Racing at his home track, zMax Dragway, Matt Smith used the NHRA Carolina Nationals as a chance to make up for past mistakes and put himself back in a position to win the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. Smith took over the lead with his win in the St. Louis round last month and then quickly surrendered it with an early loss at the next round in Dallas. He quickly righted the ship with his third win of the season and is, once again, atop the standings heading into the penultimate round in Las Vegas.
Matt Smith Wins In North Carolina
Smith rode his EBR-bodied V-twin to a 6.830 elapsed time in the final round to win the race after Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson’s Chip Ellis let the clutch out too soon and red-lighted. Smith also rode to wins against Karen Stoffer, Scotty Pollacheck, and Liberty Buell’s Angelle Sampey en route to his 21st career victory.
“We did exactly what we needed to do,” Smith said. “It’s pretty big when you look at the Pro Stock Motorcycle points and see that in the last three races there has been an upset where the [incoming] leader has lost first round. It happened to me in Dallas. I lost because I raced scared. I didn’t do my job, but I did it here. I left the starting line first against everyone I raced, and you can’t ask for more than that. I didn’t have the best bike today, but I was happy with the way I rode.”
Smith appeared to have a smooth path to the final but back in his pit area, it was anything but. He was forced to change engines after his first-round win, and barley made it to the starting line in time to face Pollacheck.
“For the most part, the bike worked great but we hurt that engine,” Smith said. “It lost oil pressure and we got it done just in time to get up there. We didn’t even crank it up to check the timing or anything. I went up there blind but it ran well and that’s a testament to my crew, and their ability to get it done.
“We also had to deal with a little wind this weekend,” Smith said. “If you were in the right lane, when you got down there near the finish line the wind wanted to push you over towards the wall. In the final against Chip, I pointed the bike towards the centerline and just let the wind push me back into the center of the lane. That worked. I thought I saw his red-light when I left the starting line and after I made my first three shifts I looked up and saw my scoreboard was lit up. That was a big relief.”
The points battle underwent a major shake-up after Nitro Fish Suzuki’s LE Tonglet, the incoming points leader, suffered a rare loss in the first round against Sampey. Lucas Oil Buell’s Hector Arana Jr., the winner of the first Countdown event in Reading, also lost early. The shake-up continued in the quarter final round when Sampey took out championship contender Eddie Krawiec. That opened the door for Smith to re-claim the lead.
“I didn’t see myself taking the lead coming out of here,” Smith said. “I thought I could get to the final but I’d probably have to race LE or Eddie and maybe I’d pick up a round on them. This was a gift. I said at the start that if we can win three races during the Countdown we could win the championship and we’re probably going to have to do just that. Now we need to go to Las Vegas and make sure we don’t make any mistakes.”
Ellis, who joined the Vance & Hines team as a third rider for select events during the playoff phase of the season, was the No. 2 qualifier with a 6.806 and then rode to the final with wins over Yellow Corn Buell’s Joey Gladstone, Denso Buell’s Angie Smith, and White Alligator Suzuki’s Jerry Savoie. Ellis last won the Charlotte event in 2016 and now has seven wins in 13 final round appearances.
“I gave it all I had but I was just a little too quick in the final,” Ellis said. “I have a great opportunity to ride this bike for Vance & Hines anddo some development for them but I also want to win races. We had an opportunity to do that this weekend but came up a little short. I would like to have helped one of my teammates in the points but we’ll just have to try again in two weeks in Las Vegas.”
2018 NHRA PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE CHAMPIONSHIP
Concord, North Carolina
RESULTS: October 12-14, 2018
1. Matt Smith (EBR)
2. Chip Ellis (H-D)
Click here for complete results