Will the NHRA be celebrating father-son champions this year?
The NHRA could see both a father and his son win championships – again.
Matt Smith is hoping to stretch his Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead with one more race remaining in the season after this weekend’s Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But this weekend will determine if his father, veteran racer Rickie Smith, can close a 24-point gap and overtake Pro Modified leader Mike Janis for The E3 / J&A Service class crown.
However, Matt Smith hasn’t focused on that. He’s just keeping his nose to the grindstone, helping wife Angie with her improved performance, guiding rookie-of-the-year-candidate clients Mark Paquette and Ron Tornow, and doing his best with his own motorcycle. And a testament to how well he has juggled all those tasks is the fact he has risen to the top with far fewer resources than most of his rivals this year.
“We’re coming in on a high from winning Charlotte. We’ve won two races in the Countdown, been in three finals of the Countdown,” the bike rider said. He also acknowledged that “we spend a lot of time at home fixing motors we’ve hurt. I’ve been doing something stupid in the tune-up department. I’ve got to get back to where I was at in Brainerd and Indy and go back to running fast. I think we have the momentum to win this championship,” he said.
Father Rickie Smith, seeking his fourth NHRA Pro Mod championship, already has enjoyed the spotlight with his son.
In 2013, they won titles in their respective classes, becoming the NHRA’s only father/son duo to win a series championship in the same season.
Earlier that year, in a race at at Norwalk, Ohio, they shared the winners circle.
Matt Smith said it’s a “relief” to have so many responsibilities at the racetrack.
“Mark tunes his own bike. I give him the motor and say, ‘Start with this map and go with it.’ We look at stuff occasionally. He kind of does his own thing. Ron, I totally tune everything. But tuning that bike kind of relieves me, because . . . I look at it like this . . . If I tune my own stuff so much, I second- and third-guess myself. When I have more bikes out here, I seem to do better,” Smith said.
Smith has said he’ll dabble in NHRA Pro Stock racing in 2019. What might be a factor in his decision is that the Pro Stock Motorcycle class is strong right now.
“The class is healthy. It’s going to be tough to get in (qualify),” he said. “Hopefully we can get all our clients in the show and I can do my job and go some rounds and extend this point lead going into Pomona (the California season finale in two weeks).”
Winning his third championship, he said, “would do big deals for us. We’re still looking for that major sponsor to come on board with us. For me not having a sponsor this year . . . I qualified for the first race of the year with somebody else’s stuff. Winning the championship would be very, very big for us.”