Matt Smith Records 25th NHRA Pro Stock MC Victory
Following one of the most dominant performances of his career, Denso EBR’s Matt Smith has put himself in a position to win his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle title. Smith won the Amalie NHRA Gatornationals for his 25th career title and in the process, he took over the series points lead with just four races remaining in the abbreviated season. In the final round, Smith rode to a 6.84 elapsed time to easily defeat his biggest rival, Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson’s Andrew Hines, who trailed with a 6.92. It was the first time in seven final-round meetings that Smith has defeated Hines.
“Right now, we’ve got the points lead and we’ve got a bike that is good enough to stay there and win another championship,” Smith said.
Given the parity that exists in almost all NHRA classes, it’s rare for any racer to have a sizable edge over the rest of the field, but Smith was dominant in Gainesville with a 6.814 in qualifying that was well ahead of second-ranked Angelle Sampey, who rode her Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.858. Hines was sixth in the field with a 6.899.
Smith remained solid throughout Sunday’s final eliminations including a 6.828 in the second round against John Hall’s Suzuki. Smith also logged wins against Kelly Clontz and his own teammate, Strutmasters.com EBR’s Scotty Pollacheck. When Smith defeated Pollacheck in the final four, he assumed the points lead with races remaining in St. Louis, Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas. As an added bonus, Smith also got to share the winner’s circle with his father, Rickie, who won the Pro Mod division in his 250-mph Chevy Camaro.
“This bike has been good all year but there were a couple of times when we didn’t get to show it,” Smith said. “Now, I think everyone can see what we’ve got.”
Hines, looking for a seventh championship, helped his cause by reaching the final even though his bike was clearly off a tick. After defeating Lucas Oil EBR’s Hector Arana Jr. in the opening round, Hines topped his own Harley teammates, Eddie Kraweic and Angelle Sampey, in the next two races. Sampey outran Hines by a tenth of a second, 6.84 to 6.94, but she left a red light at the start.
Smith leaves Gainesville with a slim 21-point lead over Pollacheck and is 28 markers ahead of Hines while Sampey and Krawiec are still very much in the fight, 48 and 64 points back, respectively. ~Kevin McKenna