AMA/Prostar West Coast Finals ROUND 4: TEAM KAWASAKI LOCKS CHAMPIONSHIP IN FINAL ROUND by Marty Kane It was the fourth and final round for the inaugural AMA/Prostar West Coast Series. It was in this very same place, Speedworld Motorplex, located...
AMA/Prostar West Coast Finals ROUND 4: TEAM KAWASAKI LOCKS CHAMPIONSHIP IN FINAL ROUND by Marty Kane
It was the fourth and final round for the inaugural AMA/Prostar West Coast Series. It was in this very same place, Speedworld Motorplex, located just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, where it all started back in March.
Celebrating their first season, AMA/Prostar President and C.E.O. Keith Kizer described the new series as a total success. "We expected a slow start in the western states, but the caliber of bikes and riders is not lacking in any way. In fact, it rivals that of our east-coast national event series."
In the Funnybike class, the season long battle between Larry Laye and Team Kawasaki rider Steve Rice had resulted in both setting national records, Rice having two event wins, and Laye with one.
As the result, only a few points separated the two for the championship and it was all boiling down to who did what at Phoenix.
After three shots of qualifying, Laye ended up on top with a 7.00-second elapsed time. Rice followed suit with a not too distant 7.06.
As they worked their way though elimination's, both past through some intense competition. Laye received a solo pass in round one, and then wen to eventually defeat Steve Humphrey in round two.
On the other side of the ladder, Rice first faced Oklahoma City-based Roy Sears. After losing the starting line advantage to Sears, Rice motored around him and took the win light, 7.11 to 7.45-seconds.
In round two, the battle of the "old guys" occurred when Steve Rice faced off with Ken Shurtz. Both left the starting line together, however Shurtz experienced problems and had to abort his run early. Rice cruised to victory with a 7.17-second, 188 MPH lap.
When the announcer gave the call for the final round, Laye and Rice advanced into the staging area. Not only was this the money round, it was also the point in which the championship would be decided. Rice held enough of a points advantage that Laye would have to win and set a national record in order to become the champion, and that is exactly what he planed on doing. After intense burnout's by both, they rolled into the staging beams together. Every spectator and racer came to the fence line hoping to get the best view.
When the starter gave the go, Laye grabbed the starting line lead and maintained it all the way down the track until the 1000' mark, at which time Laye's crankshaft failed and his bike lost power. From there, he could only hang on and hope that his momentum would carry him. When they reached the finish stripe, to Laye's surprise, the win light came on in his lane and he earned the victory with a powerless 7.00-second lap. "I could not believe I got the win light" Laye said, "when my engine died, the next few feet seemed like an eternity. I could only hang on and hope."
Laye did not set a record with that run, so the series championship went to Team Kawasaki and Steve Rice, and it marked the first time a current production (Rice rides a 1998 Kawasaki ZX-11 powered bike) engine claimed a Funnybike championship.
In the Pro Modified category, fans witnessed Ryan Evans grab his career-first top qualifier spot.
Series champion Scott Valentine followed closely in the number two position, and Steve Lundstrom's high gear only Harley sat in the #3 spot.. In round one, Evans soloed with a 7.23-second, 186 MPH.
Scott Valentine then faced Lundstrom, who grabbed a holeshot, but could not hold off Valentine's 7.48-second run when his bike experienced tire shake and he had to lift early.
In the final, Evans grabbed a slim starting line advantage but had to shut off at the 300' mark when his engine experienced problems. Valentine in turn collected the with a 7.48-second pass.
The Pro Stock series had been dominated by Steve Inoue so far this season. Phoenix would however be the pivoting point for him as the east coast champion, Paul Gast, came west to try him out. Gast quickly grabbed the top qualifier spot with an off the trailer 7.38-second lap. Inoue followed distantly with a 7.60.
The final round results followed exactly as qualifying. Gast earned the victory with a stellar 7.37-second, 180 MPH blast. Inoue tried his best, but his bike did not cooperate as he ran a slower 7.69-second time.
The factory-based 600cc Super Sport class saw it's first lady, Traci Farr, clinched the championship at the prior event held in Salt Lake City. It's fortunate for her as this weekend her domination would end courtesy of east coast racer Chip Ellis, who qualified number one with a 10.53-second elapsed time.
In the final round, it was numbers one and two once again, Ellis and Farr faced off and Ellis grabbed the starting line advantage. He maintained the lead all the way down the Farr ran a 10.67-second elapsed time but she could not hold off Ellis' quicker 10.52.
With that run, Ellis also reset Farr's previous national record for elapsed time.
One of the tightest battles for the championships would occur in the Top Gas category where three riders (Ron Score, Jeff Peters and Aaron Pine) were separated by just a few points for the crown. When qualifying had ended, Pine sat in #1 spot, Score #2, and from Peters way down in the #8 spot. In the first round, Peters fell in early defeat to Scott Wall, hence so did his quest for the championship. Pine however continued by narrowly defeating Bill Cramer.
With Peters out of the contention, The battle came down to Score and Pine. Score maintained just enough of a lead that if he made it past the first round, he would secure the title. With Pine anxiously watching and clutching his golden horseshoe, Score faced off with Bryan Ryckmen who claimed the starting line lead. At the other end, Score turned things around and clinched the title with a victorious 8.37-second lap against Ryckmen's slower 8.51.
In round two, Chad Compton and Ron Score faced off in the closest match of the day. Both left the line together, and in a photo finish review both had run 8.32-second times. The computers quickly revealed however that Compton's run was better by .001-second and he ended the new champ's day early.
The final round featured Chad Compton and Dynatek Electronics owner Robert Paisley. When the starter gave the go, both ran neck and neck down the quarter mile. At the finish stripe, Paisley had run too fast for the 8.2-second Super Comp index, 8.15, and lost to Compton's slower 8.26. Though the Super Comp crown had already been claimed by Tom Medlin, his goal for this event was to win four out of four events. His dream quickly went into the "could have been" file however when Scott Wall defeated him in the second round, 8.99-seconds to Medlin's 9.02.
East coast terror Mike Konopacki entered Super Comp as the second of three classes in which he would compete in. The five time world champions day ended early however when he and Terry Borkman ran almost identical 9.02-second passes, Borkman's better by virtue of .006-second. "I have read and read about him in the magazines" said Borkman, "and I have always wanted a chance to race him. It was even better that I was able to beat him."
In the final round, Borkman faced Scott Wall who jumped to the plate in defense of the east-coast contingent. Borkman claimed the starting line advantage but a .03-second advantage earned Wall the win light, 9.08-seconds to Borkmans 9.11.
The Super Gas category came down to a four-way battle for the championship between Russell Woodroof, Matt Spencer, Mitchell Lippen and Mike Davis.
When qualifying had finished, Woodroof earned the pole and only Lippen, who qualified #6, was within striking distance.
In round one, Woodroof faced Tracy McGee and both ran 9.92-second elapsed times. Starting line advantage however went to Woodroof, and so did the points lead he would need to secure the championship.
With the pressure off, Woodroof entered the final round where he would face newcomer Red Collins. Woodroof had his mind in other places though as he left the line too early, illuminating the red light, blowing his chances for a win. Seeing the red light immediately, Collins waited for the light to turn green, and cruised to his first ever event with slowly, waiving his left hand in victory all the way down the track. "I was so excited, I wanted to jump off the bike" proclaimed Collins, "If I would have had wings, I would have flown down the track."
Further information about the 1998 AMA/Prostar series can be found online at www.dragbike.com.