth. Now that John and I are getting chopped off at the knees most of the time and aren't the only players in the game, it makes it a lot better. Some people may not realize this, but John and I aren't going to go away either, we're still going to be in final rounds and win races. But this is an exciting time, I really enjoy the good competition."
Schultz' last win came over one year ago at the 1997 Gatornationals, but he's determined to get back into the winner's circle soon. He hopes a new bike, new engine program and two new teammates in Antron Brown and Stephanie Reaves will help turn the tide back in his favor.
"Our plan for this year was to come into stride near mid-season," Schultz said. "When everyone's all spent out and flattened out and nosed over we plan to still be going up."
* Schedule: Pro qualifying is at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. April 17. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 18. Opening Pro Stock Truck qualifying will be held on April 16 at noon and 3 p.m. Pro Stock Truck final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. April 18. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. April 19. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. April 16.
* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Fram Nationals. Call (800) 884-6472, or Ticketmaster, (404) 249-6400, for ticket information.
* On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of highlights and live final round coverage from the Fram Nationals on April 19 at 8 p.m. (EST). ESPN2 will show two hours of same-day qualifying highlights on April 18 at 10 p.m. (EST).