Dave Schultz, long regarded as one of drag racing's most intense competitors, didn't get to be drag racing's most successful Pro Stock Motorcycle racer by accident. In his 23-year career, which ended with his untimely death from colon cancer on Feb. 11, 2001, he was one of an increasingly rare breed of individuals in motorsports who could build, tune, maintain, and race with equal amounts of success. Throughout his career, those skills, coupled with a tenacious dedication and an unwavering will to win, helped Schultz amass 45 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event wins and six NHRA Winston championships. Though he got his start racing on four wheels, in a Super Stock Mustang in the mid-1960s, it didn't take long for Schultz to adapt to motorcycle racing. He was quick to jump on the bandwagon when Pro Stock Motorcycle became an NHRA eliminator in 1985, and won his first national event at the Winston Finals that year. In 1987, Schultz posted four wins and claimed his first national championship. Three more wins and another points title followed in 1988. He was also a force on the AMA/ProStar and IDBA circuits, where he won nine more season championships. Throughout his career, Schultz had many memorable encounters with the late John Myers. Though bitter rivals, Schultz and Myers - who between them won every Pro Stock Motorcycle championship from 1990 to 1996 - maintained a mutual respect. Together, they became the torchbearers for the class when Pro Stock Motorcycle legend Terry Vance retired in 1988. After finishing second to Myers in 1992, Schultz focused on regaining his crown in 1993, but his season nearly ended before it began. At the season opener at Houston Raceway Park, he was thrown from his bike at speed and slid more than 800 feet through the shutdown area. The accident left him with a broken right wrist. Bruised and battered, but undeterred, Schultz went on to win seven events and take his fourth NHRA title. He capped the year with a six-race win streak and a barrier-breaking 7.59, 181.85-mph run at the Keystone Nationals. It marked the first time that anyone ran in the 7.5s or over 180- mph in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Never satisfied, Schultz outlined some definitive goals as he prepared for the 1994 campaign. To that end, Schultz and then-engine builder Greg Cope ran roughshod over the class in 1994, winning nine of 11 races and compiling an astounding 40-2 record in eliminations (the two losses were on red-light starts). During the season he passed Vance to become NHRA's winningest two-wheel competitor. For Schultz, second-best was never good enough. No component was overlooked and no stone is left unturned in his never-ending quest for performance. Schultz's bikes were the first to feature an onboard computer, full fairing, lowered steering head, dual eight-inch brakes, vacuum pump, and air in the frame. His greatest technological achievement might have come in 1999 when he led a team of designers and engineers to produce a highly detailed and realistic replica of the popular Suzuki Hayabusa bodywork. With the new body, Schultz recorded a 192-mph pass, the second-fastest run in the history of the class, at the 2000 Englishtown (N.J.) event. Schultz took on his toughest foe in August 2000 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Just days after completing a series of draining chemotherapy treatments, he mounted his Sunoco Suzuki at Houston Raceway Park and won the 45th - and no doubt most rewarding - national event title of his career. A man of tremendous faith, Schultz refused to let his illness interfere with his goals. Indeed, when it came to winning, Schultz proved that where there is a will, there is a way. NHRA's Top 50 Drivers will be unveiled on NHRA.com and through the pages of National DRAGSTER, in reverse order throughout the 2001 season, with a schedule leading up to the naming of the top driver at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway on Nov. 11. As NHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2001, it has emerged as one of the most popular spectator sports, highlighted by a $50 million, 24-event, nationally televised tour. The NHRA has developed into the world's largest motorsports sanctioning body, with more than 80,000 members nationwide, and more than 140 member tracks.
<pre>} NHRA's 50 GREATEST DRIVERS 50. Elmer Trett 49. Richard Tharp 48. Malcolm Durham 47. Billy Meyer 46. Ken Veney 45. Scotty Richardson 44. Dave Schultz