HomeSanctionsNHRANHRA: Motorcycle Finals from Pomona - Smith and Markham Champs

NHRA: Motorcycle Finals from Pomona – Smith and Markham Champs

NHRA Mello Yellow drag racing series
Auto Club NHRA Finals
Pomona Raceway
November 08-11, 2018


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Matt Smith earns 2018 Pro Stock Motorcycle championship with Auto Club NHRA Finals victory

Matt Smith defeated Eddie Krawiec in the final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals to become the 2018 Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion. As if beating Krawiec down the track wasn’t enough, Smith also set a speed record in the two-wheel category by going 201.65 mph on his Elite Performance EBR.

“This is absolutely amazing, I honestly can’t believe it,” said Smith. “I have so many people to thank right now. Honestly this is still surreal for me.”

Smith started the season at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals driving someone else’s motorcycle –- a partnership that ended in not-so-spectacular fashion. From there, he managed to use his partnership with Mark Stockseth to hook up with Elite Performance and eventually get his hands on an EBR body.

He used that superior piece of aerodynamics to his advantage, eventually surging towards the top of the leaderboard. Smith entered the Countdown to the Championship in the No. 6 position, leaving him with work to do in the playoffs. Smith got right after it -– reaching the final round at the Dodge NHRA Nationals and then winning the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals a week later.

Smith went on to win three times during the Countdown to go along with his one regular-season victory. He now has 22 career victories in 243 starts. His meeting with Krawiec in the final round was his first in regular NHRA competition in 2018. The two met up during the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle in Sonoma, and Smith got the better of that matchup, too.

Smith had to beat three former champions: Hector Arana Sr., LE Tonglet and then Krawiec, to collect his third championship. He defeated his wife, Angie Smith, in the first round of competition, after qualifying No. 1 for the fifth time this season.

Angie Smith knew she wasn’t going to run against husband Matt, so she did an awesome burnout

Eliminations Round 1: There are still four riders in contention for the championship after the first round of competition, including Eddie Krawiec. He made the quickest pass of the session (6.802) and will take on Jerry Savoie in a battle of the 2017 and 2016 champs. Matt Smith got what was effectively a solo round when Angie Smith didn’t take the tree after performing a massive burnout. That worked out for Matt, because his bike hit the rev limiter at about half track. Hector Arana Jr. and LE Tonglet both advanced to the second round, keeping their slim title hopes alive.

Eliminations Round 2: Matt Smith eliminated Hector Arana Jr. and LE Tonglet in one fell swoop by defeating Hector Arana Sr. in the second stanza of action. The championship battle will continue to the semifinals, though, because Eddie Krawiec got past 2016 champion Jerry Savoie by nearly a tenth of a second. That sets up a big-time showdown in the semi’s as Smith will battle Tonglet and Krawiec will take on Arana with Krawiec needing to advance to keep his championship hopes alive. Smith just needs Krawiec to lose to clinch his third title.

Eliminations Round 3: We’re getting a winner-take-all final in the two-wheel category. Matt Smith dominated LE Tonglet with another 200-mph run and secured lane choice over Eddie Krawiec. The Harley-Davidson rider dispatched Hector Arana Jr. to give himself a chance at back-to-back Pro Stock Motorcycle championships. He’s giving up nearly a tenth of a second to Smith entering the final round of competition, so he’ll have his work cut out for him chasing down the No. 1 qualifier.

Eliminations Round 4: Matt Smith, near lane, made the fastest run in Pro Stock Motorcycle history (201.22 mph) to earn his third Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series title. Smith left at the same time as Eddie Krawiec, pulled a better 60-foot time and then pulled away to bring home a title for Elite Performance. It’s his first title since 2013.

Eliminations Round 1
WINJerry SavoieWIN0.0851.0452.8344.358160.255.6926.837193.99
Joey Gladstone-0.0231.1032.934.486156.925.8487.014192.06
12:25 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 74 degrees, relative humidity 21 percent, barometer 28.91 inches, adjusted altitude 2,492 feet, track temperature 101 degrees. Savoie is 2 - 0 against Gladstone in prior events. Gladstone goes red and gives the easy win to Savoie. Jerry Savoie's incremental times: 60ft-1.045 sec., 330ft-2.834, 660ft-4.358/160.25 mph, 1,000ft-5.692. Joey Gladstone's incremental times: 60ft-1.103 sec., 330ft-2.930, 660ft-4.486/156.92 mph, 1,000ft-5.848.
WINHector AranaWIN0.0251.0932.8964.418161.055.7436.877197.45
Chip Ellis-0.0551.0632.8474.37161.175.6966.829197.31
Arana is 6 - 4 against Ellis in prior events. Ellis goes red this time and Arana makes another strong pass for the easy win. Hector Arana's incremental times: 60ft-1.093 sec., 330ft-2.896, 660ft-4.418/161.05 mph, 1,000ft-5.743. Chip Ellis' incremental times: 60ft-1.063 sec., 330ft-2.847, 660ft-4.370/161.17 mph, 1,000ft-5.696.
WINAngelle SampeyWIN0.0471.0752.8654.389160.595.7226.865195.87
Scotty Pollacheck0.031.0592.8554.394158.85.7416.892194.27
Pollacheck is 4 - 2 against Sampey in prior events. Angelle Sampey's 2 wins here came in 2001 & 2004 and her runner-up finishes were in 2003 & 2016. This is the 105th start for Scotty Pollacheck. He has a career 46% round win record with 55% in round one. Pollacheck gets the advantage at the green, but Sampey just gets by at the 1000 foot lights for the win. Angelle Sampey's incremental margins (negative if behind): 60ft(-0.033), 330 ft(-0.027), 660ft(-0.012), 1,000ft(0.002). MOV: 0.0104 seconds (approximately 3 feet). Angelle Sampey's incremental times: 60ft-1.075 sec., 330ft-2.865, 660ft-4.389/160.59 mph, 1,000ft-5.722. Scotty Pollacheck's incremental times: 60ft-1.059 sec., 330ft-2.855, 660ft-4.394/158.80 mph, 1,000ft-5.741.
WINLE TongletWIN0.061.072.8664.383161.425.7096.846196.62
Ryan Oehler0.0211.0862.8894.428158.865.7746.927194.46
Tonglet is 1 - 0 against Oehler in prior events. Tonglet starts eliminations with a 61 point gap to make up in the Chase. He is making his 293rd round of racing today and has a career 62% win record. He has 64% advantage in round one parings. Oehler is making his sixteenth first round appearance and has won twice. Big starting line advantage for Oehler, but the bike doesn't have the power to match and Tonglet is on by before half track for the win. LE Tonglet's incremental margins (negative if behind): 60ft(-0.023), 330 ft(-0.016), 660ft(0.006), 1,000ft(0.026). MOV: 0.0427 seconds (approximately 12 feet). LE Tonglet's incremental times: 60ft-1.070 sec., 330ft-2.866, 660ft-4.383/161.42 mph, 1,000ft-5.709. Ryan Oehler's incremental times: 60ft-1.086 sec., 330ft-2.889, 660ft-4.428/158.86 mph, 1,000ft-5.774.
WINAndrew HinesWIN0.0531.0672.8464.364161.55.6886.822197.13
Steve Johnson0.0551.0672.9184.465158.395.8166.976192.36
Hines is 30 - 7 against Johnson in prior events. Andrew Hines is the defending event champion. He also won here in 2011 & 2012. Johnson is making his 632nd round of racing and has an overall 38% win record. He is 41% in the first round. Just 0.002 difference in RTs and Hines pulls steadily ahead for the win. He will have lane choice over Tonglet next round. Andrew Hines' incremental times: 60ft-1.067 sec., 330ft-2.846, 660ft-4.364/161.50 mph, 1,000ft-5.688. Steve Johnson's incremental times: 60ft-1.067 sec., 330ft-2.918, 660ft-4.465/158.39 mph, 1,000ft-5.816.
WINHector Arana JrWIN0.0291.0552.8464.363161.465.6916.827197.28
Freddie Camarena0.121.1082.9464.503156.835.8657.029192.77
Arana Jr is 4 - 0 against Camarena in prior events. Hector Arana Jr. was the 2014 winner at this race. His win in Las Vegas was his 14th and that ties him with Craig Treble for 10th place on the motorcycle win list. When he won in Vegas he became the first PSM rider to "sweep" an event this year, i.e., he qualified #1, set low elapsed time, top speed and won the race. He comes into the day just 64 points behind Smith in the Championship race. Freddie Camarena is making his 54th start. Camarena is dead late and give the easy win to a charging Arana. He keeps lane choice over Sampey next round. Hector Arana Jr's incremental times: 60ft-1.055 sec., 330ft-2.846, 660ft-4.363/161.46 mph, 1,000ft-5.691.
WINEddie KrawiecWIN0.0221.0642.844.351161.815.6716.802197.54
Karen Stoffer0.0151.0552.8614.417157.415.7756.937192.66
Krawiec is 21 - 8 against Stoffer in prior events. Eddie Krawiec's 4 wins are the most for any active motorcycle driver at this event. He also has been runner-up 5 times. He is 10 -2 in round 1 here and has an 85% record in all round one parings. This is the 213th start for Karen Stoffer and here 16th from the #14 spot. She is 2 -13 in round 1 when after qualifying 14th. She has already been in 323 rounds of racing with a 45% win record. She is almost 50% in round one races. Stoffer gets away first and stays out there until right before the 330lights. Krawiec rides on by for a big win. He will have lane choice over Savoie in round two. Eddie Krawiec's incremental times: 60ft-1.064 sec., 330ft-2.840, 660ft-4.351/161.81 mph, 1,000ft-5.671.
WINMatt SmithWIN0.0491.0632.8574.587128.386.478.367111.8
Angie Smith----------------
M. Smith is 10 - 4 against A. Smith in prior events. Matt Smith is already having a good day, as he celebrates his 36th birthday! He won the "Finals" in 2016 & 2007. This is his 31st #1 spot. He hasn't won a race from the top spot in his last 13 tries. The top qualifier in the bike class is 29 -2 in round 1 at this event. In qualifying this weekend, he captured the new Pro Stock Bike Speed record with a stellar 201.10 MPH pass. This is the 16th time that Angie Smith has qualified 16th. She is 3 - 12 in round wins, when after qualifying 16th. This will be her 196th round of racing. What was going to be a husband and wife shootout, ens before the green, as Angie bike dies and will not restart. Matt was a sitting duck, as the engine sky rockets at the shift and goes up hard on the rev limiter! He will give up lane choice toArana next round.
Eliminations Round 2
WINMatt SmithWIN0.0321.0572.854.363162.375.6766.795200.29
Hector Arana0.0491.0642.8624.391159.895.7266.869195.22
1:50 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 75 degrees, relative humidity 18 percent, barometer 28.89 inches, adjusted altitude 2,558 feet, track temperature 101 degrees. Smith is 19 - 10 against Arana in prior events. THe reason for Smith's problem in round one one was the air line for the shifter broke. No other damage. He gets away first and runs another 200 MPH pass for easy win. The sixth fastest ever. A strong pass for Arana to no avail. Hector Arana's incremental times: 60ft-1.064 sec., 330ft-2.862, 660ft-4.391/159.89 mph, 1,000ft-5.726. Matt Smith's incremental times: 60ft-1.057 sec., 330ft-2.850, 660ft-4.363/162.37 mph, 1,000ft-5.676.
WINHector Arana JrWIN0.0251.0962.9144.444159.895.7886.944193.77
Angelle Sampey0.0771.0962.8924.427159.575.7696.921194.52
Arana gets a big starting line advantage and holds off a charging Sampey for the holeshot win. Hector Arana Jr's incremental margins: 60ft(0.052), 330 ft(0.030), 660ft(0.035), 1,000ft(0.033). MOV: 0.0291 seconds (approximately 8 feet). Hector Arana Jr's incremental times: 60ft-1.096 sec., 330ft-2.914, 660ft-4.444/159.89 mph, 1,000ft-5.788. Angelle Sampey's incremental times: 60ft-1.096 sec., 330ft-2.892, 660ft-4.427/159.57 mph, 1,000ft-5.769.
WINLE Tonglet0.021.0682.8664.393160.485.7256.866196.36
Andrew Hines0.0391.0732.8644.389160.545.7196.859196.27
Tonglet is 18 - 13 against Hines in prior events. Tonglet is away first and just holds off a quicker Hines for the close win. He will face Smith next round. LE Tonglet's incremental margins: 60ft(0.024), 330 ft(0.017), 660ft(0.015), 1,000ft(0.013). MOV: 0.0125 seconds (approximately 4 feet). Andrew Hines' incremental times: 60ft-1.073 sec., 330ft-2.864, 660ft-4.389/160.54 mph, 1,000ft-5.719. LE Tonglet's incremental times: 60ft-1.068 sec., 330ft-2.866, 660ft-4.393/160.48 mph, 1,000ft-5.725.
WINEddie KrawiecWIN0.0351.0652.8414.348162.395.6656.793198.2
Jerry Savoie0.0331.0532.8434.378159.45.7216.873194.46
Krawiec is 22 - 7 against Savoie in prior events. Krawiec keeps his championship hopes alive with the win. Savoie is away first and stays there to the 330 lights, where they are dead even. Krawiec starts a steady pull ahead for the win. He has lane choice over Arana Jr. in round three. Eddie Krawiec's incremental margins (negative if behind): 60ft(-0.014), 330 ft(0.000), 660ft(0.028), 1,000ft(0.054). MOV: 0.0780 seconds (approximately 22 feet). Eddie Krawiec's incremental times: 60ft-1.065 sec., 330ft-2.841, 660ft-4.348/162.39 mph, 1,000ft-5.665. Jerry Savoie's incremental times: 60ft-1.053 sec., 330ft-2.843, 660ft-4.378/159.40 mph, 1,000ft-5.721.
Eliminations Round 3
WINMatt SmithWIN0.071.0522.8344.343162.965.6496.766200.02
LE Tonglet0.0661.0612.8574.38159.515.7737.128156.28
2:58 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 77 degrees, relative humidity 16 percent, barometer 28.90 inches, adjusted altitude 2,622 feet, track temperature 100 degrees. Two not so good lights, with Tonglet getting a narrow 0.004 advantage. They run together until near half track, where there is smoke from the engine and he slows. Smith continues to dominate with yet again another 200 plus run that ties for 10th fastest. Matt Smith's incremental margins: 60ft(0.005), 330 ft(0.019), 660ft(0.033), 1,000ft(0.120). MOV: 0.3587 seconds (approximately 82 feet). Matt Smith's incremental times: 60ft-1.052 sec., 330ft-2.834, 660ft-4.343/162.96 mph, 1,000ft-5.649.
WINEddie KrawiecWIN0.0261.0832.8724.398160.825.7266.862197.22
Hector Arana Jr0.0361.082.8944.433158.915.7766.919196.22
Krawiec is 16 - 9 against Arana Jr in prior events. Krawiec is away first and slowly pulls steadily ahead to take the decisive win over a strong Arana. He will give up lane choice to Smith in the final round later. Eddie Krawiec's incremental times: 60ft-1.083 sec., 330ft-2.872, 660ft-4.398/160.82 mph, 1,000ft-5.726. Hector Arana Jr's incremental times: 60ft-1.080 sec., 330ft-2.894, 660ft-4.433/158.91 mph, 1,000ft-5.776.
WINMatt SmithWIN0.0261.0712.8534.353163.835.6546.765201.22
Eddie Krawiec0.0261.0892.8674.369162.535.6846.812198.35
They leave right together with identical RT's and Smith gets the early lead. They stay right together al the way to near the 1000 foot lights, where the Elite Power kicks in and Smith not only takes a big win, but runs the fastest bike speed ever. That resets his National Speed record too! Amazing. Matt Smith is the Pro Stock Bike Champion! Krawiec was right there all the way down the track and runs his best speed of the day, with the second quickest ET. He did all he could but to no avail! Matt Smith's incremental margins: 60ft(0.018), 330 ft(0.014), 660ft(0.016), 1,000ft(0.030). MOV: 0.0471 seconds (approximately 14 feet). Eddie Krawiec's incremental times: 60ft-1.089 sec., 330ft-2.867, 660ft-4.369/162.53 mph, 1,000ft-5.684. Matt Smith's incremental times: 60ft-1.071 sec., 330ft-2.853, 660ft-4.353/163.83 mph, 1,000ft-5.654.

Matt Smith secured his third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship in the final round of eliminations. He powered his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR to a 6.765 at 201.22 national speed record pass to defeat defending world champion Eddie Krawiec, who was the nearest championship contender. M. Smith defeated Angie Smith, Hector Arana and LE Tonglet en route to the finals to secure the championship and event title. This is his first world championship title since 2013.

“Man, we went through a lot today,” Matt Smith said. “With the airline breaking in the first round and in the second round the transmission broke on us going through the lights. My guys did their job and we fixed all of the stuff that broke and ended up putting up three 200 mph runs today. We are having the time of our life right now though.”


The final race day of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle reveals some not-so-surprises statistically. Yes, Matt Smith and Eddie Krawiec have very quick motorcycles and Joey Gladstone remains one of the best leavers in the category. But those who haven’t been paying attention to Angie Smith’s great bounce-back season may not have noticed she’s been No. 1 in reaction time average in 2018.

That’s why we’re rolling out these stats to get everyone up to speed before the season officially wraps up with the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona.

It’s worth noting Matt Smith is just outside the success rate leaderboard with a 76.7 mark and he’s also been significantly better during the Countdown to the Championship. He boasts an 89.5 success rate and a 6.869 e.t. during the playoffs, which just might explain why he’s battling for his third Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.

Reaction Time Leaders (RT) (RL)
Angie Smith .0271 2
Karen Stoffer .0316 1
Joey Gladstone .0324 0
Jim Underdahl .0331 2
LE Tonglet .0337 1
Elapsed Time Leaders
Matt Smith 6.869
Eddie Krawiec 6.871
Andrew Hines 6.873
Hector Arana Jr. 6.878
LE Tonglet 6.888
Success Rate Leaders (% runs quicker than 7 seconds)
Eddie Krawiec 93.1
LE Tonglet 87.5
Andrew Hines 83.8
Jerry Savoie 81.9
Hector Arana Jr. 80.4

Hector Arana Jr. and LE Tonglet are huge fans of Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Sr. That’s because either Ellis or Arana will race Matt Smith in the second round, assuming he defeats Angie Smith in the first round Sunday. If Smith advances to the second round, the only way for Arana or Tonglet to win a Pro Stock Motorcycle championship is for him to lose and for them to win the whole race.

That’s admittedly a tall task, but it’s the hand the two have been dealt at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Tonglet will face Ryan Oehler in the first round of eliminations coming from the No. 5 position, while Arana battles Freddie Camarena from the No. 2 position.

The other racer still in championship contention, Eddie Krawiec, controls his own destiny. That’s because he can get his second-straight title by simply going one more round than Smith. The earliest the two can race is the final round because they’re qualified on opposite sides of the Pro Stock Motorcycle bracket.

If they face off in the final, it will be the first time they have faced this season in an official NHRA race. They squared off against one another in the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle in Sonoma, with Smith getting the victory.

For Smith, the math is simple: Win the race and become the champion. In reality, all he needs to do is go the same number of rounds as Krawiec and he’ll become a champion for the third time in history. He wouldn’t mind doing it in dramatic fashion, though. After all, this is Rickie Smith’s son we’re talking about.


In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith, the points leader, secured his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 31st of his career and second during the Countdown to the Championship by racing his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR to a 6.754 at 201.10.

Matt Smith made the fastest Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in history, 201.10 in the day’s first qualifying session and held onto the No. 1 qualifying position.

“Our Q3 run was a phenomenal pass,” M. Smith said. “We did 60-foot well like we did in Q1 and Q2 but as everybody sees we have a really good tune-up, we have a lot of power, and the 201.10 is pretty hateful out here. We ran big speed at eighth mile, changed some gear ratios and made a nice pass.”

Matt Smith will open eliminations against his wife, Angie Smith. Hector Arana Jr. is qualified second after a 6.781 at 197.57 on his Lucas Oil Racing TV EBR and he’ll line up against Freddie Camarena. Defending world champion Eddie Krawiec is qualified third and in contention for his fifth world championship.

Qualifying Round 3: Matt Smith continues to step up his performance, this time making a 201.1-mph run. That’s the fastest run ever recorded in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He paired it with a 6.754 to stay at the top of the field and earn four bonus points. That picked up one point on Eddie Krawiec, increasing his lead to a solid 10 points. Perhaps more importantly: Smith has the best bike at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona right now, and everyone else only has one run left to catch up before race day begins.

Qualifying Round 4: Hector Arana Jr. made the quickest run of the final session (6.783) thanks in no small part to Matt Smith deciding to sit out the final session. Smith sat out after realizing his wife, Angie Smith, qualified in the No. 16 spot. The two Smiths will race in the first round on Sunday. The No. 1 qualifier sits half a round ahead of Krawiec, more than three rounds ahead of Arana and the same for Tonglet. That’s a great situation to be in, but Smith cares about one thing: Winning the race on Sunday.

Unofficial point standings following the completion of qualifying 

1 Matt Smith 2546
2 Eddie Krawiec 2537 -9
3 LE Tonglet 2472 -74
4 Hector Arana Jr. 2476 -70
5 Jerry Savoie 2434 -112
6 Andrew Hines 2420 -126
7 Angelle Sampey 2319 -227
8 Angie Smith 2303 -243
9 Steve Johnson 2290 -256
10 Scotty Pollacheck 2258 -288

Final Qualifying

01 Matt Smith 6.754 201.1
02 Hector Arana Jr 6.781 197.57
03 Eddie Krawiec 6.789 198.38
04 Andrew Hines 6.826 196.16
05 LE Tonglet 6.828 196.39
06 Jerry Savoie 6.835 195.93
07 Angelle Sampey 6.838 194.88
08 Hector Arana 6.862 197.48
09 Chip Ellis 6.862 193.79
10 Scotty Pollacheck 6.879 194.66
11 Joey Gladstone 6.880 196.3
12 Ryan Oehler 6.893 196.64
13 Steve Johnson 6.898 191.29
14 Karen Stoffer 6.952 191.4
15 Freddie Camarena 6.953 194.86
16 Angie Smith 6.969 192.6
17 Kelly Clontz 6.972 192.85
18 Katie Sullivan 6.978 193.99
19 Melissa Surber 7.052 187.57
20 Maurice Allen 7.070 185.1
21 Anthony Vanetti 7.074 188.94

Matt Smith

Matt Smith got a great start toward earning his third Pro Stock Motorcycle title by setting an Auto Club Raceway speed record on Friday with a 200.65 mph hit. That also made him the third member of the Denso Spark Plugs 200-mph Club, joining Hector Arana Jr. and Eddie Krawiec – perhaps not coincidentally other riders he’s battling for a championship.

Smith leads Eddie Krawiec by single digits, and it’s impossible for him to make it 30 points, the number necessary to make it a full round lead. That’s why Smith is so dead focused on winning the race. Gathering as much data as possible (and making great runs) during qualifying can’t hurt, but the points matter less to Smith than getting down the track all four times – especially given the weather, which we discussed Friday.

“I thought my weather station was broken at first,” said Smith, after taking the provisional No. 1 spot. “I went and checked with Elite Performance, and they were getting the same results. I’ve never run in this dry air before, and so I threw some numbers together and it all kind of worked.”

In many respects, this resembles Smith’s chase for his first championship 11 years ago, when he won the Auto Club NHRA Finals to win the whole deal.

“This would be our third championship, and back in 2007, we needed to win the race in order to win the championship,” said Smith. “So, this is pretty similar to that deal, and that’s kind of our goal. I’ll just let the bike do the work.”

Angelle Sampey

Angelle Sampey endured a tough 2017 season while helping put together a new Pro Stock Motorcycle team with Cory Reed. That hard work began to pay off this season, particularly during the Countdown to the Championship. Sampey’s average e.t. is up to ninth-best in the category during the Countdown, and she’s getting down the track 84.4 percent of the time.

“The engine program is definitely moving along,” said Sampey. “These engines are still new to us, of course. Last year was a struggle, and we didn’t know much about them. We had issues with parts breakage and stuff blowing up. We didn’t have much of a chance to learn anything, which we have fixed this year.

“Right now, we have stuff working, and we’re climbing that hill. Apparently, Matt Smith is a long way ahead of us, but I think we are headed in the right direction. The best part is that now we’re past the breakage, I think the fun has come back. That’s the reason we’re out here is to have a good time, you know? I just think that means the offseason is going to be great because of that.”

Sampey last won in 2016, defeating Jerry Savoie in Englishtown. That probably feels a lot longer ago than it was given how much has changed since then. Sampey assured us her next win will be extra special because of all the hard work Reed and new teammate Joey Gladstone are putting into the program.

“It’s just so rewarding to put in this work and know you’re the one doing it,” said Sampey. “It’s a totally different feeling. So, when we get to that next win, and I know it’s coming, it’s going to be the best one yet.”

Sampey is currently qualified No. 12 and is chasing her first win in Pomona since 2004.

Eddie Krawiec

Eddie Krawiec knows he has a great opportunity to capture back-to-back championships. He also knows qualifying points don’t matter at this point. Here’s what does matter: Getting his Harley-Davidson Street Rod set up correctly for race day. The Harley team has struggled with its 60-foot times all season, but Krawiec in particular has taken a step back recently.

“We’ve been seeing times of 1.080 or worse basically, and honestly, it’s just been how our package has been responding to the new track prep,” said Krawiec. “But before the third qualifying session, we’re going to try something a little bit different. We’re going to throw something totally new at it and see if we can make a move.”

That change seems to have paid dividends. Krawiec ran a 6.789, making him the only non-Matt Smith rider to pull one off this weekend. He’s still a full three hundredths behind Smith, but that’s at least enough to show the Harley-Davidson squad they’re moving in the right direction.

With Krawiec qualified No. 2 and Smith qualified No. 1, there’s a very good chance the pair won’t be able to meet up until the final – if they both make it that far. The defending 2017 champion is currently 10 points behind Smith and can pick up 30 points with every round-win. All that matters to Krawiec is the same thing that matters for Smith – winning the final race of the season.

Easy, right?


In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith rode to a track record speed at 200.65 at 6.774 to lead the field on his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR. Smith was the quickest in both qualifying sessions. Smith is the current category points leader and seeking to extend his lead.

“All in all, it was a good day for us,” Smith said. “We made two passes and were No. 1 for both runs. I got eight bonus points. We just have to go and win the race now and win the championship; no matter what anybody else tell us.”

Hector Arana Jr. qualified second with his pass of 6.824 at 198.96 on his Lucas Oil TV EBR and LE Tonglet is third with his run of 6.828 at 196.39.

Qualifying Round 1:  Matt Smith ran the third-quickest speed of all time (200.65 mph), booking his entry into the Denso Spark Plugs 200 mph Club. Perhaps more importantly, it tightened his grip on the Pro Stock Motorcycle lead by two points because he ran the quickest time of the first session and Eddie Krawiec ran the third-quickest. Hector Arana Jr. also made a solid pass, qualifying the Lucas Oil TV EBR in the No. 2 position. That drops Arana back a point – he now trails Smith by 63 points with three qualifying sessions still to go.

Qualifying Round 2:  Matt Smith kept the pressure on his title challengers by earning another four bonus points with a 6.799-second pass. LE Tonglet got back into the picture with a 6.828 – that scored him three points, meaning he only dropped one point in this session. His boss, Jerry Savoie, also made a great run as the whole pack moved up in the final session of Friday. Eddie Krawiec will enter Saturday qualified fifth on the back of a 6.864 with a 197.77 mph run to back it up. That’s one of several big-speed runs given by the two-wheel class to kick off the final race of the season.

Qualifying after two rounds

01 Matt Smith 6.774 200.65
02 Hector Arana Jr 6.824 198.96
03 LE Tonglet 6.828 196.39
04 Jerry Savoie 6.848 194.74
05 Eddie Krawiec 6.864 197.77
06 Joey Gladstone 6.880 196.3
07 Chip Ellis 6.880 194.8
08 Hector Arana 6.885 197.57
09 Scotty Pollacheck 6.885 194.49
10 Andrew Hines 6.886 194.6
11 Ryan Oehler 6.893 196.64
12 Angelle Sampey 6.895 193.4
13 Steve Johnson 6.898 191.29
14 Karen Stoffer 6.952 191.4
15 Freddie Camarena 6.953 194.86
16 Katie Sullivan 6.978 193.99
17 Kelly Clontz 7.013 191.05
18 Anthony Vanetti 7.074 188.94
19 Angie Smith 7.081 163.63
20 Maurice Allen 7.114 186.64

Matt Smith

Matt Smith can win another Pro Stock Motorcycle championship by taking care of business at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. To do that, he’ll use qualifying to get a handle on his Elite Performance EBR. Conditions in Pomona are almost diametrically opposite to what they were at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, making for a challenging assignment at Auto Club Raceway.

“These are probably the driest conditions we’ve seen all year,” said Smith. “At the very least these are the driest I’ve had since rolling out this bike, so we’re really going to be working on getting the bike right for these conditions.”

A disappointing effort in Las Vegas (Smith exited in the second round) puts the impetus on Smith to get the job done in Pomona. He still holds the lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but only by four points over rival Eddie Krawiec.

“We stayed on Monday and tested and learned some things,” said Smith. “We actually ran faster on Monday than we ran all weekend, so that’s good, too. Right now we’re going to try to learn some stuff and then go out and win the race and win the championship.”

“I would like to have more data obviously and it might take a round or two to get us where we need to go, but I think we’re going to get there.”

If Smith wins the race, he’ll take home his first championship since 2013. The son of Rickie Smith will try to do what his father couldn’t: win a title in the last race of the season. If he does, it’ll be his third in the two-wheel category.

LE Tonglet

The last time we saw LE Tonglet, he had plenty to be nervous about. Not only did he have a big first-round matchup against Matt Smith to fret about, his wife, Kayla, was on the verge of having the couple’s first child. Well, Tonglet can (sort of) focus on racing this weekend. Kayla gave birth to Brodie Tonglet on Oct. 31 and both mother and child are doing well back in Louisiana.

“I’m very excited,” said Tonglet. “Honestly, it’s a little hard to focus on being out here right now because I just want to be with them. But it’s great. Now, it’s the last race of the season, and we can really throw everything at the track and just blow everything up since [tuner Tim Kulungian] has all season to fix it.”

After looking down the trailer to see if Kulungian heard his joke (he didn’t, or ignored him altogether), Tonglet returned to his usual, relaxed self.

“We’ve just got to make eight really good runs and let the points take care of themselves,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said the points aren’t in my head – they’re always in there, you know? But I have to do my best to focus on doing my job.”

Tonglet is 61 points behind Smith entering the Auto Club NHRA Finals after losing to Smith in the first round in Las Vegas. That’s a big hole, but it’s not insurmountable – especially if the Nitro Fish rider performs well during qualifying.

That’s not typically the firefighter’s game, but it just might have to become his game if he wants to get into the championship hunt this weekend. His first (and only) title came back in 2010 as a rookie. He’s already at risk of losing the title of youngest champion to Tanner Gray this weekend – winning a second trophy might be just the salve he needs.

Ryan Oehler

Ryan Oehler got his Auto Club NHRA Finals off to a strong start with a 6.939-second pass. He’s still working through the learning curve of his new EBR and, after a tough NHRA Toyota Nationals, feels he’s moving in the right direction.

“It’s just a matter of making the right changes and knowing where we’re at before making [our first run],” said Oehler ahead of that 6.939 pass. “The most important thing is going A-to-B during the first qualifying session because you just want to have a baseline and something to tune off of for the rest of the session.”

Oehler is working on his 60-foot times perhaps more than anything else. He says his riding style as one of the taller riders in the class is as important as his tuning.

“I can use my height to my advantage if I throw my weight forward and slide back,” said Oehler. “But if I don’t use it as a benefit, it actually becomes a disadvantage. That’s something I need to work on going forward, but it’s all part of the learning process.”

He’s now qualified in the No. 9 position with a great opportunity to improve later in the day. The top half of the field is filled with 6.80s – if Oehler can get into that territory, you’ll see a lot more high fives by guys in orange.


Division 2’s John Markham rode his Bowling Green, Ky.-based ’84 Kawasaki to the Motorcycle championship, cutting  a near-perfect .002 reaction time that forced his opponent, Division 3’s Jeremy Hicks to break out aboard his Willard, Ohio-garaged ’16 Suzuki.


Eliminations Round 1

DRIVER DIAL RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH OV/UN
WIN – Don Hookway 9.46 0.062 1.538 4.028 6.108 117.69 7.922 9.481 141.05 0.021
Bruce Damewood 8.05 0.034 1.197 3.3 5.111 134.19 6.72 8.114 160.12 0.064
WIN – Jeremy Hicks 8.14 0.011 1.181 3.269 5.118 128.77 6.787 8.259 156.35 0.119
Tony Davis 8.22 0.07 1.214 3.375 5.232 130.77 6.876 8.291 158.22 0.071
WIN – Rick Newport 7.87 0.018 1.184 3.226 4.96 140.94 6.485 7.829 159.01 -0.041
Scott Grondahl 9.66 -0.045 1.738 4.323 6.39 119.1 8.189 9.732 145.45 0.072
WIN – John Markham 8.75 0.017 1.278 3.534 5.492 123.89 7.236 8.756 145.8 0.006
Beau Drexler 8.34 0.011 1.239 3.394 5.268 130.09 6.924 8.353 156.77 0.013

Eliminations Round 2

DRIVER DIAL RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH OV/UN
WIN – Jeremy Hicks 8.15 0.015 1.161 3.266 5.123 130.87 6.766 8.199 154.42 0.049
Don Hookway 9.45 0.033 1.534 4.026 6.116 117.34 7.932 9.484 144.61 0.034
WIN – John Markham 8.74 0.018 1.275 3.524 5.491 123.06 7.246 8.787 141.83 0.047
Rick Newport 7.8 0.033 1.226 3.271 5.025 139.41 6.563 7.885 169.42 0.085

Eliminations Final – JOHN MARKHAM!!

DRIVER DIAL RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH OV/UN
WIN – John Markham 8.75 0.002 1.281 3.532 5.495 123.47 7.242 8.764 145.69 0.014
Jeremy Hicks 8.17 0.041 1.165 3.248 5.067 133.66 6.678 8.115 151.73 -0.055

Round 3 Time Run

DRIVER RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH
Beau Drexler 0.01 1.227 3.379 5.246 130.62 6.9 8.328 156.48
Bruce Damewood 0.014 1.19 3.277 5.078 135.12 6.677 8.059 161.75
John Markham 0.008 1.273 3.512 5.455 125.97 7.146 8.595 153.58
Scott Grondahl 0.048 1.715 4.276 6.326 120.03 8.108 9.639 146.48
Tony Davis -0.042 1.215 3.361 5.197 132.97 6.815 8.214 159.4
Rick Newport 0.041 1.237 3.309 5.065 139.46 6.6 7.924 168.94
Don Hookway 0.002 1.513 3.98 6.042 118.92 7.84 9.377 146.19
Jeremy Hicks -0.009 1.175 3.261 5.086 132.84 6.712 8.128 157.96

Round 2 Time Run

DRIVER RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH
Tony DavisWIN 0.003 1.21 3.356 5.2 132.19 6.831 8.239 158.43
Beau Dreyler 0.004 1.23 3.385 5.253 130.62 6.904 8.33 156.81
Bruce Damewood 0.016 1.191 3.275 5.072 134.98 6.672 8.064 155.56
Rick NewportWIN 0.01 1.184 3.22 4.95 141.22 6.474 7.784 170.99
Jeremy HicksWIN 0.009 1.167 3.248 5.069 133.51 6.684 8.085 162.88
John Markham -0.009 1.281 3.528 5.49 123.45 7.241 8.765 146.53
Don HookwayWIN 0.004 1.532 4.014 6.092 117.91 7.904 9.452 145.22
Scott Grondahl -0.017 1.751 4.316 6.383 118.95 8.179 9.717 146.02

Round 1 Time Run

DRIVER RT 60 FT 330 FT 660 FT 660 FT 1000 FT ET MPH
John Markham 0.056 1.285 3.54 5.499 123.92 7.243 8.762 146.67
Don Hookway -0.005 1.542 4.036 6.123 117.26 7.939 9.489 145
Beau Dreyler 0.003 1.247 3.42 5.293 130.51 6.948 8.376 156.55
Jeremy Hicks 0.001 1.169 3.253 5.068 134.22 6.67 8.053 161.69
Rick Newport 0 1.218 3.29 5.031 140.5 6.561 7.878 170.56
Bruce Damewood 0.013 1.194 3.28 5.084 134.77 6.686 8.067 161.96
Scott Grondahl -0.096 1.715 4.293 6.352 119.42 8.142 9.674 146.53
Tony Davis 0.035 1.215 3.374 5.23 131.25 6.865 8.271 159.14


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 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. 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 for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to

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