What started out as a trip to buy a jet ski turned into much bigger for Prairie Home’s Gabe Frederick.
Although Frederick admitted he wanted something to go fast, little did he know that his version of fast would turn out to be a motorcycle, a racing one at that.
As it turns out, Frederick made the right choice as he currently ranks eighth on the GOAT list (Greatest of All-Time) with a time of 6.82 seconds at 212.93 miles per hour.
At 6’-4”, 185, Frederick may also be the tallest in motorcycle drag racing. A 2004 graduate of Prairie Home High School, Frederick said he started his career in racing 7-8 years with a gentlemen that owns Superstar Cycle Center in Independence. The rest was history as Frederick now competes in one of the fastest classes that runs at the motorcycle events.
Frederick said he got hooked after making a trip to the track once or twice.
“I just liked it and it progressed from there,” Frederick said. “The machine I am on now is strictly a drag race motorcycle. It’s not ridden on the street anymore.’
The bike that Frederick currently races is a turbo Suzuki Hayabusa.
Of course racing doesn’t come cheap. Frederick said a start up bike can cost you anywhere from $60,000 to $65,000 while a backup engine can cost up to $10,000.
“I am pretty much self-funded so I do all the work myself,” Frederick said. “I do have a couple of sponsors that help me out such as Penske Shocks and Superstar Cycle but for the most part I would say 95 percent of the funding comes from me. A lot of the guys have their bikes built and tuned up by somebody else. I do that all myself. I build my own motors, I tune the bike myself and of course I race it myself. It’s all me.”
Frederick also puts in countless hours perfecting his craft. In addition to working 40-60 hours a week at his current job for a mobile imaging company called Share Medical Services, where he travels from hospital to hospital doing PET scans for cancer, Frederick said during the race season, which runs from March to November, he will spend on average up to 40 hours in his shop.
Of course racing also has its benefits. Although Frederick said it’s just a hobby for him, he said a drag racer can get anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 at a race.
Frederick found that out firsthand by winning the NHDRO Schwartz and Schwartz Nationals on June 9-11 at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
Needless to say there have been other wins for Frederick. He said his first win in drag racing came in Kansas City in what they call brackets racing, which is kind of an equalizer for everybody.
“You just tell the track officials what time you are going to run a quarter mile and then you try to get as close to that time without going faster than that,” Frederick said, “so you are really racing yourself. That was probably back in 2008-09. However my first win with this newer bike was my very first year on the last race of the year. It was actually a big race in Valdosta, Georgia and I ran one of the fast guys that year and got lucky enough.
“He had problems on the final run and I got lucky enough. He had problems on the final run and I was running pretty well that race. Back then everybody was going low 7 seconds in the quarter mile at like 205-210 mph. Now it’s progressed to where I am running low 6.80s and 212-213 but there are some guys in the field who did 6.60s at 225 mph.”
With roughly 50 drag racers in the United States running in his class, Frederick said anyone who runs faster than 7.99 in a quarter mile is on the GOAT list.
Of course there are also rules to racing, Frederick said. He said in his class there are no wheelie bars. But at the same time, he said it pretty much any power you want.
“We are required to run on a DOT street tire, which is made by a company just to be ridden on the street,” Frederick said. “It’s something that people can go and actually relate with, whereas, if you go to a NHRA race you see these pro stock bikes and they have this really long wheelie bar and all the crazy stuff. They are cool to watch and go fast but you can’t relate with them at all. They are just a purpose built machine, which these are to, but they still have a factory like appearance.”
During his last race in St. Louis, Frederick said he went through four rounds of competition to win that race. However, he said you could also lose in the first round and then have a 950 mile trip back home.
He recalled one race in Maryland, where the field consisted of 40 bikers. Although he qualified in the top 10 and got some of his money back, he ended up going out in the second round.
“Once you lose, you are done,” Frederick said. “You get to pack up and come on home. On a normal race weekend I will test all day on Friday, where you might get 2-3 maybe four runs in. Then, on Saturday, that day is always qualifying round to get where you are set up on the ladder. Meanwhile, on Sunday, that’s your elimination round.”
As for the pit crew, Frederick said it’s mainly his dad, Ed, but he will also have some friends and his wife, Jess, go from time to time.
“My dad helps me a lot,” Frederick said, “and when he can’t go my wife helps me. I usually have to get someone to go with me every time because I need somebody to help me with different stuff while I am there. These bikes are radical. I took the coolant system totally off mine so it has to be pushed back from the other end of the track after every race on a scooter. It gets started, I do burn out and then make the pass and it gets shut off until it’s started again for the next run. The reason I took the coolant system off was to drop weight. The lighter you are the faster you are.”
In motorcycle drag racing, faster is always better. While these particular motors were designed to make 160 horsepower, Frederick said at this point there are some bikes that are pushing closer to 700 horsepower with a turbo.
“It’s just being pushed so hard,” Frederick said.
In motorcycle drag racing, equipment also matters. Frederick said he will wear full leathers suit from the neck all the way down to the ankle along with boots, helmet and leather gloves.
And while accidents do happen, Frederick said he would rather wreck at the track than on the street. He said at the track there are EMTs right there and there are no guardrails but instead concrete barriers and nothing inbetween.
“If you go down you are just going to slide and maybe tumble some but there is nothing that you are going to hit that is going to make you stop like that, which is what really would hurt you badly. I have never had a wreck personally but I got close once. I started fishtailing on the track and luckily got it slowed down enough.”
While racing down the track at 200-plus mph, Frederick said you get beat up and are worn out after a weekend of racing.
“When you let that lever go at the starting line it pulls 2.5g (g-force) so it really throws you back and you can tell after a weekend of racing,” Frederick said. “I am not as young as I used to be. It’s hard to jump on one of those things and just go up there and take off. People just can’t understand how fast they are. Everything happens so fast.
“In a quarter mile I will shift the bike five times in 6.82 seconds so in the very front half of the track it’s getting shifted every three quarters of a second. There is a lot of stuff going on all at once. You are trying to shift the bike and steer it at the same time, and then if it wheelies you have to get it down. You also have to make sure you are not going towards the other lane.”
With a entry fee of $200 each race, Frederick said it’s not something that makes him money. However with the two sponsors, he said it helps with parts more than anything.
Frederick said motorcycle drag racing is also not a spectator sport. He said you might get 500 people at a race but that doesn’t mean there are not a lot of people following motorcycle drag racing.
“People just dont’ follow motorcycle drag racing like they do with cars,” Frederick said. “However with the digital age, there are always live feeds. People take notice of that stuff.”
So why is Frederick still racing?
He said he likes going fast down the track and that it’s a sport where he won’t get a ticket. He also likes keeping the throttled pinned.
Frederick said he has also reached his ultimate goal when it comes to motorcycle drag racing. He said when he built the bike he wanted to run 6.90s and he did that two years ago at the end of the season.
“Last year I did it at the beginning of the season and then I struggled a lot to stay in that time frame,” Frederick said. “Then towards the end of the season I started coming back around again and then I made some changes over the winter and it came out and ran in the low 6.80s. My goal for right now is to run 6.70s but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
Although Frederick said he is not superstitious when it comes to racing, he said consistency is key. He said he doesn’t like to get out of rhythm.
“Again, this is just a hobby to me,” Frederick said. “I am considering this to be my most successful year. I am running the fastest numbers that I have ever ran and I am hurting less parts this year than I have previously. I have run three races this year and out of those three I have gone to the finals. I got second in my first race against the fastest guy in the sport right now. My second race I lost to the same guy in the semifinals, and the third I won.”
Frederick also has the support of his family. While his wife and dad are his main pit crew, Frederick said his mom doesn’t care for it much. Although she has been to two races, he said she can hardly watch because she just gets nervous.
“These are just blue collar guys going out there on the weekends,” Frederick said. “They all have jobs and some even own their own shops. They are not professionals by any means and they are not guys sponsored by big money companies.”
Although going fast is one of the reasons Frederick likes the sport of motorcycle drag racing, he said he is doing it as a personal goal to better himself on that GOAT list.
“I just want to go fast like Ricky Bobby on Talladega Nights,” Frederick said of the racing movie.
Frederick takes motorcycle drag racing to another level
What started out as a trip to buy a jet ski turned into much bigger for Prairie Home’s Gabe Frederick.