NHRA: Pro Stock Motorcycle Finals at Auto Club Nationals

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NHRA Mello Yellow drag racing series
NHRA Auto Club Finals
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
November 14-17, 2019

Pro Stock Motorcycle

On a wild day in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines ended up with his sixth world championship in the class, earning the title after Jerry Savoie lost in the final round to Salinas. Hines’ day didn’t go as planned at all, losing on a red light in the opening round against Salinas when he just needed one round win for the title. But he had a big enough cushion over Savoie and Matt Smith to finish with the title for a sixth time on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson.
“I put my team in such a bad situation and I chalked it up that we’re done,” Hines said. “It was just absolute insanity. It was a total, utter disappointment on my behalf and a bitter pill to swallow. This was one of the craziest days ever and the final round was absolutely astonishing. But the reason why we’re here right now is what my team did all season long. It wasn’t just this race, it was what my guys did all year.”
https://youtu.be/RMpU4YP5aEY
Hines was dominant throughout 2019, putting together the best season in his standout career, setting the E.T. mark in the class and winning a career-best eight races. The winningest driver in class history now has 56 career victories and he also advanced to 10 final rounds this year.
Salinas’ day ended with her first career Pro Stock Motorcycle victory on her Scrappers Racing Suzuki, going 7.464 at 180.81 in the final round after Savoie broke. It capped off an unbelievable day for the rookie, which started with the win against Hines after he went red. She followed with wins against Steve Johnson, defending world champion Matt Smith, who broke after needing to win the race to clinch the title, to reach her first career final round.
https://youtu.be/-U98FhzhweI
“On Saturday morning, I was just fighting to qualify and I never thought I would be able to pull this off,” Salinas said. “To be here right now in this moment, it’s not something I would ever thought would happen this soon. On raceday, anything can happen. Sometimes consistency is all you need to win, and I’m just there to race my race. I felt very lucky and when it’s your day, it’s your day.”
The 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will kick off with the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtecttheHarvest.com Feb. 6-9 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Andrew Hines wraps up record-tying sixth NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship

It what was easily the most bizarre day in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, Andrew Hines survived a rare round one loss to claim the  NHRA Mello Yello championship. The second-generation racer is now in exclusive company with six world titles, a feat achieved by only nine other NHRA racers, pro or sportsman. Hines also ties Hall of Fame rider Dave Schultz with his sixth championship.

In one of the season’s most shocking upsets, Hines red-lighted in his opening round match-up against rookie Jianna Salinas, and he believed his shot at the title was over since rivals Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie were still in contention for the title. Hines had Salinas covered by more than a tenth in qualifying but rolled backwards at the start, drawing a red-light. It was just the second time this season he’s failed to advance past the opening round of eliminations. Hines’ loss opened the door for several other contenders, most notably low Smith and Savoie, who each needed to win the race in order to clinch the title.





Salinas proved to be Hines’ best friend as she went on to beat Smith in the semifinals and cap off an unlikely first victory when the rookie rider stopped Savoie in the final. Smith lost when the engine in his Denso EBR expired at half-track, while Savoie never got off the starting line when his White Alligator Suzuki also developed a mechanical issue that prevented him from making the run.

“This is a day that will live in fear for me for I don’t know how long,” said a stunned Hines. “In the first round, I pulled a maneuver that I’ve done too many times in the past when I rolled backward out of the beams. I can’t thank my team enough for supporting me all day long. My Harley-Davidson team, that’s what they do best. I was so disappointed in what I did today, but we persevered all year to get those Mello Yello points and win the championship. I love my guys, and I love everything about this.”

Hines’ title drive caps off what has easily been the best season of his long career and it also qualifies as one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. After suffering through a winless 2018, Hines has rebounded in style with eight wins and ten final round appearances in the first 15 events of the season. He has been the point leader in all but one event and has not been ranked lower than second at any point in the season.

Hines kicked off 2019 with a win at the traditional season-opener in Gainesville, and then reached a milestone when he became the first Pro Stock Motorcycle racer to win 50 national events at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Hines went on to earn wins in Atlanta, Richmond, Norwalk, Denver, Sonoma, and the fall Charlotte event.

Hines’ sixth championship is also the tenth title for the Vance & Hines team and the Harley-Davidson brand in the last 16 seasons. In addition to Hines’ six titles, teammate Eddie Krawiec has four NHRA championships in his career. Hines older brother, Matt, is a three-time champion and team co-owner Terry Vance is also a multi-time class champion in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel Motorcycle classes.

Eliminations Round 1

Driver Scott Pollacheck Ryan Oehler
RT .054 .045
60 FT 1.076 1.071
330 FT 2.901 2.887
660 FT 4.439 4.424
660 FT MPH 159.14 158.91
1000 FT 5.791 5.775
ET 6.945 6.932
MPH 194.60 193.49

Matt Smith is the defending event champion and he won here last year after qualifying #1. He is just 9 -6 in round 1 at this race. The top qualifier in PSM is 30 -2 in round 1 at this event. He needs to win the race to have a chance at the Championship. This will be Sullivan???s 25th first round appearance and she has a 30% win record.

Driver Eddie Krawiec Angelle Sampey
RT .038 .041
60 FT 1.083 1.051
330 FT 2.880 2.850
660 FT 4.410 4.382
660 FT MPH 160.29 159.80
1000 FT 5.746 5.728
ET 6.893 6.886
MPH 195.22 193.65

Angelle Sampey won this race in 2001 & 2004. Eddie Krawiec has 4 wins at this race and has been runner-up in each of the last two years. In 12 starts at this race Eddie has never lost in the first round. Sampey is 7 – 6 against Krawiec in prior events. Just 0.003 difference in RT’s and Sampey is quickly out in front and holds off a charging Krawiec for the super close win. Krawiec ends the year without a victory. Angelle Sampey’s incremental margins: 60ft(0.029), 330 ft(0.027), 660ft(0.025), 1,000ft(0.015). MOV: 0.0044 seconds (approximately 15 inches).

Driver Hector Arana Jr Hector Arana
RT .039 .009
60 FT 1.062 1.095
330 FT 2.879 2.928
660 FT 4.426 4.475
660 FT MPH 158.56 158.46
1000 FT 5.778 5.824
ET 6.934 6.974
MPH 193.82 194.72

This will be a tough round for the Arana Family, with father and son having to race against each other. Hector Sr. already has 488 round of racing behind him with a 46% win record. Hector Jr. is catching him quick, with 336 rounds of racing and a 63% win record. Arana is 13 – 9 against Arana Jr in prior events. Senior nails the tree with a nine light, but Junior gets back out in front and they stay that way to the finish line. Hector Arana Jr’s incremental margins: 60ft(0.003), 330 ft(0.019), 660ft(0.019), 1,000ft(0.016). MOV: 0.0102 seconds (approximately 3 feet).

Driver Karen Stoffer Kelly Clontz
RT .041 -.016
60 FT 1.066 1.072
330 FT 2.862 2.939
660 FT 4.398 4.519
660 FT MPH 159.46 155.31
1000 FT 5.739 5.894
ET 6.888 7.069
MPH 195.05 190.67

Stoffer already has make 229 first round races and has a 51% win record. Clontz comes to the line in round one for the 29th time. She has only one prior win. Stoffer is 1 – 0 against Clontz in prior events. Clontz goes red and gives the easy win to Stoffer. She makes a strong pass, but gives up the lane choice to Sampey next round by 0.002. Karen Stoffer’s incremental times: 60ft-1.066 sec., 330ft-2.862, 660ft-4.398/159.46 mph, 1,000ft-5.739.

Driver Andrew Hines Jianna Salinas
RT -.135 .116
60 FT 1.266 1.069
330 FT 3.081 2.876
660 FT 4.808 4.429
660 FT MPH 127.84 156.57
1000 FT 6.716 5.803
ET 8.712 6.987
MPH 104.61 187.29

Andrew Hines has 3 wins at this event. He is 13 -4 in round 1 here. He will be the 2019 PSB Champion if he can win this round. Salinas has now qualified seven times, with two round one wins. Hines is 1 – 0 against Salinas in prior events. UPSET! Hines goes RED big time and opens up the 2019 Championship. Salinas makes another strong pass for the easy win. Jianna Salinas’ incremental times: 60ft-1.069 sec., 330ft-2.876, 660ft-4.429/156.57 mph, 1,000ft-5.803.

Driver Steve Johnson Fred Camarena
RT .030 .010
60 FT 1.059 1.114
330 FT 2.865 2.946
660 FT 4.399 4.503
660 FT MPH 159.38 157.12
1000 FT 5.745 5.865
ET 6.903 7.027
MPH 190.94 193.57

Johnson has returned to the PSB wars with style. He is making his 410th round one appearance and has a 41% win record. Camarena is making his 55th round one with only six wins, so far. Johnson is 1 – 0 against Camarena in prior events. Camarena gets away first with a great ten light, but is no match for Johnson’s power. Johnson will have lane choice over Salinas next round. Steve Johnson’s incremental times: 60ft-1.059 sec., 330ft-2.865, 660ft-4.399/159.38 mph, 1,000ft-5.745.Freddie Camarena’s incremental times: 60ft-1.114 sec., 330ft-2.946,
660ft-4.503/157.12 mph, 1,000ft-5.865.

Driver Jerry Savoie Angie Smith
RT .047 .003
60 FT 1.051 1.087
330 FT 2.853 2.942
660 FT 4.391 4.489
660 FT MPH 159.42 158.06
1000 FT 5.746 5.849
ET 6.912 7.022
MPH 191.87 189.66

Savoie needs to win the race to have a chance at the Championship. Smith already has 152 round one races to her resume and a 36% win record. Savoie is 9 – 0 against Smith in prior events. Terrific three light for Smith, but WAR power drives on by for the win. He will have lane choice over Arana Jr. next round. Jerry Savoie’s incremental times: 60ft-1.051 sec., 330ft-2.853, 660ft-4.391/159.42 mph, 1,000ft-5.746.Angie Smith’s incremental times: 60ft-1.087 sec., 330ft-2.942, 660ft-4.489/158.06 mph, 1,000ft-5.849.

Driver Matt Smith Katie Sullivan
RT .091 .033
60 FT 1.060 1.090
330 FT 2.885 2.952
660 FT 4.415 4.537
660 FT MPH 160.50 154.17
1000 FT 5.746 5.927
ET 6.885 7.119
MPH 196.70 187.44

Matt Smith is the defending event champion and he won here last year after qualifying #1. He is just 9 -6 in round 1 at this race. The top qualifier in PSM is 30 -2 in round 1 at this event. He needs to win the race to have a chance at the Championship. This will be Sullivan’s 25th first round appearance and she has a 30% win record. Smith is 2 – 0 against Sullivan in prior events. Sullivan gets a huge advantage off the line, but Smith powers on by just before the 330 lights to make the quickest pass of the session and take a decisive win. Looked like lot of smoke from the engine in the lights. He will have lane choice over Oehler. Matt Smith’s incremental margins (negative if behind): 60ft(-0.028), 330 ft(0.009), 660ft(0.064), 1,000ft(0.123). MOV: 0.1769 seconds (approximately 49 feet).

 

Eliminations Round 2

Driver Jerry Savoie Hector Arana Jr
RT .017 -.021
60 FT 1.057 1.110
330 FT 2.850 2.944
660 FT 4.379 4.486
660 FT MPH 160.48 158.89
1000 FT 5.715 5.832
ET 6.860 6.979
MPH 194.21 195.68

2:02 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 85 degrees, relative humidity 17 percent, barometer 28.82 inches, adjusted altitude 3,303 feet, track temperature 112 degrees. Arana Jr is 10 – 7 against Savoie in prior events. Arana goes red and gives the free pass to round three to Savoie. Strong pass for Savoie with a good seventeen light. Jerry Savoie’s incremental times: 60ft-1.057 sec., 330ft-2.850, 660ft-4.379/160.48 mph, 1,000ft-5.715.

Driver Steve Johnson Jianna Salinas
RT .070 .022
60 FT 1.070 1.077
330 FT 3.395 2.898
660 FT 6.408 4.466
660 FT MPH 71.65 155.06
1000 FT 9.843 5.855
ET 13.432 7.062
MPH 58.11 184.55

This is the first time Johnson and Salinas have faced each other in eliminations.
UPSET! Salinas gets a big starting line advantage and then gets the easy win, when Johnson’s engine goes silent before the 330 lights.

Driver Karen Stoffer Angelle Sampey
RT .020 .010
60 FT 1.062 1.067
330 FT 2.862 2.868
660 FT 4.405 4.407
660 FT MPH 158.89 159.12
1000 FT 5.747 5.752
ET 6.894 6.907
MPH 195.51 193.96

Sampey is 14 – 5 against Stoffer in prior events. WOW! Really close race! Sampey gets a 0.010 advantage off the line and holds the lead going down the track until right after the 1000 foot lights. Stoffer’s Suzuki has the top end power and rides on by in the lights for the one foot win! Karen Stoffer’s incremental margins (negative if behind): 60ft(-0.005), 330 ft(-0.004), 660ft(-0.008), 1,000ft(-0.005). MOV: 0.0034 seconds (approximately 12 inches).

Driver Matt Smith Ryan Oehler
RT .019 .017
60 FT 1.063 1.078
330 FT 2.876 2.899
660 FT 4.412 4.440
660 FT MPH 159.76 158.39
1000 FT 5.749 5.792
ET 6.893 6.944
MPH 195.90 194.55

Smith is 2 – 0 against Oehler in prior events. Just 0.002 difference in rT’s and Smith is quickly out in front and pulling ahead. He will have lane choice over Salinas in round three.

Eliminations Round 3

Driver Matt Smith Jianna Salinas
RT .084 .033
60 FT 1.062 1.078
330 FT 2.900 2.892
660 FT 4.710 4.445
660 FT MPH 115.86 157.26
1000 FT 6.819 5.825
ET 8.969 7.024
MPH 97.85 186.85

3:15 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 87 degrees, relative humidity 16 percent, barometer 28.82 inches, adjusted altitude 3,445 feet, track temperature 110 degrees. Smith is 2 – 0 against Salinas in prior events. Both pair have a contender for the Championship! MAJOR UPSET! Salinas gets a big starting line advantage and is pulling away, when near mid-track Smith’s engine expires Big Time. This will be Salinas’ first trip to a final round!

Driver Jerry Savoie Karen Stoffer
RT .022 -.004
60 FT 1.065 1.074
330 FT 2.859 2.877
660 FT 4.381 4.417
660 FT MPH 161.07 158.89
1000 FT 5.712 5.764
ET 6.855 6.912
MPH 195.79 195.08

Savoie is 8 – 7 against Stoffer in prior events. Stoffer goes red by just -0.004 and gives Savoie the easy win. He will have to win next round to capture the Championship. He will have lane choice over Salinas. Savoie already has five finals this year and twenty-ninth in his career.

FINAL

Driver Jerry Savoie Jianna Salinas
RT .247 .072
60 FT 1.092
330 FT 3.139
660 FT 4.789
660 FT MPH 149.73
1000 FT 6.224
ET 7.464
MPH 180.81

4:06 p.m. Weather conditions: air temperature 83 degrees, relative humidity 19 percent, barometer 28.82 inches, adjusted altitude 3,227 feet, track temperature 98 degrees. Savoie and Salinas have each won 1 times against the other in prior events and this is the first time they have faced each other in a final round.

Savoie’s bike dies after the burnout and sounds terrible when they restart it. He goes into the staging lights and just rolls through the lights and stops on the green. Salinas takes her first National Event win with ease and gives the 2019 PSB Championship to Andrew Hines! Huge UPSET!


Jianna Salinas scores first win in incredible Pro Stock Motorcycle season finale

by Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

Jianna Salinas admits that she’s learned a lot during her rookie season in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class and on Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, she learned a thing or two about good old-fashioned racing luck. Salinas has made steady progress in her first-year riding with the Stoffer/Underdahl team and she finished the season with a final round win over Jerry Savoie. With the win, she joined her father, Mike, as an NHRA national event champion.

“On Saturday I was just fighting just to qualify, I never thought I would be able to pull this off,” Salinas said. “I came into [Sunday] saying, whatever happens, happens. Win or lose I get to end the season on a high note. To be here right now in this moment is not something I ever expected to happen this soon. It’s insane. Not a single run I made today was a spectacular run. The final round was probably one of the worst runs I’ve made all weekend but it got the job done. Sometimes consistency is all you need to win.”

Salinas was the No. 13 qualifier in Pomona after a career-best 6.972 on her True Disruption Suzuki. She advanced past the first round for the third time this season after championship points leader Andrew Hines red-lighted on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson FXDR. Salinas collected a second win after Steve Johnson’s Slick 50 Suzuki fell silent at half-track. That scene was repeated in the semifinals when championship contender Matt Smith broke the engine in his Denso EBR in the semifinals. Smith, who needed to win the race in order to win the championship, was comfortably ahead when his V-twin expired in a cloud of smoke.

Advancing to her first final round, Salinas was paired with Savoie, who was also in contention for his second Mello Yello series championship. In another odd twist of fate, Savoie’s bike developed a severe engine miss as soon as it was fired. He was unable to perform a burnout and rolled into the stage beams in the hope that Salinas with red-light. She did not oblige and completed the unlikely victory with an early shut-off 7.64-second elapsed time. Savoie’s loss clinched the sixth championship for Hines.

“I know I’m new at this but [Hines] an amazing racer but its race day and you can never go up against anyone and know the outcome in advance,” said Salinas. “Anything can happen and it happened.”

Salinas becomes the 18th woman to win an NHRA professional title and the fifth to win in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class joining Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer, Peggy Llewellyn, and Angie Smith.


Unofficial Mello Yello Points Standings

Unofficial point standings following the completion of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

1 Andrew Hines 2599
2 Jerry Savoie 2573 -26
3 Matt Smith 2553 -46
4 Karen Stoffer 2534 -65
5 Eddie Krawiec 2474 -125
6 Hector Arana Jr. 2389 -210
7 Angelle Sampey 2381 -218
8 Angie Smith 2281 -318
9 Ryan Oehler 2271 -328
10 Hector Arana 2209 -390

Championship scenarios set for Sunday

Andrew Hines eliminated two of the contenders for the Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship during qualifying. Eddie Krawiec and Karen Stoffer can no longer contend for the 2019 title and must turn their attention to the 2020 campaign (and winning the Auto Club NHRA Finals, of course).

Hines will clinch the 2019 Pro Stock Motorcycle title if he wins in the first round. It’s as simple as that. He races Jianna Salinas in the first round; the rookie racer will have two big fans.

Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie just bought Scrappers Racing t-shirts. They need Salinas to beat Hines in the first round and then they need to win the race. It’s a tough road, but there is a chance.


SATURDAY QUALIFYING

Matt Smith takes top qualifying spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle for the seventh time this season

Matt Smith keeps his slim championship hopes alive after riding his Denso EBR to the No. 1 qualifying spot for the seventh time this season at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

When it comes to qualifying, few drivers in any class have been more reliable than reigning Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith who put his Denso EBR into the top spot for the seventh time this season. Smith’s 6.815 pass from Friday endured through both of Saturday’s runs. As a result, Smith earned the green low qualifier hat for the 38th time in his career.

“I feel good about tomorrow we were low E.T. of every round except for second round on Friday and we lost out by a thousandth of a second to Karen Stoffer,” said Smith. “We’ve been good all day long. I know my bike has been smoking a bit but we’re just trying something different with our [piston ring] package. It’s smoking, but it’s not affecting the performance at all.

Smith entered the season finale in Pomona as the fourth-ranked rider in the class, but passed rivals Eddie Krawiec and Jerry Savoie by gaining 14 qualifying bonus points on Friday and Saturday. He trails Hines by 114 points and remains in contention for what could be his fourth championship. Smith also admits that he’s a longshot to pass five-time champ and current points leader Andrew Hines. Smith must win the race and hope that Hines loses in the opening round of eliminations in order to win the title. He will be paired with Katie Sullivan to kick off Sunday’s eliminations. For the record, Smith has failed to make it out of the first round just three times in 15 events this season and has a 26-13 record in elimination rounds.

“As for the Championship scenario, it doesn’t matter,” Smith said. “I just need to turn on win lights tomorrow. If I get lucky and turn on four win lights and Andrew loses in the first round, I’ll be the champion. Otherwise, I’ll have to settle for second. That’s really all I can do. I did tell the rest of the class that I’ve got a bounty on Andrew. I’ll give $1,000 to anyone who can beat him in the first round and if I go on to win the race and the championship, I’ll give them an additional $5,000. It’s all fun and games and all, but I’ll make good on it if it happens.”

On Saturday, Smith wasn’t able to match Friday’s pace, but he made the quickest pass of the final session with a 6.845 to set the tone for eliminations. The next quickest bike in the session was Steve Johnson’s Slick 50 Suzuki with a 6.850. Hines also scored two bonus points with a 6.863. Ryan Oehler was one of the few riders to improve in the final session with a 6.876 on his EBR.

Savoie also remains alive for the title but much like Smith, he must win the event and hope that Hines loses his round one match against rookie of the year candidate Jianna Salinas. Savoie, the third-quickest qualifier, is paired with Angie Smith in round one.

Hines qualified his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the No. 4 spot which means he’ll be paired with Freddie Camarena in the first round after running a best of 6.845. Hines is enjoying the best season of his long career in 2019 with eight wins and ten final rounds in the first 15 events. Hines has been ranked No. 1 in the Mello Yello standings after 14 of 15 events and has a 44-7 record in elimination runs.

Final Qualifying Order

POSITION DRIVER ET MPH
01 Matt Smith 6.815 197.33
02 Karen Stoffer 6.834 195
03 Jerry Savoie 6.837 193.35
04 Andrew Hines 6.845 196.22
05 Steve Johnson 6.850 194.86
06 Hector Arana Jr 6.867 196.36
07 Eddie Krawiec 6.871 196.27
08 Scott Pollacheck 6.873 196.39
09 Ryan Oehler 6.879 196.96
10 Angelle Sampey 6.882 194.02
11 Hector Arana 6.913 196.47
12 Fred Camarena 6.965 194.24
13 Jianna Salinas 6.972 186.74
14 Angie Smith 6.978 194.6
15 Kelly Clontz 7.005 189.92
16 Katie Sullivan 7.022 191.13
17 Michael Ray 7.023 191.02
18 Andie Rawlings 9.463 93.7


Matt Smith: “I plan to win the race and see what happens with the points”

by Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

Last year, Matt Smith won his third NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle championship following a winner-take-all final round match against Eddie Krawiec. This time around, Smith’s road to a possible fourth championship is much more difficult. While he is still in the running for the title, Smith came in to the Auto Club Finals 117 points behind leader Andrew Hines which means he not only needs to win in Pomona, but also hope for Hines to exit early. Smith is certainly capable of winning the race and in fact, he’s easily the pre-race favorite after his Denso EBR turned in a dominating performance two weeks ago in Las Vegas, he admits the prospect of Hines going out in the first round is fairly dim.

“It’s pretty much out of my hands at this point,” said Smith. “I mean all I can do is try to qualify No. 1, get all the bonus points I can and then win the race. If that’s enough to win the championship, then so bit it. If it’s not, then I’ll have to settle for second place. I wish it was closer but I can’t do much about it now.”

Smith acknowledged that considered having his wife and teammate, Angie, and fellow team members Scotty Pollacheck and Michael Ray intentionally qualify in the bottom half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field in an effort to catch Hines in the first round, but he ultimately decided against it. Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson is employing a similar strategy in an effort to stop leader Erica Enders and help his teammates, Jason Line and Bo Butner.

“We talked about it, but nobody really wanted to do it,” said Smith. “I mean it’s hard to make it work anyway. First, you’ve got to time it just right so you get the match-up you want and then you’ve got to actually beat the other guy. That’s tough to do.”

Smith is understanding the obvious when it comes to Hines. The five-time world champion has competed in 277 events as a professional and he’s failed to advance out of the first round just 55 times, which is less than 20-percent of the time. In all honesty, the odds of a Hines loss are probably less than that. Hines is one of NHRA’s most consistent pro racers and in the last five seasons he’s failed to win the first round just seven times. This season, his only round one loss came in Chicago when his Harley FXDR spun the tires to hand Andie Rawlings the first round win of her career.

“I shouldn’t be in this position,” Smith said. “We’ve had a great bike all year but we just had some issues in the Countdown that killed us. We finally got it fixed but it might be too little, too late. I should have won that race, but we didn’t get out of the first round.”

Smith is specifically referring to the recent Charlotte event where his bike encountered a mechanical issue and would not shift. Smith qualified No. 13, and lost in the first round to Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec. He later discovered the issue to be a broken frame rail on his EBR chassis.

“This is the oldest chassis I own and it just broke a frame rail,” said Smith. “I’m not sure why, but we didn’t find it until after the Charlotte race. The bike was twisting and getting bound up and that’s why it wouldn’t shift. After we fixed that, it’s been really good ever since. I’m also using my best engine, the same one that we used to win the championship here last year. This bike is hateful right now; it’s as good as any bike out here.”

Smith showed his mettle on the opening day of the Auto Club NHRA Finals with two of the quickest runs of the day. He currently leads the field with a 6.813 best and with warmer weather forecast for Saturday, he believes he’s already got his seventh green hat [low qualifier award] of the season in the bag.

“You know me, I’m going to do whatever I can to win the race. If there’s a way to get an advantage, I’m going to find it. The points are out of my hands at this point all I can do is win the race and that’s what we’re going to focus on. If Andrew somehow slips up and gets beat early, we need to be there to take advantage of it.”


FRIDAY QUALIFYING

Fresh off Las Vegas win, Matt Smith leads the way in Pomona on day one

Facing a triple-digit deficit, Matt Smith knows he’s a longshot to defend his 2018 Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle championship so he figures the best he can do is qualify No. 1 and win the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals. So far, Smith is on target with the quickest run of the day at Auto Club Pomona Raceway including a 6.815 on his Denso EBR that is good for the provisional pole.

“Our Q1 run felt good,” said Smith. “The track is a little green but it will get better and my Denso bike is pretty hateful. We made a good run in the first round and on the second run it blew the rear tire off. I guess we were too aggressive. We’ve got something for them this weekend, though. We got to second place after the first run and that was our first goal. Like I said, the championship is a long shot and I really can’t worry about that [points leader] Andrew Hines is doing. We won this race last year and we want to duplicate that same scenario. If Andrew loses in the first round, we want to be able to capitalize on it. If I can’t be first I want to be second.”

 

 

Smith’s V-twin was easily the best bike in Las Vegas where he qualified No. 1. On Sunday, he won his 24th career national event and second this season. Smith was using the same engine that he used to win the 2018 Finals. That engine is also in the bike this weekend and it has been freshened.

“This bike is hateful right now,” Smith said. “This is my best engine and I try to save it for when it matters most. I ran it a few times this year but I really wanted to save it for the Countdown. I had it in the bike in Charlotte but we had a broken chassis and that’s when it wouldn’t shift. I feel good about what we’ve got right now.”

Smith finished the day with seven qualifying bonus points, while Karen Stoffer, the provisional No. 2 qualifier, finished with four after her 6.834 pass led the second session. Stoffer’s teammate, Jerry Savoie, finished the day in the No. 3 spot after a 6.837 best. Incoming points leader Hines, who is in pursuit of his record sixth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, was fourth-quickest after a 6.845 on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson. Hines is having the best season of his career with eight wins and two runner-up finishes in 15 races. He’s also got a 44-7 win-loss record this year.

With two sessions remaining tomorrow, there are 11 bikes in the six-second zone and the current bump spot is a 7.061 by Freddie Camarena.

POSITION DRIVER ET MPH
01 Matt Smith 6.815 197.33
02 Karen Stoffer 6.834 195
03 Jerry Savoie 6.837 193.35
04 Andrew Hines 6.845 196.22
05 Hector Arana Jr 6.867 196.36
06 Scott Pollacheck 6.873 196.39
07 Angelle Sampey 6.882 194.02
08 Eddie Krawiec 6.894 195.22
09 Steve Johnson 6.897 193.74
10 Hector Arana 6.913 196.47
11 Ryan Oehler 6.937 196.64
12 Angie Smith 7.010 194.13
13 Kelly Clontz 7.010 191.78
14 Michael Ray 7.023 191.02
15 Katie Sullivan 7.043 189.28
16 Fred Camarena 7.061 189.76
17 Jianna Salinas 7.842 125.79
18 Andie Rawlings 9.463 93.7

 

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