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AMA Prostar: Team Kawasaki Adds Drag Racing Team to their Success Stories

3 July 1998

Pro Superbike Champion Rickey Gadson and Funnybike contender Steve Rice to compete with full support from Team Muzzy/Kawasaki Drag Racing

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) has stepped up its presence in American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)/Prostar Drag Racing for 1998, and its team of defending Pro Superbike Champion Rickey Gadson and Funnybike standout Steve Rice have gotten a quick start on the season.

Gadson used his Team Muzzy-prepared Ninja ZX-7R Superbike to set a new Elapsed Time (ET) record of 9.407 seconds during preliminary runs at the season opener in Atlanta, then went on to win the final. At the second round in Richmond, VA, Gadson won again to bolster his position at the top of the point standings.

Rice made it to the semifinals in Atlanta on his Ninja ZX-11-powered Funnybike where he was defeated by final winner Gary Clark, who also uses a Kawasaki-powered machine. Another strong performance in Richmond keeps Rice within reach of the points lead. Just two weeks ago, Rice worked his way to the winners circle at Bakersfield, Calif., and reset the west coast time record to 6.89-seconds.

"Kawasaki has been supporting professional drag racers for many years," said John Hoover, KMC Director, Product Management, Motorcycle Division. "We've watched the AMA/Prostar series grow and decided it was time to go to the next level of having a full team on the complete circuit."

Gadson and Rice work out of the Team Muzzy/Kawasaki Drag Racing transporter that can haul up to eight motorcycles and a workshop to eight Prostar rounds in an all-out assault on three division titles. Gadson, 31 of Sicklerville, NJ, will defend his Pro Superbike Championship aboard a Team Muzzy-prepared Ninja ZX-7R-based Superbike. Gadson earned his 1997 title by winning five of the seven Pro Superbike finals, and setting a new class top speed record of 146.67 mph at the opening round.

"Kawasaki has really stepped up my program for 1998, so I'm confident I can win the title again," said Gadson. "Besides providing me with great motorcycles and transporting them to the races in the Team Muzzy/Kawasaki Drag Racing transporter, I have become much closer to the Kawasaki family at the company headquarters in Irvine, Calif."

Gadson comes from a motorcycling family, his father and brother both accomplished drag racers. His mother rides as well, and at a young age Rickey would wait for her to go to sleep then sneak her bike out of the garage in order to join the local street scene. At first the diminutive teenager was mercilessly teased when he showed up in his mother's leather riding suit with her "Catwoman" moniker emblazoned on the sides, but it wasn't long before he proved himself a competitor to be feared.

Gadson left the street scene behind several years ago for the professional AMA/Prostar circuit, winning the -1991 Pro Comp Challenge World Championship in his rookie year. He was attracted to the near-production rules of the 600cc Super Sport class in 1995, and won the championship the following year. After relinquishing his title in 1997, Gadson will attempt to win it back with Kawasaki's new Ninja ZX-6R this year.

Rice, 43, of Costa Mesa, Calif., has won several championships with various organizations in his 25-year drag racing career, including two Funnybike titles and the 1992 AMA/Prostar Top Fuel crown. He was also the first Funnybike rider to reach 200 mph when he recorded a record-setting run in 1991.

Rice has worked for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., since 1985 in the Technical Services department where he assists Kawasaki dealers with technical support. His job allows him the flexibility to pursue his passion for drag racing and the resources of the company to build his machine.

The past few years Rice has concentrated on building and developing a new Funnybike around the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-11 engine, a powerplant that has proven to provide exceptional quarter-mile and top-speed performance in stock trim. Now that he's got a new chassis matched to handle the power of the ZX-11 engine, Rice is looking forward to adding another championship to his collection in 1998.

"I've spent a couple of years perfecting this new ZX-11 powered machine, and now we're ready to be serious," said Rice. "We're capable of running in the 6.70-second range in excess of 200 mph at each event and with the joint effort with Team Muzzy/Kawasaki Drag Racing I've got the backing it will take to do that."

There's only one reason that Kawasaki is backing AMA/Prostar drag racing in such a big way.

"Kawasaki Ninja motorcycles have a heritage built on high performance," said Hoover, "and our increased involvement with the AMA/Prostar Drag Racing Series will maintain Kawasaki's standing as the performance king."