In what has amounted to an unexpected rider swap, John Hall, who made his NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle debut last season aboard George Bryce’s Sovereign/Star Buell, has agreed to join Matt Smith Racing in 2013. Hall will be riding the same Buell V-Twin that former Smith Racing rider Michael Ray rode to a victory in Dallas last season before replacing Hall at Star this season. The initial agreement is for the first 10 events of the season, with the possibility of adding more races during the Countdown to the Championship.
“I’m really happy to have John join our team this year,” said Smith, who will field a three-bike effort along with his wife, Angie. “He is good for our program. I’m one of the few people who has ever qualified three bikes for an event, and I’m pretty proud of that. We have a nice goal this year of putting all three of our bikes in the top 10. We’ve been gearing up for this for a while. By the time we get to Gainesville, I should have nine complete engines ready to go, and we’re going to do some testing to make sure all of the bikes are right.”
Hall, who just missed a top 10 finish last year despite a pair of impressive semifinal showings, was uncertain of his racing plans this season but saw an opportunity when Ray left for the Sovereign/Star team.
“First off, I want to make it clear that there is no animosity with George [Bryce, team owner] or Jeno [Rujp, team sponsor] or anyone else at the Sovereign/Star team,” said Hall. “When I did the deal last year with them, I only committed for one season because I didn’t know how long I wanted to race in Pro Stock Motorcycle. I run a business, and it’s a big commitment to be gone for 16 or more weeks. This year, they [Sovereign/Star] were looking for a firm commitment, and I respect that. I just couldn’t promise them that I’d make all the races. When Michael left, it opened a door of opportunity for me with Matt Smith, and we’ve come up with a program that I think works for both of us.”
Hall’s busy schedule includes several potential conflicts in 2013. His father will celebrate his 93rd birthday during the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and he has a family obligation that might prevent him from participating in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk on Fourth of July weekend. Though his initial contract calls for 10 events, Hall figures that if he has a shot to make the top 10, he will do whatever he can to pursue it.
“Some races might be a last-minute decision,” Hall noted. “Last year, I did not qualify at two of the first 10 races and just missed the top 10. I also made some rookie mistakes that I hopefully won’t make again this season. I think I’m going from one competitive team to another, and I don’t think I’m giving up anything by doing so.”
Like almost everyone else in the class, Hall is excited about the 2013 rules, one of which should allow for more parity between brands. Last year, Vance & Hines Harley riders won 15 of 16 events, with the lone exception being Ray, who was on the same bike Hall will be racing this season.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back, but after seeing what’s happening with the class and with the new rules changes, I really wanted to give this another try,” Hall said. “I had a great time last year, and I really learned a lot. The opportunity that George and Jeno gave me was great, and if I didn’t race with them last year, I know I wouldn’t be in a position to race with Matt this season."
In addition, the Smiths are planning to announce a new sponsor for 2013 that will allow the husband-wife team to compete at all 17 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events. Smith expects to make that announcement in mid-February, before the traditional Pro Stock Motorcycle season opener in mid-March.