The following is from Don Schumacher Racing…
Matt Smith, who will ride the Nitro Fish Ultimate Gear Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle for Don Schumacher Racing this season in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, is eager to get started this weekend at the class’s season opener at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida Gainesville Raceway is the site of his initial appearance in the PSM class in 2004.
Smith’s first opportunity to ride the new Suzuki comes today in Valdosta, Ga., where he is testing the bike for the first time in preparation for the Gatornationals. Testing won’t stop there. “We’ll probably use this first race kind of as another test to help get the team to jell together,” said the 2007 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. “We have the Countdown now, so every race is not as critical as it used to be in the old format, with the points now being reset for the last six races.
“Our main goal is to try to focus and work as a team, win races and hopefully the championship.”
While the three other NHRA pro classes prepare for their third national event of the season, the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders have been anticipating and preparing for their first of 17.
“I’ve just been keeping my head focused on racing,” said Smith of his off season. “I’ve been working on Angie’s (his fiancee and fellow PSM rider McBride) bike at my shop and I go to the gym every now and then. Going to the gym and working on other bikes keeps me in the frame of mind that this is my living and this is what I want to do, so I have to do the best I can.
“Don Schumacher basically wanted me to be a fly-in and fly-out rider,” added Smith, who has not made the move from King, N.C., to Brownsburg, Ind., where DSR is located. “I guess the biggest reason is I’m 10 hours from the shop and I have a 12-year-old son I take care of.”
He has, however, provided and will continue to provide valuable input to the team’s efforts. “I went up to the DSR shop one time and Steve (Tartaglia, crew chief) and I looked at clutch readings and the computer data from last year. I gave him some input on what I thought was the direction we needed to go toward, and I think we’re going to try some of those things testing today or Tuesday.
“I can give a lot of feedback by just riding the bike,” added Smith. “Before we even get back to the trailer after a run, 95 percent of the time I can tell Steve what the bike did going down the race track without even looking at the computer. Sometimes the computer doesn’t even show what the bike does. As a rider I can feel it, so I think that’s where I’ll really be able to help Steve.”
How is he adjusting to being a hired rider after running his own team the last few years? “It’s kind of hard,” he admitted, “but I’ll be fine. I’m just like Don and everyone else in this sport. That’s why I formed my own team two years ago. I wanted to win. And the only way I saw that I could win, with where I was going, was to have my own stuff. And we did that. We won eight races in two years and the championship.
“I’m hoping that I can bring to the DSR table my ability to be a good, consistent rider, win a lot of races and have a chance to win DSR its first Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.
“Gainesville is one of our biggest races of the year,” added Smith. “I know it’s our first race of the season, but that’s one of the races in my book that I would love to win. I’ve won Indy, I’ve won a lot of the other big races, but Gainesville is probably THE biggest race I haven’t won yet. I would like to win Gainesville because that place means a lot to me.”