Dave Schultz afte bike championship

LAS VEGAS - The victory celebration at Gainesville Raceway gave Dave Schultz all the confirmation he needed. He's back. The six-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, who has struggled somewhat during the last few seasons, is geared...

LAS VEGAS - The victory celebration at Gainesville Raceway gave Dave Schultz all the confirmation he needed.

He's back.

The six-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, who has struggled somewhat during the last few seasons, is geared to add title number seven to his list of accomplishments this season. Following seasons where he produced fifth ('98) and fourth ('99) place finishes, Schultz sits ready to take advantage of a new engine program and newfound confidence.

Schultz rode his Sunoco Suzuki to five final rounds last season, but won only once - in Denver. After opening the bike season with a win at Gainesville, Fla., Schultz hopes he has turned the corner on his runner-up blues. For the first time since April '97, Schultz is also the Winston points leader.

"It's the best feeling to win again," said Schultz, a 44-time winner during his 13-year career. "I went to a bunch of finals last season but I couldn't put everything together and get the win. It's been a while since I've been in the points lead, so it feels really good."

Schultz, 51, is looking to add to his NHRA Winston points lead with a victory at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 6-9, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The $1.8 million race is the second of 14 events for Pro Stock Motorcycles in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. The most successful Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor in NHRA history, Schultz is certain that his performance in Gainesville is just the start of better things to come. Equipped with a new combination that features engines from Vance & Hines, Schultz feels the momentum building.

"I've really got a lot of confidence in the way we're operating the chassis and the clutch and the package in general," Schultz said. "I needed to get into a rhythm. That's when I'm at my best."

He'll need to be at his best if he's going to hold off a strong contingent of riders for the championship.

"I think there's several of us who can (win the championship) this season," Schultz said. "Byron Hines is one of the reasons for that. The horsepower that I'm able to purchase from Vance & Hines has made a huge difference since I switched to their power last June. I hope I'm a part of that family a little more this year."

Schultz expects the close competition that Gainesville produced to be the norm for the 2000 season.

"There were a lot of races that were lost by a thousandth of a second at Gainesville," Schultz said. "That's just great racing. I think it's a sign of maturity of the category and the competitors. I don't think there will ever be an easy championship in Pro Stock Motorcycle again."

Another project that may help Schultz's effort to win another championship is the development of the Suzuki Hayabusa body. Schultz worked with Suzuki to develop the new body, which he feels will be more aerodynamic and as a result, produce some impressive performance numbers.

"I'm confident that you'll see the speeds increase in Pro Stock Motorcycle," Schultz said. "We have an unbroken barrier, the 200 mph barrier. In order to give more legitimacy to our category, we need to run as fast as a car. That's the way I've always seen it. The new Hayabusa body may help us achieve that because it's going to be better through the wind. It'll run 194 off the showroom floor without any type of modifications. With that kind of technology, it puts the burden on the rider to be very precise."

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