Columbus AMA Prostar Story

GARY CLARK AND PAUL GAST TAKES TOP HONORS AT AMA NATIONALS COLUMBUS, Ohio ­ Gary Clark captured his third title in the Funnybike class at the third annual AMA Nationals, race four of eight in the 1998 AMA/Prostar motorcycle drag racing series.


COLUMBUS, Ohio ­ Gary Clark captured his third title in the Funnybike class at the third annual AMA Nationals, race four of eight in the 1998 AMA/Prostar motorcycle drag racing series.

Joining him in the winners circle was Tony Sabino (Pro Modified) Paul Gast (Pro Stock), Rickey Gadson (Pro Superbike), Michael Phillips (600 Super Sport), Andy Baumbach (Top Gas), Robert McCraw (Super Comp), Doug Emge (Super Gas), Jim Carroll (Pro E.T.), Scott Griglianas (Street E.T.), David Stewart (Streetbike Shootout/Stock), James Lauer (Streetbike Shootout/Modified), and Chris Williams (Streetbike Shootout/Unlimited).

For the first time this season, Clark did not take claim the top qualifying position. That honor went to newcomer Steve Suter from Madison, Wisconsin, and speculation was high that Suter just might win the event. In the semi-final round, Suter’s dreams were shattered though as Clark defeated him, 6.75-seconds elapsed time to Suters slower 7.05-second run.

On the other side of the ladder, the Murdoch Racing/Team MRE bike of Tom Perry was busy setting their own quick pace. In round one, they defeated Rick Giard, 6.84 to 7.60. In round two, he met up with legend Bill Vose who has been experiencing engine problems all season while trying to work out his nitrous-only combination. Once again, gremlins crept in and Vose went home. Perry once again laid down a stellar 6.8-second run, and eyes were quickly focusing on him as a final round competitor.

In the semi-finals, Perry received a bye-run as luck would have it, so the Jay Regan and the MRE boys took the opportunity to give the bike a tune up. As the bike left, it looked to be possibly the quickest run of the day, but Perrys bike suffered a severe intake manifold explosion and that ended his race day. Perry was uninjured but his bike would not be able to return for the final round.

That gave Gary Clark a single-run in the final round and he and crew chief Rick Stetson decided to step it up and attempt to set a national record.

Throughout eliminations, Clark had been running in the 6.7-second zone, and he had run as quick as 6.65-seconds previously, so every eye in the house focused on him for the solo expedition.

When the light turned green his rear tire fluttered a bit and it was full-on from there. 1320 feet later, the scoreboard showed 6.70-seconds, 213.30 MPH, and he earned the new AMA/Prostar elapsed time record.

In the Pro Modified class, Rick Bunting fell to a broken countershaft sprocket early on and all bets were then placed on class newcommer Dave Lombardi to both join the six second club, and win the event.

Fate would not have it though it as he could not make the call in the semi-final round and gave Tony Manning a free entry into the finals. There he met up with Tony Sabino who has run some of the quickest times and fastest speeds that have ever been witnessed in the class.

The lights came down, and Sabino showed the crowed exactly what he was made of. He made it to the win stripe first by running a stout 6.98-second run.

In the Pro Stock category, rookie Shawn Gann no doubt had become the new class favorite. At twenty-years old, Gann was living the dream that every young boy has; becoming a professional racer.

In three races this season, he had tallied up two final round appearances. At the last event in Chicago, he qualifyied number one and won the event. He kept almost a full tenth-second advantage over every other bike.

’97 champion Paul Gast however could not stand for it his crew prepped their Fast By Gast, Dynatek Electronics-backed entry to give the youth "a lesson from the old man". Gast registered a strong 7.41-second run into the qualifying book and took the pole.

Gann however fought back with a 7.44-second qualifying effort, which placed him in the number two spot. On the eliminations ladder, that meant that if both managed to make it to the final round, they would not meet up until that point.

In both received single runs, so the both advanced to round two. On the other side of the ladder, Butch Avon narrowly defeated Curt Woodward, 7.63-seconds, 167 MPH, to 7.72-seconds, 172.42 MPH.

Dave Lang advanced after defeating Jim "no I am not the ex-president" Carter, Patrick Wise scooted by Jason Revis, and New Mexico-based Stephen Inoue knocked out Keith Gray.

Inoue blew his engine just past the finished line, and in an effort of keeping control of his oil-splattering mess, he steered to the outside of the lane in an effort to maintain safety for other racers who followed him. As he did, a bumpy shut off area caused him to drift into the guard wall and he ever so lightly rode it down for about twenty feet. Luckly, Inoue was uninjured and his bike did not suffer any chassis damage. His engine however was not fixable and he was forced to drop out of competition.

That setup Patrick Wise for a slingle run in round two. He did run a stout 7.71-second, 171.12 MPH run for the fans to see. Gann continued through with a single as well, and Dave Lang squeaked by Sam Hurwitz, 7.71-seconds, 170.47 MPH to Hurwitz’s 7.73-second, 166.07 MPH effort. Paul Gast continued his dominance as he knocked out Butch Avon and Dave Lang in round two and three, and after receiving a bye run in round two, Gann defeated Patrick Wise in round three.

That setup what fans wanted to see in the final; Gann v.s. Gast, youth and eldership. The two are exactly the opposite; Gast, a successful engine builder from New York, who has been building and racing Pro Stock engines for years, and a twenty year old, who prior to racing drag bikes played guitar in a heavy metal band. His family-backed effort from Stoneville, North Carolina, carries no corporate backing and it is built and maintained by his father and a friend or two.

As bets were flying in the grand stands, both riders sat silent for moments putting their minds in "the zone" as football players say. Their engines fired, and the burnouts began. They rolled up to the starting line, and you could see the concentration in their eyes.

Gann left the line first, by .013-second. Both riders were side by side until about three-quarter track. Then it was Gast who prevailed. He ran a great 7.44-second, 175.11 MPH run to defeat Gann’s 7.49, 173.09 MPH effort.

Pro Superbike seems to be all about Rickey Gadson this year. He took the title in his fourth straight race, defeating Revilo Tucker in the final round. The upset of the day occurred when Michael Phillips defeated Keith Dennis in the final round of 600 Super Sport. All year, it has been pretty much a Dennis show. He has won most every race, and he usually claims the top qualifying spot as well.

Team Kawasaki/Muzzy rider Gadson fell in the semi-final round to Michael Phillips. Phillips took the early lead by almost a full tenth-second and took the win, 10.44-seconds, 131.97 MPH, to Gadsons 10.53, 128.95 MPH. In the final round, Dennis committed suicide on the starting line as he left too quickly and illuminated the red light. It was at that point when both riders took slow rides down the quarter mile, looking at each other, Phillips glowing all the way down.

The Top Gas class saw Andy Baumbach defeat Stacey Raymond. Raymond ran .01-second faster then the 8.20-second index allowed, 8.19 to Baumbach’s 8.21.

The Unlimited Class-Streetbike Shootout Series also featured an upset. In the semi-final round, number two qualifier Ken Stotz, who’s wild Hahn Racecraft turbo-powered GSXR had earlier put forth the quick time of eliminations, 8.21-seconds, had to lift when his bike experienced a severe wheelie at half track.

That allowed Tom Micelli to advance into the final round where he met up with Chris Williams. It was from there where Williams quickly gave Micelli a "whoopin" as he described it, 8.25-seconds, 175.80 MPH, to Micelli’s 8.49-second, 167.30 MPH run.

Special awards given in Columbus included 16-year old Ryan Schnitz, who’s Schnitz Racing Top Gas bike received the Best Engineered award, Steve Stickle whos Super Comp bike received Best Appearing Bike, and the Stoll Racing crew received an award for Best Appearing Crew.

The next stop on the AMA/Prostar tour will be the 9th annual Thunder Motorcycle Nationals, held on August 14-16 in Indianapolis. That event will feature the final round of the Sport Rider Magazine Streetbike Shootout.

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About this article
Series Drag
Drivers Shawn Gann , Sam Hurwitz , Ryan Schnitz , Michael Phillips , Chris Williams , Paul Gast
Teams Williams