Legendary motorsports announcer Bill Stephens, who can currently be seen on Mecum Auctions broadcasts and who also worked as a NHRA pit reporter for many years, shared his memories of a NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle great gone way too soon, John Myers.
I began covering the NHRA as an on-camera reporter and studio host in 1997. It was a dream come true for me having grown up as a devoted fan of drag racing in the New England area for practically my entire life.
Working alongside such Diamond P Sports veterans as Dave McLelland, Steve Evans, and Bob Frey was almost too good to be true and I look back on those years with great satisfaction and a real feeling of achievement.
But my first year on the NHRA tour presented to me a rather steep learning curve. There was much to absorb about the people, the hardware, the rules and regulations, and the inner workings of NHRA Championship Drag Racing.
Especially within the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, mainly because I had NEVER been a motorcycle enthusiast and had never even been on one—ever! So, I needed to take a deep dive into all things PSM and I began my formal education at the 1997 Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL—the first NHRA national event on that year’s schedule where the bikes were featured.
I knew there were several racers in the category that I would absolutely have to introduce myself to and the list that I came up with included the incomparable Dave Schultz, the irrepressible Steve Johnson, and the Alpha Male at George Bryce’s Star Racing operation, John Myers.
All three of these men gave me a gracious welcome and in some ways seemed flattered that someone from the TV talent team was paying them a visit since most of the drag racing media’s attention at that time (and frankly, even at present) was directed at the nitro categories and the Pro Stock class.
I practically received a college education in motorcycle drag racing that weekend thanks to Dave, Steve, and John and the thing I remember most about John Myers was his rather understated demeanor and genuine good nature—someone who made a real neophyte like me feel as if I was “one of the guys”.
There was a real contrast between the fervently competitive drag racer who was clearly the biggest threat to Dave Shultz’s remarkable dominance and the soft-spoken, humble gentleman whose quick smile and courteous humility could make anyone feel comfortable.
John’s three World Championships in the NHRA and three titles in the AMA Prostar Series are all the proof you need to understand just how exceptional a racer he was.
His unforgettable head-to-head skirmishes with Dave Schultz became the main event at any race where the bikes competed and although there was great respect exchanged between them, there was also a seething rivalry that helped to make new fans of the two-wheeled class and keep existing fans hungry for their next confrontation.
Schultz vs Myers was as heated a matchup as Ali vs Frazier.
It is a most bitter irony that John Myers fulfilled his entire drag racing career with nary a scratch yet lost his life under the most mundane circumstances on an Alabama backroad in August of 1998 while on a leisurely cruise aboard his street bike accompanied by a group of his friends including Steve Johnson. As Steve would tell me shortly after John’s passing, the accident didn’t at first look life-threatening and that he and John spoke while awaiting medical help. But John’s internal injuries were more severe than what his friends had surmised, much more.
Because of how unexpected the circumstances unfolded, whoever said “Life can be cruel” could never be accused of exaggeration.
Six professional drag racing titles, 33 NHRA national event wins, as exemplary a legacy that any professional racer would gladly take pride in, and yet, my most vivid memories of John Myers bring me back to Gainesville, Florida in the Spring of 1997 when a youthful, red-headed motorcycle champion extended his hand, smiled, and said to me, “Hi Bill, nice to meet you. What would you like to know?”
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