The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world is dealing with a loss. Veteran racer Shawn Gann passed away May 16. He was 42. Gann competed fulltime in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class from 2000-2015. He won five national events, the last being the 2013 Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.
Gann’s best season was 2003 when he finished third in the points standings with one win, defeating Craig Treble in the finals at Englishtown (N.J.). From 2001-04, his worst finish in the points chase was fifth twice in 2001 and 2002. He was fourth in the points in 2004 with a career-best two national event wins at Denver and Chicago.
Gann also was known for his flamboyant firesuits which included him dressed as Flash Gordon and Batman.
“I was racing against Shawn back in the mid-1990s in what now is Pro Street, so I knew Shawn a long time, and we had a lot of racing fun,” recalled Chip Ellis. “I think one of my biggest memories with Shawn is we were qualifying, and we got in a staging duel. This is a sad deal. I feel for his family. He definitely was a different guy. He for sure had his own thoughts about things, but he was a good guy. Back when I raced 600 Supersport around 1998, he and his dad, Blake helped me with some of my engine stuff. The cool thing about Shawn and Blake’s program is they were doing it all on their own, and Blake is a real smart guy. Shawn will definitely be missed.”
Hector Arana Sr., who competed against Gann during his entire Pro Stock Motorcycle career, was taken back about the news of Gann’s death. “I saw Shawn in March when we were testing in Valdosta (Ga.),” Arana Sr. said. “His spirit was good, and he looked great. He was very positive. I couldn’t believe when I heard the news that he passed away. As a racer, he was one of the top guys, and that’s what guys want to be at the track. He always challenged you. He was a unique character, but when it came to racing him, you could never take him lightly. I give him credit (for his character). I could have never pulled off what he did, but he did. I applaud him for that. He was different and brought different things to the races, but fans loved him.” Like Arana Sr., veteran PSM racer Steve Johnson also saw Gann in Valdosta.
“I got to see and chat with Shawn in Valdosta before the Gatornationals back in March,” Johnson said. “We talked about racing and fatherhood. He was so proud and happy. Shawn had a fantastic spirit within him. In today’s social media world about being unique and posting it, Shawn was miles ahead of that brand. He was a mighty force … without a computer or a weapon. He has an aesthetic style; it was all his own.
“I used to get upset when he would wear a T-shirt to driver intros. His persona and style with the fans, the color of his bike and how he talked were always so unique and non-corporate.”
Johnson did remember one time when Gann’s way of doing things was recognized.
“One of the best descriptions of his brand was rewarded during the Bristol (Tenn.) race,” Johnson said. “Shawn (and his dad) secured a major sponsorship with what many felt like at the time (was) the most prestigious sponsorship in all of racing, Oakley. He was perfect for the brand. His bike got painted and to this day was one of the coolest paint jobs (that conveyed a corporate image) ever in our class. Other racers or teams might’ve been jealous, but in my eyes, he was the only one (besides the great Scotty Cannon) that could convey the efficacy of the Oakley brand.
“Oakley even made a diecast Pro Stock Bike With that super cool paint job, and it sold out. The sunglasses Shawn wore would instantly start selling more.
“Kenny Bernstein seemed to be the perfect racer for Budweiser so in the same sentence Shawn Gann was one of only two that were perfect racers for Oakley.”
Johnson also praised Gann’s talent on a motorcycle.
“Shawn’s unique persona I believe also helped make one of the best riders NHRA PSM has ever seen as well as a wonderful father,” Johnson said. “Personally, I’m grateful to have raced and know him. My most heartfelt condolences to his mom, dad and son. We will all miss Shawn tremendously.
“I just don’t feel many people today, in our sport, really knew how important he was.”
Matt Smith, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, concurred with Johnson.
“Shawn was a one-of-a-kind person,” Smith said. “He had his own style of racing. He did what he wanted to do, and he had his own identity out there.”