SIX TIME MOTORCYCLE CHAMPION DIES IN ROAD ACCIDENT
Three-time NHRA Winston and three-time AMA Prostar Pro Stock Bike champion John Myers, 40, of Birmingham, died Sunday afternoon as the result of injuries suffered in a tragic road accident. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest in motorcycle drag racing competition, Myers was the second winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in NHRA history with 33 national event wins.
The accident occurred as Myers was leading a group of friends back to Birmingham after a visit to Talladega on their motorcycles. A small animal apparently darted in front of Myers as he entered a curve, and trying to avoid an accident his bike impacted an Armco guardrail, spilling him over it. Arriving moments later, his friends began immediate first aid, and an ambulance was summoned. Through a combination of ground and air ambulance, John arrived at Carraway Methodist Hospital in less than 45 minutes, but despite heroic medical efforts, died shortly after. Doctors reported that his internal injuries were so severe that had the accident occurred directly in front of the hospital it’s “unlikely he would have survived it”.
When not competing in 180 miles per hour drag racing competition, Myers was the owner/operator of John Myers Turbo Specialties in Birmingham, an aftermarket turbocharger re-manufacturing facility and automotive repair shop specializing in custom turbocharger installations on exotic cars and motorcycles.
Myers is survived by his wife, Kerry, and his 22-month old daughter, Christina.
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Reactions to the death of John Myers
“The tragic loss of John Myers deeply saddens us all. John was truly one of the good guys, not only in our sport, but in his everyday life. He was a role model for the kids as well as a leader amongst his peers. Without John’s presence in the motorcycle drag racing fraternity, the program simply would not have developed to the level it enjoys today. His positive mark on the program will be lasting. Our sympathy and prayers go out to John’s family. We all will miss him.”
NHRA President Dallas Gardner
“I first met John in 1989, his first year with Star Racing, but I didn’t really get a chance to know him until 1992 when my dad started racing. It was then that I learned that John was a truly great individual.
Before I started racing my dad said ‘If you’re gonna watch somebody, watch John Myers because he’s the best rider out there.’ I think he was the best rider this sport has ever seen. His riding technique and his reaction times were second to none. His last reaction time was a .411 which was against me last month in Denver. Throughout my career, I have tried to be like John Myers on and off the race track.
John was not just a competitor, he was a role model and a teacher. It was always great to be around him. I went to dinner with him and his team after he had just won a race and I got a chance to try his invention “Garbage Beer”. Only John could have come up with that one.
In Denver, I had the pleasure of helping him finish his new bike. It was awesome to see him with one of my dad’s engines at that race. My dad also let him use our old trailer and after the race, he wrote a nice thank you note on the message board. I will remember John as a gentleman, and I will truly miss him because our relationship was just beginning to reach a new level.
The sport of drag racing has lost a great friend and we will all miss him dearly.”
Pro Stock Bike rider
“John was the person who showed me what racing was all about. Everyone loved John, and as his teammate, I an honored to have had a relationship with him that a lot of people didn’t have.”
Pro Stock Bike rider
“I’ve always told anyone who asked that John was a prince of a human being. Anyone who knew him liked him immediately, and there aren’t many people who you can say that about. In my mind, John was the only world champion the sport has ever had whom everyone liked, even when he was beating the tar out of them.
“John was also the type of person who could make you laugh so hard that you cried. He was a big clown. One time we would brought a corporate CEO who was a potential sponsor to our pit area and John ran into the trailer and stuffed his mouth with Oreo cookies, and came out and met the guy with black cookie crumbs all over his teeth. Everyone had a great laugh over that one.
“I’ve also never seen anyone who was as cool under pressure as John. One time, he was sitting on the starting line with the top bulb lit and he turned to me an waved me over to him. He was real frantic so I rushed over to him because I figured something was wrong with the bike. When I got there, I lifted his shield, and he started making pig noises in my ear. That was just John’s way of keeping the tension low at the races.
“Another time, we forgot to take the safety pin out of the air shifter button. We were in eliminations and again, he had the top bulb lit, but he didn’t panic. He just pulled the pin out and threw it over his shoulder like nothing was wrong. [Former NHRA Chief Starter] Buster Couch, Byron Hines, and I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like nothing ever fazed him when he was on the bike.
“We had many great times when he was racing with us, but the things I’ll miss the most are the times we spend together away from the track. He and Kerry came to all of our Christmas parties, and Jackie and I spent a lot of holidays with him. We talked about everything, not just racing, and I can’t begin to measure how much I learned from him. Only now do I realize how blessed we were to know him for as long as we did.”
Star Racing Pro Stock Bike team owner
“John Myers is without doubt, one of the greatest drag racers in history. Although he is in a select group of other talented greats, the one superior accomplishment that John had, was who he was as a human being.
“John was literally one of my personal heroes. Even before I started racing as a professional I looked up to him. He became even more of a hero to me once I began racing with him and grew to know him as a person. This is not usually the case. Typically when you become familiar with someone on a personal level, that awe tends to disappear. Not so with John.
“John was a fair man. He was devoted to his family and little Christina was most definitely the apple of his eye. He was fair to fellow competitors and he was always eager to help anyone in any way. Like Dave McClelland once put it, he was the true gentleman of our sport.
“John was there for me many times. When I almost crashed at the finish line in Indy in 96, John came over to me with goosebumps, (the only one who had seen what had happened) and told me never to do that again because it scared him to death. He expressed the looks of concern I had seen many times while growing up, from my Dad but, like him, he softened and calmly told me he was glad I was okay. The same thing happened in Columbus right after my on-track incident. He almost dropped his bike to get over to check on me. He offered pointers in riding when he thought it would give me some type of edge. He offered words of encouragement when things weren’t always going my way. He told me he believed in me and was proud of where I was headed. Even though I never had my chance at winning a race, just knowing that I had earned his respect was worth more than winning any race.
“John and I had both made some major decisions in our careers this year and had spent a lot of time analyzing our moves. I believed in John and that he would get the deal he was looking for. He offered the same belief back to me and we were happy for one another’s progress. He had fun while riding for ‘Pizza John’ and he was so excited and happy to be working with Greg Underdahl. He really was at a high point in his racing career.
“John called me shortly after Denver to fill me in on all that had happened. He told me about how everyone had pulled together to finish his new bike. He spoke with a tone of happiness that just had him high, to know that so many people cared about him and his racing career. He was so humble that he sometimes failed to recognize the impact he possessed in our sport. He even told me to keep an eye out in National DRAGSTER for the picture of him and all of the people who had helped. John, being John, did say though that he was disappointed that John Noard wasn’t there at the time the photo was taken. He just wanted him to have some recognition, too. Thoughtful and appreciative. This was John.
“The main reason that John phoned me after Denver was to tell me that I was missed by many and that there was a void without me there racing in the class. You have no idea how much that meant to me. Here was one of my favorite heroes telling me I was missed. That void was nothing in comparison to the void our community will now feel. It seems so silly that I was missed at one race. John will be missed at each and every race. We need to look at John, who he was, what he represented as a person and try to live as he lived. Life is short and John seemed to live his to the fullest. He was a wonderful role model for everyone, fans, fellow competitors and I am sure, people whose lives he touched away from the racetrack. I am thankful that my life and my racing career were both touched by John Myers. I will miss him very much.
Former Pro Stock Bike rider
“I’m stunned and deeply saddened. John Myers was a true role model as a racer and a person for all of us at any age. He was genuine and sensitive and a real winner. I will really miss him.”
Top Fuel owner
“I was watching RPM2night last night, but it was when they almost finished talking about Myers, so I did not understand what it happend to him. I only saw his picture of his face and below his birthdate and “1998.” I realize then, that he died, but did not wanted to beleive it!
“I met John, back in 1991 when I raced in Houston with my street bike. John was with Star Racing with his Pro Stock Bike. It was the first time I saw a Pro Stock Bike in person and I have taken some photos with John and his bike and me and my street bike. Then , I told him ‘I want to race with you someday in PSB !’
“After 7 years, finally I was able to race against/with him in PSB. Before my debut in Denver, I called John and told him about that finally I was going to make it. He remebered the day we had a photo taken of both of us.
“I thank God for the opportunity I had to race against John before he died. God gave me that special gift. My debut would not have been the same with out John out there.
“I lost my brother last December. My brother used to race with me in my team. Now, I had two special reasons to continue in my carreer.
“I will always remember him.. God bless you John and thank you for your friendship.”
“We have a event in Monterrey, Mexico. I will ask for one minute of silence.
Pro Stock Bike rider
“Over the last few years we’ve gotten to know John pretty well. Even though we were competitors, and we tried like hell to beat each other on the track, it never seemed that way. We not only considered John our most extreme competitor, but also our friend. Some of the best races we have had have been between John Smith and John Myers, and we’ll treasure them always.
“Fortunately, we were also able to get to know John away from the track, especially during our annual snowmobile trips each January. He was a competitive person in his everyday activities, but he never lost his ability to smile or to have a good time, and his personality had a positive effect on all those around him.
“When we debuted in Pro Stock Bike in 1992, we enjoyed some success early, and were quickly accepted many of the people in the class. At the time, we heard a lot of comments that John Smith was going to be the next John Myers. We always took that as a great compliment, even though we knew it wasn’t true. There was only one John Myers. We were proud to know him, and we will treasure his memory forever.”
for the Anoka-Ramsey Pro Stock Bike team
“I have told many people many times that I felt John was the best rider out there. It wasn’t hard for me to admit that because that was what I truly believed. Everyone has their strong points, but as a rider, John’s technique was superior.
“We were in many dirty nasty battles together and we were both very intense, but that didn’t prevent John from being a good gentleman. I remember the 1993 Winston Finals in Pomona. As soon as I clinched the championship, John peeled the No. 1 stickers off his bike and came over to me. He shook my hand and said ‘I think these belong to you, now’. Even after being in a good fight, John came over and congratulated me. There was never a time when I didn’t have tremendous respect for John.
“When I first met John, he was racing in Top Gas, and even then, I could see that he had a mental approach to racing, which is a trait I’ve always admired. Most people don’t know it, but we were the best of friends until he joined the Star team and we became rivals. Even then, I never thought bad of John because I knew he was just doing his job there. We had many great battles. We loved to race each other, and we respected what other would and could do.
“Recently, the arrival of new racers like Matt Hines and Angelle Seeling, probably brought he and I back together on a more personal basis. For so many years it seemed like he and I were sewn together, and when Matt won the championship and Angelle started winning a few races, we suddenly didn’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the class. We weren’t butting heads at every single race and that helped make us close again.
“This April, when the Fram Nationals were postponed in Atlanta, I had a chance to visit with John’s wife, Kerry, and to meet his daughter, Christina, for the first time. They sat in my motorhome for more than an hour and it struck me that Christina is exactly the kind of little girl that John and Kerry would have. Even at her age, she showed the class of her parents.”
Pro Stock Bike racer
John was a great friend and will be missed dearly; his smiling face, his joking around, his genuine interest in our Top Fuel team, having him on the line with us when he wasn’t racing. It’s so hard to imagine not seeing him anymore at the races. There was such a mutual respect and admiration between all of us for each other. He was one of a kind and a very special person. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very sad time.
There are now two very large voids in our lives and in the motorcycle drag racing world. We will never forget either one of them.
Top Fuel Motorcycle racer
“I just saw the news of John Myers tragic death. As an NHRA member and 20-year motorcycle rider, I have been made painfully aware of the risk involved with these sports. John was a credit to drag racing and motorcycling, a true champion and gentleman. He will be greatly missed by motorcycling fans everywhere. Godspeed, John.”
Richard and Kathi Volkmar
“Our condolences go out to the family and close friends of John Myers. As a family who have also been involved in local drag racing for years, I can only say how very sad we were to hear of John’s passing and how much we will miss him. At a time like this words can never say what we all will feel, but please pass our best wishes on to the family and let them know that John and they as well will not be forgotten in our hearts and minds.”
Heather and Gary Shetler
“It is a very sad day for all concerned with the passing of John Myers. We are avid race fans and John will be missed by all. He brought a certain fire and intensity to the class and that will be missed.
“Our condolences go out to the Myers family and to all of John’s friends, he will be missed!”
The Basile Family
“Please forward this to the family of John Myers. My dear Mrs. Myers: I was deeply and sincerely saddened to hear of the loss of John. May God be with you and your lovely daughter at this most difficult time. The motorsports world has lost a truly great racer and more importantly, the whole world has lost an exceptionally great man. John was one of the most sincerely friendly and pleasant people I have ever had the privilege to meet.
“I’ll never forget the first time he shook my hand; he almost took my arm off!! I’ll always remember his big grin at the surprise on my face when he shook my 6-foot-two 220-pound frame along with my hand. Every time after that I had to consciously “gear-up” my handshake in preparation for the Myers “vise-grip.”
“John was genuine; that’s what I’ll remember the most. My friend Roger and I travel to several NHRA events each year and we always made a point to stop by and wish him luck and tell him we were pulling for him. He always took the time to “freshen-up” my autographed Star Racing shirt (more than a few times).
“I believe that seeing a fan with his shirt really moved and motivated him to give his best. One could see in his eyes that to know of all the glitzy shirts from all the mega-stars out there, someone putting down their hard-earned for one of his was truly heartfelt. There will never be another, and all of us who have met him admired him greatly. Your daughter will grow up proud to know just how well-loved your husband was and what a fine example of grace, modesty (in victory or defeat) and sportsmanship he set for all of us to follow.
“Please take comfort in knowing that John will forever be fondly remembered by his many fans throughout the world, and know he’s up there breaking, rather shaking hands with all his new friends and fans … and smiling.”
With heartfelt sympathy,
On the evening of John Myers’ funeral I feel compelled to send you this note. How tragic that we should lose another great competitor and dear friend. John Myers was the consumate competitor. Always focused and ready to compete but still enough of a true gentleman to always be there with his fans and friends. I had the good fortune of being around John during the 1989-1992 (then IHRA) Prostar seasons. I, as a crew member on a Pro Stock Bike, had the good fortune to meet and get to know John, Kerry, George and Jackie Bryce and all of the “traveling guys” with Star Racing. True Southern Hospitality always abounded in the Star pits. We often used their nitrogen bottles to fill our tanks and often George would come by for a beer after everything was in the box at the end of an evening.
“John always had a smile and a word of encouragement for an underfunded but hungry team. He even offered advice and tips in the staging lanes on an occaision or two. (of course NOT if we were paired up together) I’ll never forget the smile that he always had when I approached him in the pits at an NHRA National Event, recognizing a friend from the wars at Atco, Epping, and, Jacksonville.
“We have lost so many great guys in the past few years. It makes me really look forward to going to Heaven so that I can onceagain be around the greats like John, Elmer, and Blaine, and all of those that have given their all whether on the track or on the street. As the monument to Confederate General George Pickett says in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Va., a great southern leader, “Only the forgotten are dead”.
Rest in peace John Myers, I will love you forever.
“As a fan of John Myers I have many fond memories. My dad and I first met John at Indy in 1989,. My dad would talk to him about his past motorcycle riding experience. What I liked was that he was a friendly regular guy. He didn’t just make fans at the races, he made friends. He even won that race. I really liked how he would also welcome us to his pit area. On a hot day in qualifying, they gave us something better than an autograph and ice water. At the 1993 U.S. Nationals, I had breakfast at Shoneys, Star Racing was also there. Imagine that, eating breakfast with a world champion, rather than just having one on the cereal box.
“At the 1996 U.S. Nationals, greatly saddened by the events of the weekend, I made it a point to go to Star Racing’s pit and tell John ‘I will see you next year’; wishing him another safe year and letting them know that we will be back just to see them.. The expectation of seeing racers like him is a great motivation to return to the races.
“At Indy ’97, I told him about my engagement. I brought my wife to the new race in Joliet to meet the racers like John. I wanted to show her that racing was not just about cars and speed, it was also meeting and knowing great people. It impressed her when he told her that his daughter would like that Winnie the Pooh that she had on her hat.
“Having known John for nine years we will miss him and there will definitely leave a big hole in this fan’s heart from not seeing him anymore.
“As today is the day that you lay John Myers to rest all I can say is that I am sorry that someone so kind and thoughtful and caring has been lost. Our condolences go out to Kerry and, of course, Christina who will never really know her father. That will be one of the hardest things that Kerry will be carrying. Let Kerry know that when the wind blows and she feels the wind gently touch her cheek to think that it is a loving touch from her loving husband. Keep strong Kerry. Love to you both. We still can not believe he is gone.
Ray and Dona Treasure
W.A ANDRA Division.
“I’ve been away from the web for a few weeks and just found out that John passed away. My heart sank as I read the message on the net. John was such a good person, a true quality person. He always treated everyone with respect. A piece of me is missing now. He will be truly missed by myself and the racing community. I have lost two friends now, Elmer and John, and I will never forget them. Godspeed to you both.”
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Photos courtesy of Jerry Battle