The Finish Line
Remembering Mr. Competition:
Words and photos by Tom
the early morning hours of 11 February, 2001, Dave Schultz,
the winningest driver in NHRA Pro Stock Bike history passed
away at age 52 with his family by his side. Schultz was
diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2000. At the time
of the discovery, the disease had already spread to several
major internal organs. When he died, it was a great loss
for Pro Stock Bike racing, and a loving family.
The loss of David Schultz from the NHRA Pro Stock Bike
ranks is a monumental one because of the level of leadership
and dedication Schultz brought to the class. He was an
innovator, a vision of "The New Breed" and unafraid to
push the envelope. In short, Schultz was a pace-setter
always raising the bar, particularly in standards of professionalism,
and a fierce competitor. He was in fact, Mr. Competition.
So fierce were the fires of competition in the soul of
Dave Schultz that despite his failing health, he could
not and would not stop competing. After announcing his
plight with cancer in August of 2000, between treatments
of chemotherapy, Schultz continued to push ahead with
his racing operation for long-time sponsor Sunoco. In
October he qualified sixth at the Matco Tools Nationals
in Houston, Texas on his controversial Hyabusa bodied
Suzuki of his own creation and advanced to the finals
against Matt Hines. Schultz defeated Matt on a hole-shot,
taking the win that eliminated Hines' championship hopes
for the year and sealed the 2000 championship for Angelle
While Schultz relished the thought of playing the spoiler,
his will was not so much to rain on someone's parade as
it was to establish his presence as a force to be reckoned
with on race day, always playing to win. Dave knew how
to win better than anyone else in P/S B and the record
reflects that very clearly.
Since 1987 Schultz logged 45 NHRA national event wins
while amassing six Winston Championships in Pro Stock
Bike competition. In 1991 Schultz with crew chief Greg
Cope produced a motorcycle drag racing triple crown with
championships won in IDBA, NHRA and AMA/PROSTAR sanctions.
And this was but an omen of things to come.
In NHRA competition the pair shattered the NHRA's winning
records in 1994 and dominated like no other team in single
season history to this very day. Schultz won nine of the
eleven events for the year and only lost a round when
he red lighted (2x) that season. His competition record
during eliminations was a frightful 40-2 for his competitors.
His eight consecutive back to back wins is an NHRA single
season record, still standing. They also produced a second
triple crown championship in pro stock, amassing a three
sanction slaughter of opponents 100 rounds won to four
So dominant was the stranglehold on the class that fellow
racers put a bounty on his head. At one race during the
1994 NHRA season, a cash fund was established by fellow
pro stock racer Ron Ayers who initiated putting $20 per
racer each round into a milk carton for any driver who
could beat him during the next three races. If no one
could, the money would be turned over to Mr. Schultz.
His white leathers at the time earned him the nickname
"Milk Man," hence the cash in the cow juice container.
As Mr. Ayers recalls, "At first I think Dave was a bit
insulted but after he thought about it for a while he
realized it was the highest compliment he'd ever achieved;
that we wanted him so bad we put our money where our mouth
is. It was really meant in a good hearted manner and it
was all in good fun." Mr. Competition just used it as
fuel for the fire.
David's outlook on it was a measure of true Dave Schultz.
"I was intrigued at first when I realized how my competitors
were responding to the win streak. Then when I realized
I was also in the race for this cash by not losing a round
for the next three events it just drove me harder. It
became an incentive for me."
Twelve rounds of racing later the milk carton brimming
with $20 bills was presented to Dave who responded while
grinning, "Thanks, now I can use this for more research
to find more horsepower." His sponsor, Sunoco, also liked
the idea and matched the pot, bringing the total prize
up to over $3,000.
Dave Schultz will long be remembered for his competition
prowess but there was another side to Dave few saw except
his family and inner-most circle. In a 1997 interview
Dave stated, "My wife has been such a big part of everything
I do. We do this together because we love it. If we didn't,
I would stop tomorrow and go do something else." He spoke
of his loving wife Meredith who remained at his side since
1968 and in 33 years of marriage always stood by him.
In fact, the only round of Dave's racing she ever missed
was when she flew to the funeral of Elmer Trett in September
of 1996 out of love and respect for the Trett Family.
Dave Schultz was born May 15, 1948 in Chattanooga Tennessee.
He grew up competing with his cousins at everything from
tricycles to baseball. He just always possessed a drive
to do his best. In high school he was president of his
junior and senior class, graduating in 1966 as a member
of the national honor society. He was all-conference in
basketball, baseball, and track.
"I just love to compete. I like to see what I can do
when I put my mind to it."
Forever Dave Schultz will remain Mr. Competition.