ENNIS, TX – October 4, 2018 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Matt Smith already has a blueprint for success to win a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title, and things are going according to plan for the two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion heading into this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
Smith has advanced to the final round of the first two playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championshps, winning in St. Louis and grabbing the points lead on his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR. It’s a strong start as Smith seeks a third championship in a talent-heavy class, but there is still plenty of work to do, at least according to what the veteran believes will be necessary to clinch another world title.
“I really think if somebody can win three races in the Countdown they’ll probably win the championship unless something crazy happens in the other races,” said Smith, who has 20 career victories. “Right now, we’re on par with what we did in 2013 and if we can keep going to final rounds and I keep doing my job, we’ll be fine. All in all, we’ve gone to two finals. In 2013, I went to (four) finals of the six races we ran and won the championship.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and FOX Sports 2 (FS2), including live final eliminations coverage on FS2 starting at 12:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It marks the halfway point of the six-race Countdown to the Championship and is also the 13th of 16 races during the Pro Stock Motorcycle season.
Ever since debuting the bike Smith affectionately calls the “Red Rocket,” he has been on an impressive tear. It debuted in Brainerd at the penultimate race of the regular season, starting a string of three straight No. 1 qualifiers. That included the playoff opener in Reading, where Smith advanced to the final round to jump to third in points. A final-round win against LE Tonglet in St. Louis gave Smith the points lead, one he hopes to hang onto for the next four races.
“When we left Gainesville (to open 2018) we were 17th in points and our goal was just try to get to the top 10 if we could,” Smith said. “When this thing debuted in Brainerd, she is hateful. It helps to find a little power, and we found power, too, and we should be good the rest of the year. That’s my goal right now, just keep going to finals, keep putting together round wins and collecting points.”
Smith, who has two wins and three final-round appearances in 2018, currently holds a slim 21-point lead on Tonglet and 41-point advantage on defending world champ and event winner Eddie Krawiec, meaning there is still plenty to be decided over the next four races. A first career victory in Dallas would keep Smith’s momentum going, but he’ll also have to deal with the likes of Hector Arana Jr. and Andrew Hines, who are both less than 65 points behind Smith.
“I told people after Indy we’re going into the Countdown strong,” Smith said. “They knew we’re here and I made the comment then that we can win three of the six races in the Countdown and run for this championship. We’ve dug down and worked on these motors. We’re going to do our best, try to stay focused and try to do our job. As long as we don’t have any parts failures, we’ll be good.”
Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence will look for his third straight win to start the Countdown to the Championship against the likes of Brittany Force, Clay Millican, and Tony Schumacher.
Defending Funny Car world champ Hight looks for a repeat win in Dallas to keep his points lead over J.R. Todd, who won the playoff opener, Ron Capps, and Courtney Force.
Defending Pro Stock winner Jason Line is still after his first win of 2018, something he’ll go for against points leader Tanner Gray, playoff opener winner Vincent Nobile, and Greg Anderson.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals will also feature thrilling competition in E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which makes its 10th of 12 stops in 2018, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which showcases the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, fans can also watch the spectacular Lone Star Lightning Jet Dragster & the El Arabe Jet Car. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals include Shirley Muldowney, Richard Tharp and Billy Meyer.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:15 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 1:15 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-668-6775. Tickets also are available online at www.texasmotorplex.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association