RICE TAKES LATE MODEL KAWASAKI TO FUNNY BIKE WIN AT INAGURAL PROSTAR WEST EVENT.
By Russ Collins Jr. and Marty Kane
AMA PROSTAR DYNATEK NATIONAL OPEN SPEEDWORLD MOTORPLEX, PHOENIX, ARIZONA
It has been almost a decade since the now defunct organization Dragbike pulled out of the west, and the sport has not been the same since. Since then racers have been starving for what Prostar had to offer, and after many phone calls, a letter writing campaign or two, and some good old fashioned lobbying by racers, fans and manufacturers, The AMA/Prostar series finally came out west.
Though El Nino was in full swing, and the drive for many on the way to the race was full of rain drops, the inaugural event could not be stopped. Just under 90 racers came together from all over, including Wyoming, Illinois, Oklahoma and Florida, to stake their claim on the $260,000 in contingency postings. Friday's rain tapered off and left us with a beautiful, mild desert day for racing. You've got to love Phoenix in the winter, perfect leather-wearing weather, 55-60 degrees at 40% humidity. Speedworld Motorplex is a beautiful lush oasis in the desert which has been recently resurfaced and can definitely yield some impressive numbers. Many west coast racers have logged personal bests here, and the short times are definitely to boast about.
The event hosted a manufacturers midway with racing denizens APE, Trac Dynamics and the event's Sponsor Dynatek, in attendance. This marketing format is an excellent forum for these Manufacturers to interact with their customer base.
For those who out guessed the weather and joined us in the desert, it was an exciting show for all!
Team Kawasaki rider Steve Rice from Costa Mesa, CA, is clearly setting the pace with his ZX11 powered machine. Rice became the first 6 second rider of a late model power plant last year at the Indy AMA/Prostar event. That first 6 second pass was no fluke. He's repeated and bettered that performance at a number of tracks around the country since, including a handful of 200 plus marks. All this and Steve's not working that hard between rounds. His stock-sized motor doesn't hurt parts. It won't be long before this tune-up is replicated elsewhere. With an eight bike field and ten contendors, the three qualifying rounds were without a doubt the best parade of big gun performance we've seen in the west in some time. As would be expected, this first race of the season brought out some brand new bikes and combinations. John Larson finished welding the chassis on his all new turbo nitrous Kawasaki the day prior, and with no surprise almost ran away with the event.
The MCC Chassis, Cooper Performance, NOS sponsored bike, ridden by Larry Laye qualified 2nd at 7.33, 189 mph, and appeared to be closing in on Steve Rices' #1 position at 7.13, 184 mph. Larry described the new bike as "Just point me and shoot, this thing's a Cadillac". The 77-inch wheelbase Cadillac is equipped with a Larson designed, 3 stage, air controlled lock-up and 4 speed auto, not your average El Dorado. The Larson/Laye duo will continue to contest PROSTAR West and East coast events this year. We're going to see much more out of this 6-pass old, final round appearing bike, as the season progresses.
Qualifying round #1 took out Pete Steuri for the day as he put all 4 rods out the 1320’ stripe. Steuri's damage was well contained as the Taylor Motorsports engine diaper kept oil off the racing surface and away from his tires. Pete and his fellow competitors are grateful the "Huggies" technology was effective and the Prostar rulebook took safety into consideration.
Funnybike first round saw Rice single to the AMA/Prostar West record 7.023 @ 184.27. Mike Frechio's 132" Fuel Harley dispensed with Ken Shurtz's Kawasaki, as Ken shut off with trouble to a 10.14. Larry Laye's ever-quickening pace was evident in his 7.05-second pass against John Morgan's masterfully designed Kawasaki, ridden by Steve Humphrey. Morgan is working the bugs out of what many say is the best engineered ride on the circuit (it also received the Best Engineered award at the 1997 AMA/Prostar World Finals). Laye said "Humphrey should not be underestimated and I need a healthy tune up in case these guys get it together." Humphrey laid down a centerline hugging 7.99 before loading the trailer.
Steve Ruggiero's Big Twin singled to 7.81, when John Terranova's Kawasaki continued its new bike blues loosing ignition power at the start.
Steve Rice will tell you the closet race of the day was his 2nd round match up with Mike Frechio. Rice gave up 4 tenths of a second on the leave and didn't reel in the fuel Harley until the first mph light. Frechio laid down a 7.49 in the effort against Rice's 7.05.
Larry Laye took out Ruggiero's nitro-powered Harley, 7.16 to 8.06, to set himself up with Steve Rice in the final. The Funnybike final brought number 1 and 2 qualifiers to the starting grid, no one was at the hot dog stand for this match. Larry took a .010-second starting line advantage, but at half track his nitrous pressure dropped and so did the front end. Rice motored to the win with a 7.03-second run against Layes 7.15.
Pro Mod performances, over the past year, have some contenders wondering about throwing their hat into the Funny Bike arena. Although a fledgling class on the west coast, we got a glimpse of the Pro Mod performance phenomenon in Scott Valentine's largely uncontested victory at Speedworld. Scott's Dynatek, MCC, NOS-backed Suzuki, captured the win, #1 qualifying and AMA/Prostar West record at 7.23, 181.95. Scott says he's still working on the relatively new competition and has not really put his foot into all of the power available. Number two qualifier Ryan Evans burnt the midnight oil to bring his TSP chassis, Nitrous Express, Airtech sponsored ride to Phoenix. Ryan and his team worked until 3:00 a.m. race day on the new bike and then drove eight hours straight to the staging lanes from his Southern California-based shop. Valentine was ready for a serious match up. "Ryan's got some low 7's in that tune up and we prepared accordingly." Our west coast champion Valentine will certainly face increased competition, as we know of a half dozen Pro Mod bikes that will be ready for Bakersfield.
The sole Pro Stock qualifier was Steven Inoue with a 7.79 at 164.70 mph, establishing the first west coast mark. The Pro Stock field was diminished due to a conflicting NHRA bike opener in Gainesville. Fred Camarena, the lone Pro Stock bike from California, was forced to watch from the sidelines as he is still recovering from a finish line incident just weeks earlier.
TOP GAS Jeff Peters and Ron Score have faced off at least a dozen times over the past two years and although Jeff's been left coast Top Gas champion two years running, Ron is always right there to keep him honest. This day belonged to Ron's Custom Cycle of Mesa sponsored 1327 cc Turbo Kawasaki. Ron gives credit to his crew chief and wife Stacey and children for his success at Phoenix. Ron's domination of the tree in all 4 rounds also played a part in his success. Score had just purchased a new chassis just days earlier and still had been going through the "learning curve" on the lighter and better reacting tubing.
Quarter final action brought #1 qualifier Chad Compton to the line opposite Peters. Chad's got the tree wired, but Peters put one on him at the big end, 8.29 (8.28 index) to an 8.34.
Ron Score met up with Aaron Pine who in the previous round took out yours truly. My new combinations developed some kind of starting line electrical glitch. Although I certainly appreciated the 162 mph top end charge that MDR and Nitrous Express set me up with. Aaron uncharacteristically slept and Ron shut off to an 8.37 win.
Number three qualifier Mike Davis dispensed with Randall Taylor via the tree to move in to the semi's. In the semi's Davis was victim #3 to Score's .02 light. The Jeff Peters ridden, PPG Paints, Motorcycle Accessory of Mesa, Powder Tech, backed GSXR, earned the bye in the previous match up. Crew chief and wife Lori, watched as Jeff took advantage of the bye to check on improving air conditions.
So here we are again with the Mesa, Arizona duo in a Top Gas final. Score gets just enough margin at the tree to force a break out from Peter's effort, 8.31 to an 8.23 at the 8.28 index. (There's a number of us in Top Gas that would love to cut in on this dance at Bakersfield).
La Mirada, CA rider Tom Medlin appeared to be qualifying for the hard luck award for most of the Dynatek National Open. Hard luck with the exception of 4 round wins and event winners money. Tom traveling with the Herrera contingency, occupied the pit next to me so I had first hand viewing of what seemed to be an endless wrenching effort on their march to the finals. I remember early in the day his discovery that the on-board electric starter would only work intermittently and thought for sure he would have a short day. These guys were so busy swapping borrowed batteries (to overcome the starter's hunger), that the best they could muster in qualifying was dead last at nearly 2 tenths under the 8.99 index.
On the way to the finals, Tom's Herrera Racing, Barnett Clutches, Kawaguchi Artworks, Suzuki GSXR, managed his half of the ladder every time the bike would start (this remained questionable throughout eliminations). In the quarters, Tom took out Las Vegas rider Kahea Woods in a double break out decision 8.92 to an 8.86.
Meanwhile, Super Comp standout Rick Hunt dispensed with this portion of the ladder on the way to the final round. Rick and his father/crew chief are a tough competition to beat in this class. I had first hand, opposite lane, experience with these guys last year. You have got to cut a light on Rick, he almost always runs the number. In typical Hunt style, he posted an 8.992 on the 8.00 index in a quarter final bye run.
In the semi's Rick faced off with Phoenix local favorite, and repeat class champion, Terry Borkman. Rick took the win in the big end roll out contest 9.04 to Terry's 9.09. Terry cut a light on Randy Langer in the previous round for a ticket to the semi's. The Super Comp final was decided at the tree as Tom Medlin took advantage of Rick Hunt's late leave and shut off at 9.07 to Rick's quicker 9.06.
West coast Super Gas champion Russ Woodroof, continued his winning ways with his first PROSTAR appearance and win. The Bob Pine tuned, Larry Racing, GSXR, worked its way through the field in classic winning fashion. A double break out decision, followed by a good light into the final round, at the expense of Kyburz, CA's Mike Davis and Salt Lake City's Matt Spencer.
Mitchell Lippen's A.J.'s Irish Harp sponsored Kawasaki, defeated Los Angeles rider Tracy McGee a tenth of a second starting line advantage. Lippen moved on to defeat Brian Kelly's Suzuki in a double breakout photo finish 9.85 to 9.84 on the 10 second index.
The Super Gas final round went Woodroof's way as Lippen experienced mechanical trouble and failed to make the pass. Woodroof's Suzuki completed the solo pass with an impressive .003 over the index mark.
That's Pro! ET, as in 49 year old Ken Kinsella out of Peoria, AZ. Ken's Brian Hudson-built GS1100 had its was with a class full of veteran western racers hailing from Palm Springs to Casper, Wyoming. Ken and wife Charlene probably traveled the least distance to get to this event, but that doesn't mean he's not well traveled. Ken's redefining the term "snowbird", he works in Alaska, lives in Phoenix, and races in Division 6.
Ken drew multi-decade champion Steve Kleinberg out of Scottsdale, in the second round. Steve was a little impatient and cheated the tree .09 seconds with Kinsella posting a 9.39 to his 9.35 dial for the victory. Palm Spring's Jerry Pelton also fell by the wayside via the red light, giving way to Kinsella's final round opportunity.
On the other side of the ladder, Wildcat Motorsports sponsored Shannon Purviance, made his way to the final with a superb effort in round 2 with a 9.13, 9.12 dial. In the same round Paul Reithmayer cut the best light of the day (on the wrong side of the tree) for a heartbreaking .001 red light.
The final was essentially pre-determined as Purviance's Kawasaki self adjusted its cam timing by a tooth in the previous round. Kinsella rode to a single win as Purviance lost power on clutch release.
Tulsa, OK rider Traci Farr drives a good long way to get to an AMA/Prostar event. This year she figured the western swing was worth a shot and it paid off. The Farr Cycle sponsored Suzuki GSXR 600 took her to her first PROSTAR victory and established the west coast ET record at 10.547.
The other end of the record was set by Neal Moffett's ZX6R Kawasaki. The Mission Viejo, CA rider, established the mph mark at 127.57.
Marty Ladwig out of San Antonio, TX met up with Traci in the final after defeating Moffett at the tree 10.83 to Neal's quicker 10.82 in the semi's. The Texas based rider's respectable 10.74, couldn't get around the consistent record level performance of the Farr Cycle Suzuki. Traci took the win with a tenth to spare at 10.63.
Although fledgling in the west, there's certain future in this exciting wheelie bar-less, heads up battle grand.
In unlimited action the turbo nitrous (sounds like a funny bike to me) runs of Herrera, Sprout and Ryckmen, put on a wheel standing show for all in attendance.
Phoenix rider Walter Sprout put a hole shoot on Augustine Herrera and kept the front end low enough to take the win in the final 9.63 to Augustine's quicker 9.56.
Sprout's GSXR laid down an 8.88 160.35 in qualifying en route to his victory.
In Modified action, Ken Washington brought "The Goose" out from San Antonio. The Triple "R" Cycles sponsored ride is well known at home. Ken plans on spreading the news. The 1987 GSXR1100 soloed to a 10.043, 137.32. Good for the win, good for the record.
Ex street racer John St. Pierre, all the way from Chicago, rode uncontested to the Street Bike Shootout Stock class. Stock, as in no turbo, nitrous, or swingarm extension. There's something very not stock about John's bike. His Ray Bellucci, Dymag, Dynatek, Vahzu Racing 1300cc ride is putting 190 hp to the rear wheel. John used this horsepower to set the AMA/Prostar West record at 9.856 at 144.46
STREET & HARLEY ET
Phoenix local Lynn Fitzgerald, battled through 4 rounds of bracket racing to capture the win. Lynn put the ZX11 Kawasaki through its paces with some very good reaction times en route to the final round match with Warren Warner.
Fitzgerald held off the 1974 Northstar, Minnesota drag race champion. 11.18 (11.17 dial) to Warner's 14.83 (14.85) breakout.
The all Harley ET class brought Kearns, Utah rider Dan Evans, and Palmdale, CA's Jeff Barton together with Evans capturing bragging rights and win money.