SONOMA, CA – July 16, 2019 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – Matt Smith wrapped up his third career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship with a record-breaking performance on the final day of the 2018 season in Pomona. But the Pro Stock Motorcycle standout fully believes that championship run was set in motion thanks to his impressive performance at Sonoma Raceway.
Smith won the Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle as part of the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, which takes places at Sonoma Raceway, July 26-28. The victory over Eddie Krawiec in the final of the bike battle on Smith’s Denson/Stockseth/MSR EBR netted him $25,000 and provided a huge boost of momentum as he prepared for his title chase. Returning to the facility in the heart of Northern California’s wine country fourth in points, Smith is after a similar spark in 2019.
“It assured us we could really go after that championship last year,” Smith said. “To me, when we beat (Krawiec), it really showed us we could race for a championship and have a chance to win it. Last year was the first time anyone on my team won the bike battle, and it was just great to finally win it. We really appreciate Mickey Thompson doing this for the class. It’s been a good journey and a good fit for the class. So to get that win, it was pretty awesome. If you do well at Sonoma, you know you’re in a good spot come Indy.”
Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 28. It is the ninth of 16 races during the 2019 Pro Stock Motorcycle season, and marks one of the most important weekends of the year for the riders in the talented category.
The class takes center stage in Sonoma with the Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle, a special race-within-a-race on Saturday featuring eight top riders. The field will be set after this weekend’s race in Denver, but Smith has already secured his spot. He’ll try to win the all-star race for a second time, relying on engine that went a record 201.76 mph in Gainesville this year, keyed his bike battle victory a season ago and also led to his record-breaking performance to clinch the title.
“All of our new motors are pretty good, but we have one that just stands out,” said Smith, who has 23 career wins. “That’s the one we ran at the end of last year, and we ran it again at Gainesville and broke the (speed) record again. I put it back in at Chicago and won that race. It’s going back in the bike in Sonoma, and I think it’s going to be fast, so we feel good about it.”
Smith will have to face off against the likes of Krawiec, points leader Andrew Hines, who has an impressive five wins in 2019, Hector Arana Jr. and Angelle Sampey, but the veteran feels confident about the way the three-bike team of his wife, Angie, and Scotty Pollacheck has come on. Angie still has a shot to advance into the bike battle with a strong showing in Denver, while Matt, who won earlier this season in Chicago, believes things are coming together at the right time.
“Sonoma has always been a big bike race and I think we’re in a great spot,” Smith said. “Angie ran really well at Norwalk, and we finally got Scotty’s bike to perform like it should. We qualified all the bikes in the top seven and everyone won in the first round, and I think we’re right where we need to be. With the way the Countdown is, you’ve got to be good at the end of the year.”
Top Fuel defending world champ Steve Torrence is again on a dominant pace, posting seven wins in the last eight races against stars like Antron Brown, Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta.
Funny Car’s Hight will look to strengthen his points lead with another Sonoma victory, but he’ll face off against the likes of defending world champ J.R. Todd, Matt Hagan and John Force.
Three-time Sonoma winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. aims to add another in Pro Stock against points leader Bo Butner, and 2019 season winners Chris McGaha and Deric Kramer.
The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock Motorcycle school at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, as well as Nitro School to learn how the cars and motorcycles operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Sonoma Raceway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their NHRA Sonoma Nationals victories.
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 3:15 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 27 at 1:20 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.
The first round of the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m. with the finals slated for 5:30 p.m.
To purchase tickets, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. First responders save 50% on adult reserved or general admission tickets on Saturday only. For more information 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