7 – Dan Degood
“I take 150
snaps at the practice tree everyday.” - DD
racers dream of winning a single championship. 11-year veteran Dan Degood, perhaps
the AHDRA’s most triumphant bracket racer, added two more championships
to his already impressive resume in 2004.
Degood scored his 4th ET title and 2nd straight SEP 11.60-index championship
riding his 94 Sportster and 97 Buell. Degood says a lot of things went his way
“I really got to focus everything on racing this year,” Degood said.
“I had fewer distractions now that I am retired from the insurance business.
Also we didn’t have any terminal bike failures. We had some great luck
on the pairings too. We hardly ever had to face a top ten plate holder in the
Degood’s perseverance was tested during the thick of the points chase
this October in Rockingham, NC where needing a victory to stay in the hunt he
spun hard off the starting-line and crashed. Fortunately for Degood his opponent
red lighted and he rebounded to win the event.
“That was the most rewarding race I’ve ever been too,” Degood
said. “It meant a lot to overcome the crash. I had a dozen people back
in my pits banging away, changing handlebars so we could make the next round.
It was pretty special.”
Throughout the season Degood exhibited significant consistency in both categories,
only suffering one first round loss.
“Last year I had 7 first round losses. The big difference this year is
I didn’t have any red lights,” Degood said. “I don’t
go up there looking for a .000 light. I’ve learned that if you can keep
the lights around the .030 range you can win. It’s 90 percent mental.”
Thanks to several holeshot victories Degood finished the season with 6 event
wins and 9 final round appearances.
“I take 150 snaps at the practice tree everyday. If you can get a better
light chances are you’re going to win.”
As if racing two classes doesn’t keep him busy enough Degood also serves
as crewman for Top Fuel racer Doug Vancil at each of the AHDRA’s 14 events.
“I love being involved,” Degood said. “The only time it gets
hectic is when we are both still in the program late in the day. We both won
Seattle this year. It was a heck of a lot of work but it was one of the most
Degood achieved an additional goal in 2004 by
amassing his 400th career AHDRA round win.
“I take a lot a pride in that milestone,” Degood said. “My
goal this year is too hit 500. If I can get 500 I think I will have done enough
and I will probably quit. I have a lot of street bikes that never see the road.”
I’m certain Degood will reach his goal 500 wins, but based on his love
for the sport I’m not so sure we’ll see this talented veteran retire
6 –Tony Girardi
“I hadn’t made a no-bar pass in 28 years but I was really surprised,
the bike was smooth like a Cadillac.” - TG
If asked at the end of last season, how many of us would have predicted the
next prevailing force in Outlaw Pro Street racing to be Tony Girardi? Tony who?
Girardi, an ex-Pro Stock racer from the early 90s, seemingly came out of nowhere
in 2004 to become the first rider win both the MIROCK and SEMDRA Outlaw Pro
Street championships in the same season.
Girardi quit his drywall job last January and
went to work as a mechanic and rider for long time racing buddy Dan Wagner of
South Florida’s L&W Motorworks.
“I was always interested in motorcycles but I never thought I could make
a living off of them,” Girardi said. “Now I actually like coming
to work. I’m 45 years old. I can’t do construction forever.”
Just before the start of the season Girardi brought
a motor to the table and in no time the duo transformed a pile of parts into
the championship machine.
“I had a Greg Cope 1290 Pro Stock motor still lying around,” Girardi
said. “Me and Dan took it apart and put on new wrist pins, gaskets, and
nozzles for the nitrous. For a little 1290 it ran great, 7.28 at 196 mph.”
Girardi, who qualified for the 40th annual U.S.
Nationals back in 1994 and scored several victories aboard a bracket bike, was
well accomplished with wheelie bars, but the question was – would one
week before the season started be enough time for Girardi to learn how to ride
an Outlaw no-bar?
“I was nervous about riding it for the first time,” Girardi admitted.
“I hadn’t made a no-bar pass in 28 years but I was really surprised,
the bike was smooth like a Cadillac. We went to Moroso and I ran a 7.32 on my
first nitrous pass. After that I was hooked.”
Girardi’s MIROCK season culminated at the final race of the year when
he defeated quickly encroaching championship contender Chris Moore to lock up
the season title.
“We both wheelied and I beat him to the finish line,” Girardi said.
“I let out a big sigh of relief when my win light came on. Winning the
championship was rough. We put in a lot of hard work this year.”
Girardi battled through the season with only
one first round loss, appearing in 3 MIROCK finals. He also tasted victory on
two occasions at SEMDRA events. Even though the Outlaw ride was drastically
different from his bikes of the past Girardi says his years of experience was
a valuable benefit.
“Cutting the tree is always the same,” Girardi said. “Other
things too, like trying to be smooth and shifting the bike on time.”
In retrospect Girardi admits never in his wildest
dream did he imagine winning both championships back when he left the drywall
business in January.
“That wasn’t even a thought,”
Girardi said. “I was just trying to finish in the top 10 and go 200 mph.
200 was a big goal of mine because I wasn’t sure that I could ride as
good as those younger guys.”
Girardi completed his anticipated 200 mph blast
during unofficial testing prior to the Prostar World Finals in November. It’s
pretty safe to say he can ride as well as those young guys.
5 –Chip Ellis
“When I drove away from the shop I had tears in my eyes. We weren’t
just crew chief and rider, we’re best friends,” - CE
What didn’t Chip Ellis do in 2004?
Versatile Ellis became the first rider in the history of the sport to win an
NHRA national, a Prostar race, and an AHDRA event all in the same year.
That’s not say the season didn’t have some downers. After getting
off to a ferocious start, winning two of the first three 600 Super Sport races
for Kawasaki’s Team Green, Ellis’ bike was stolen from his trailer
in St. Louis and found the next day on a nearby street corner severely vandalized.
“It was definitely the low point of the year,” Ellis said. “They
crashed it on both sides and blew the motor up. In the end I was lucky to get
Thanks to some tireless work by Ellis and longtime friend and crew chief Coby
Adams, the duo reassembled the machine and won the very next event less than
a month later in Norwalk OH. Ellis also won the 1000 class that weekend scoring
his first ever “double.”
“That was one of my best weekends ever,” Ellis said. “We were
the fastest bike all weekend.”
At mid-season Ellis received the offer he’d been waiting for his entire
career. Star Racing’s George Bryce offered Ellis a seat on the state-of-the-art
S&S NHRA Pro Stock Buell. One stipulation was that Ellis would have to relocate
from North Carolina to Star’s headquarters in Americus, GA – something
Ellis says wasn’t easy.
“When I drove away from the shop I had tears in my eyes. The toughest
part was leaving Coby, because we weren’t just crew chief and rider, we’re
best friends,” Ellis said. “Racing in the NHRA is what I wanted
my whole career. To team up with George Bryce is an opportunity of a lifetime
and I couldn’t pass it up. Coby supported me.”
With only four passes of testing Ellis made his NHRA debut at the tour’s
most highly decorated and media-laden event, the 50th annual U.S. Nationals
from Indianapolis, IN. Ellis says he didn’t let the thousands of spectators
and dozens of TV cameras psyche him out.
“It was really funny because when we got there I went out and looked at
the track and said, damn it looks just the same as it does at the Prostar races,”
Ellis said. “I didn’t worry about all the hype. I just went out
and focused on making good passes.”
Shortly thereafter Ellis became
the first rider in the history of the NHRA to qualify on the pole in his very
first pass with a 7.20. By the end of qualifying Ellis retained the top spot
and set a new track record of 7.11. Everything was going according to plan until
just before the first round of eliminations.
“I was sitting in the staging lanes, opening and closing the throttle,
making practice runs in my head and the cable broke,” Ellis said. “There
was nothing we could do. We didn’t have time to change it. It was a big
disappointment for the team but those things happen. We accomplished a lot at
Just two races later in Las Vegas Ellis tasted his first NHRA event win in only
his third attempt.
“It was the highlight of my drag racing career,” Ellis said. “I’ve
always had great luck in Vegas. Me and Steve Rice have won there every time
but once on his Funny Bike. I told George if we go to Las Vegas I’m gonna
Ellis also made an AHDRA appearance in Bristol,
TN and won the S&S Street Pro class, becoming the category’s first
rider to break into the in the 8-second zone. Ellis went on to claim the AMA/Prostar
600 Super Sport championship, finishing second in 1000 Super Sport with a combined
total of 6 wins.
“A lot of strange things happened to me
this year, but it definitely all worked out for the best,” Ellis said.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Recently Ellis inked a three-year deal with Star
Racing and could very well be on his way to becoming the next illustrious NHRA
champion, walking in the footsteps of greats like John Myers
4 –Steve Stordeur
“In 30 years of racing this was by far the smoothest year I ever had,”
By garnering his first AHDRA championship and
resetting the organization’s Top Fuel elapsed-time record to 6.35 in 2004,
Steve Stordeur assembled his most successful year since his first season of
nitro Harley racing back at age 19.
“It was a phenomenal year,” Stordeur
said. “To finally win after being so close that many times means a lot.”
Stordeur won the first two races of the tour
and went on to win three more by the season’s end to wrap up the title.
Not bad for a guy, who along with team owner Johnny Mancuso didn’t even
plan to follow the entire circuit.
“We got off to such a good start me and
Johnny couldn’t resist,” Stordeur said. “We worked very hard
to stay consistent.”
In October Stordeur, who has been as quick as
6.27 in the IHRA, reset AHDRA’s ET record to a 6.357 in Rockingham, NC.
“We have the power to go 20s every single
run,” Stordeur said. “It’s all about traction. We rarely get
the track prep we need at an all bike event. We need the cars to put down rubber.”
Since becoming a member of the well-staffed Mancuso
Racing Team 5 years ago Stordeur has simplified his race day.
“I don’t have to do anything but
ride,” Stordeur said. “It’s great. They get it all set up
for me. It takes a big load off me.”
Stordeur and Mancuso won 8 of the 12 events in
which they entered with at least one of the two appearing in 10 finals.
“I give a lot of credit to the team,”
Stordeur said. “Johnny had everything running so smooth that it seemed
like if I didn’t win a race he did. In 30 years of racing this was by
far the smoothest year I ever had. We had no low points, no serious motor problems.
It was one of those years where we didn’t break anything and the bike
stayed together and ran consistent.”
Stordeur says the pressure of maintaining the
points lead never fazed him during the season.
“After 30 some years I don’t get
nervous anymore,” Stordeur said. “It’s either going to happen
or it’s not.”
That’s not to say the rigorous season didn’t
take its toll on the 49-year-old. “I’m getting to the age where
it beats me up every race,” laughed Stordeur.
Stordeur was unexpectedly forced to undergo heart
surgery just three weeks after the final race. The champ is recovering quickly
and the doctor says he’ll be ready for the first race in March.
Stay tuned to Dragbike.com for the next
installment of The Lumberjack Top Ten Performer Count Down.
Jack Korpela can be reached at Lumberjack@dragbike.com