MOHNTON, Pa. -- Several weeks before Indy, Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Dave Schultz announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer and surgery would be required to remove a cancerous growth from his colon. Schultz underwent that surgery at Indiana Universities University Hospital on August 25th. Less than a week later, Schultz was at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, not to race, but to lead his Sunoco race team in the most prestigious event on the Winston NHRA national event schedule. Aboard his Suzuki was veteran rider John Smith.
Smith, who previous raced for the Anoka-Ramsey motorcycle team owned by John Noard, has been sidelined this season due to a lack of sponsorship. His first and only appearance of the 2000 season, prior to Indy, came at the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, where he helped reigning Winston champ Matt Hines test a new chassis under national event conditions.
A resident of Champlin, Minn., a bedroom community near Minneapolis/St. Paul, Smith began his quest for motorsport fame aboard the two-wheeled "pocket-rockets" by learning his trade on bracket and lower class drag bikes. 1992 marked Smith's first full year aboard the seat of the Anoka-Ramsey Racing Pro Stock Motorcycle. Surprising the motorcycle establishment, he finished number five in the í92 NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, earning National DRAGSTER ís "Rookie of the Year."
In a class dominated throughout the decade of the 90ís by three individuals - - the late John Myers, Dave Schultz and most recently Matt Hines - - Smith showed that 1992 was no fluke by moving up the ladder two notches in 1993 to number three. In fact, Smith, who has won four national event titles in 15 final rounds, finished in the top five in the final Winston point standings for seven consecutive years - - 1992 through 1998. In 1999, he finished eighth. Additionally, he competed in the prestigious Holley Pro Stock Bike Dominator Duel seven straight times - - 1993-1999.
Recently, FastNews Network caught up with John Smith for a short question and answer period. The following are the highlights of that conversation:
FNN: FastNews Network Question JS: John Smith's Reply
FNN: John, you're on a new ride. Why don't you give us a little history of how this ride came about?
JS: The ride came about in kind of an unfortunate way. It is the result of Dave Schultz having to battle some health issues. Dave knew that he would have an operation the week prior to Indy and he talked with me at the Brainerd race about filling in for him at Indy. So here I am, filling in for Dave on the Sunoco Suzuki.
FNN: You said due to Dave's misfortune you are on the bike. While I know everyone wishes Dave a speedy recovery, how long do you expect to be subbing on his bike?
JS: Good question. First Dave has to completely recover from his surgery. Then when he's strong enough, he'll start chemotherapy. That's the indefinite part. It's a race to race situation.
FNN: You rode Dave's bike for the first time at Indy. How does his bike with the new Hayabusa body compare with your past experience?
JS: The bike is different in a lot of ways. The set-up is different than the way we ran our bike (at Anoka-Ramsey Racing) the last eight years. The Hayabusa body has kind of a strange appearance when you look at the bike. As a rider, you question whether you want to get on it because it looks kinda confusing. There are bumps here and bubbles there and things like that. But when you sit on the bike and let the clutch out, you start to understand why it has this bump here and that cutout there. That bike is by far the smoothest, quietest bike I've riddenÖ ever. Each run down the track gives me more experience and I'm feeling more comfortable with each pass.
FNN: How was it to return to riding since you have sat out the majority of the 2000 season?
JS: There were some cobwebs to knock out when I first got back on the bike at Brainerd. Right up to the time I first let the clutch out you always question how will I do. Then you tell yourself I remember what this is like, it's no big deal. But when you're racing against a bunch of riders that have been doing it all summer, you start to see that their routines are a little more refined, and they're pretty hungry for that win at this point in the year. So, Iíll be playing catch up for a while. The racing out here is so close that the chances are if you're late on the starting line, then you probably be late at the finish line. But Iíll get back in the groove soon. The good news is that this Sunoco bike has the capability of winning any event that it enters.
FNN: You certainly proved that at Indy, finishing in the runner up spot. Incidentally, your third final at Indy. (Smith lost to Schultz in 1993 and Rick Ward in 1995.) You defeated Joe DeSantis, Terry Mullen and Winston point leader Angelle Seeling before losing to Antron Brown in the final round. What feelings did you have being runner-up?
JS: You never like to lose. But given the circumstances, just going to the finals on Dave's bike was great. I feel we got the job done that Dave wanted us to do.
FNN: Thank you John. We wish both you and Dave Schultz the best for the