MORRISON, CO – July 21, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – After a season filled with hiccups, frustration and some unlucky breaks, two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith is ready to put his best foot forward at this weekend’s 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
Smith’s 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season could quickly be summed up by what transpired at the most recent race in Chicago. Smith qualified No. 1 but suffered a tough break during his first eliminations pass and fell in the first round.
It has led to a lot of unexpected headaches for Smith on his Victory Racing Gunner this season, something he is ready to leave behind in Denver. In fact, Smith isn’t shy about what he believes his team is capable of doing when everything clicks.
“When everything goes right and we don’t have something weird happen, I don’t think anyone can touch us,” said Smith, who is currently ninth in points. “We proved that in Chicago, Charlotte, and Norwalk when we qualified in the top three. We’ve just had the strangest little things happen to us, like the bike not shifting into second gear on race day in Chicago.
“Ultimately, I don’t blame anyone but myself. Even if it’s a part failure, I take the responsibility because at the end of the day it’s me that wins or loses. I’m working on ways to test every part even more vigorously than we already do to make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. No matter what, we will not stop trying.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be broadcast live Sunday on the FOX national broadcast network for the first time in NHRA history.
It is the seventh of 16 races for the Pro Stock Motorcycle stars and the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, an event Smith has won twice, comes at a pivotal time for the 17-time event winner. His bike hasn’t performed to its full potential and not qualifying at two prior events this season proves that. It’s also a nod to the tremendous talent and depth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, but Smith’s impressive career and the glimpses of potential his Gunner has shown at times in 2016 means the best may be yet to come. But performing better during eliminations is a chief priority and Smith is determined to make those improvements this weekend in Denver.
“We just have no luck on Sundays,” Smith said. “Eventually, it’ll change – it has to – and we’ll get this Victory bike to the winner’s circle. Our luck has to change soon, and when it does, we’ll be in the mix with the best of them. That’s how confident I am in this team and this Victory Gunner.”
Performing in Denver with the challenges it presents is never easy but Smith has prior success on his side. He won back-to-back races at Bandimere Speedway in 2007 and 2008, and will be among the top challengers this weekend, along with defending winner and points leader Eddie Krawiec, four-time Denver winner Andrew Hines, who won in Chicago, Jerry Savoie, Angelle Sampey, Hector Arana Jr., Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana and Chip Ellis.
But even with past success racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet, Smith knows the challenges that await him this weekend.
“It’s very different racing up there and it’s a true test of your ability to adapt to unusual conditions, so when you do manage to win a race in Denver, you really feel like you accomplished something,” Smith said. “I’ve done it twice, and I’d really like to do it again this year. I know this Victory Gunner is certainly capable of carrying me to the winner’s circle.”
Succeeding in Denver will have tremendous carryover as well for Smith, who last won a world championship in 2013. His recent strong qualifying performances have given him a spot in the Pro Bike Battle, which takes place next weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
He leads Karen Stoffer by 70 points for the eighth and final spot for the Pro Bike Battle, and Smith will keep his spot in the field unless Stoffer qualifies 12 spots better in Denver.
“Staying ahead of Karen will be the first goal of the weekend and that means we need to be strong right out of the trailer,” Smith said. “After fighting our way into that deal, we sure don’t want to give it back. We will be ready, for sure. I just hope my Denver luck will be there for us this year.”
In Top Fuel, Torrence raced past eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher in the Denver final round last year to claim his first win of the season. Torrence already has two wins in 2016 and will hope for a third to try and track down points leader and reigning world champion Antron Brown, who has three victories this season. Others to watch include J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, who won back-to-back events this season, two-time 2016 winner Brittany Force, Aussie Richie Crampton, Terry McMillen, Doug Kalitta, who has three victories this year, and Clay Millican.
In Funny Car, Beckman claimed his third Denver victory last year by outlasting John Force in the final round and recently sprinted to his first win of 2016 in Chicago. Force and his John Force Racing team have combined for 11 victories at the picturesque dragstrip, including six by Force. But points leader Ron Capps is red-hot with four wins this year. A host of other top competitors include Robert Hight, a three-time Denver winner, Courtney Force, two-time world champ Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, a two-time winner this year, Tommy Johnson Jr. and reigning world champ Del Worsham.
The Pro Stock race at Bandimere Speedway in 2015 featured a major upset as Morgan sprinted past then back-to-back-to-back Mopar Mile-High winner Allen Johnson in the final round. Johnson is a six-time Mopar Mile-High winner and will hope to make his 10th straight final round appearance this year. But the new era of Pro Stock has so far been dominated by Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson. Points leader Line has won seven races while Anderson, the only Pro Stock driver to sweep the Swing, has won six events. Drivers like Bo Butner, two-time and defending world champ Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile are all after their first win of the year.
The Mopar Mile-High Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 23, at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 24.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-664-UWIN (8946) or 303-697-6001. Tickets also are available online at www.bandimere.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver, just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 5,860 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 22-24
FRIDAY, July 22 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:15 and 8 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 23 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 24 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, July 22, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, July 23, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 24, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Larry Morgan, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, 7, PS; Joe Amato, 6, TF; John Force, 6, FC; Allen Johnson, 6, PS; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Matt Hines, 4, PSM
Top Fuel – 3.791 sec. by Larry Dixon, July ’15; 326.95 mph by Brittany Force, July ’15.
Funny Car – 4.015 sec. by John Force July ’15; 318.39 mph by Force, July ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.877 sec. by Allen Johnson, July ’15; 201.01 mph by Shane Gray, July ’15.
PS Motorcycle – 7.169 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, July ’15; 187.96 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (800) 664-UWIN (8946) or purchase online at www.bandimere.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 1,056; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,054; 3. Steve Torrence, 912; 4. Brittany Force, 896; 5. Tony Schumacher, 803; 6. Shawn Langdon, 746; 7. J.R. Todd, 725; 8. (tie) Richie Crampton, 603; Clay Millican, 603; 10. Leah Pritchett, 521.
1. Ron Capps, 1,068; 2. Jack Beckman, 942; 3. Courtney Force, 892; 4. Matt Hagan, 828; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 803; 6. Robert Hight, 799; 7. Del Worsham, 796; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 760; 9. John Force, 699; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 697.
1. Jason Line, 1,472; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,392; 3. Bo Butner, 898; 4. Allen Johnson, 773; 5. Drew Skillman, 717; 6. Vincent Nobile, 666; 7. Shane Gray, 619; 8. Chris McGaha, 610; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 580; 10. Alex Laughlin, 530.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 639; 2. Andrew Hines, 505; 3. Angelle Sampey, 471; 4. Jerry Savoie, 428; 5. Hector Arana, 344; 6. Chip Ellis, 333; 7. LE Tonglet, 289; 8. Steve Johnson, 258; 9. Matt Smith, 235; 10. Michael Ray, 228.