Dragmasters: 3 in '03, More in '04?
"It was a very unbelievable year," 2003 AHDRA Super Gas champion Willie Herschberger said recently while working late in his Bradenton, Florida garage. His Dragmasters team won three sportsman championships in 2003 on the AHDRA (All Harley Drag Racing Association) tour, and now he was preparing for 2004. "Winning three championships certainly wasn't our goal. I was concentrating on the Super Gas championship, but after three races that seemed out the window. Meanwhile, David (Atkins in Hot Street) and Larry (Guy in Super Eliminator) started kicking butt. Then about midseason we realized that we could win three championships."
If two outta three ain't bad, then three of three is just plain awesome. But anybody who's done it knows just how much work it is to win even one championship. "It became a job and took a lot of the fun out of it," admitted Herschberger, a 42 year-old Bradenton homebuilder. "It was strenuous. You wondered if it was worth it or not, but we did it and it was fun."
"We were lucky this past year," said Atkins, an insurance adjuster. "It was just a great year for the new Hot Street class, for the AHDRA and Dragmasters."
Dragmasters sponsor the Hot Street class, but what exactly is Dragmasters? "We're about promoting racing," said Herschberger "Eventually I plan on having a bike shop, but within a year I hope to have a catalog business selling components and building complete bikes. We're also developing a couple of parts."
Herschberger is also developing a Pro Dragster to campaign in '04. "It's going to be a big learning curve," admitted Willie, wrenching on a nitro bullet while he spoke. "We've started from scratch. I bought a single cam motor, which I think will be good for my learning curve. I'm looking at the Derringer motor that Chuck Jones runs. If that turns out to be good I'll run one of those. Chuck's my nitro guru, along with Johnny Vickers.
"I'm running a D&G chassis, and it looks different," continued Herschberger. He won his Super Gas championship on a D&G chassis with a 114 cubic inch motor originally built by David Feazell and rebuilt by Willie. "It's not your standard appearing Pro Dragster chassis. I changed the geometry. It may not be fast, but it's sure going to look good. Hopefully it'll get down the track."
You can bet that the new bike will do both as the Dragmasters build on the standard of performance and professionalism they set last season. They know their opponents are out to get them. "I assume that I'm gonna have the large bullseye on my back," laughed Atkins. "I love competition and I know I'll get it. That's why I like Hot Street. I really enjoy where the class is going. I think we're gonna have some heavy hitters coming in and back to the class.
"We're gonna try some new set-ups and try to do a little more testing before we go to Gainesville. That bike is like riding a bull," Atkins said about the 98 cubic inch Evo "basic bare bones bike. It's a big heavy bike. We're maxed on weight and cubic inches. Put a little attitude with it and that's a bull."
Rossiter's Harley-Davidson tech Larry Guy will try to defend his Super Eliminator championship on his '97 Buell Thunderbolt and unseat Herschberger in Super Gas on a Big Twin. "We put some different cams in the Buell, so hopefully we'll step it up there. If we get on a roll early, we'll chase it hard. We'll see how it goes."
45 year-old Guy actually demoted himself from Rossiter's service manager to a tech position in order to pursue his '03 championship. "As the points chase narrowed I realized I had to take more time off," said Larry. "With three of us on the same team and looking at possibly winning championships, Rossiter's knew we were serious and understood that I had to do what I needed to do to accomplish this victory."
"I'll be running Super Gas and ET along with Pro Dragster, though everybody tells me you can't run nitro and gas at the same events," said Herschberger. Willie will be looking to erase the bad taste left in his mouth when he gave away the Super Gas win at the AHDRA season finale in Las Vegas. After holeshotting Chris Rivas, Herschberger misjudged the stripe at the big end. "I've regretted it every day of my life. But Chris is a terrific guy and I appreciate his sportsmanship and friendship.
"I want to thank all our sponsors, friends at home and most of all our new friends we look forward to seeing at the events," continued Willie. "We all became good friends and it was really a wonderful thing."
"Just to have the opportunity to race with them is a thrill to me," agreed Atkins. All three Dragmasters thanked Rossiter's Harley-Davidson, Cycle-Rama, Herschberger Construction, D&G Chassis and Energy One.
The Dragmasters plan on running a relaxed schedule of East Coast races in 2004. The entire AHDRA schedule is: <pre> March 2-3 Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, FL March 27-28 Firebird Int'l Raceway, Phoenix, AZ April 17-18 Texas Motorplex, Dallas, TX May 1-2 Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield, CA May 29-30 Atlanta Dragway, Atlanta, GA June 12-13 Norwalk Raceway Park, Norwalk, OH June 26-27 Pacific Raceway, Seattle, WA July 17-18 Maryland Int'l Raceway, Budds Creek, MD July 31, August 1 Brainerd Int'l Raceway, Brainerd, MN August 14-15 Bristol Dragway, Bristol, TN August 28-29 Woodburn Dragstrip, Woodburn, OR September 11-12 Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indianapolis, IN October 9-10 Rockingham Dragway, Rockingham, NC October 23-24 The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NV