Veteran racer Rickie Smith returns to Bristol Dragway Father’s Day weekend ready to savor and repeat last season’s win in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
Smith, who is fourth in points, has yet to post a win through four races in the 250-mph doorslammer category, but he did record his best finish at the most recent race in Englishtown after advancing to the semifinals. Now, the crew chief/driver of the IDG Chevy Camaro will try to make winning a trend at his home away from home at Bristol Dragway and defend his event title as the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its fifth of 10 stops at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, June 14-16.
“I like to stay focused on the positive and think we are winners no matter where we place,” Smith said. “We have a good chance to win and plan to go all the way for the championship this season.”
For the King, N.C., native, focus and determination are winning traits that proved to be invaluable last season. After suffering a spectacular crash in 2011 in Bristol that caused him to take a hiatus from the sport due to a leg injury, Smith last year claimed the No. 1 qualifying position at Thunder Valley, earned his second win of the season, and closed the 2012 season with a career-best fourth-place finish in points.
“It was definitely a good year last season,” Smith said. “To come back on top after a wreck the season prior was great. I’ve had a lot of success at Bristol, and now I’m ready to do it again.”
When Smith pulls into Bristol, he’s not just any racer. He is a living legend at Thunder Valley. Smith dominated at the old Bristol Dragway in the 1980s during his IHRA Pro Stock career and in the 1990s in NHRA Pro Stock. He is a member of the Legends of Thunder Valley, the track’s Hall of Fame, which also includes such notables as Wally Parks, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, and Larry Carrier.
True to his legendary status, Smith continues to be a major attraction for fans in the Tri-Cities region, and he looks forward to seeing friends and family at his home away from home.
“It’s a real special deal for me to be inducted alongside the biggest NHRA legends like Wally Parks and Garlits,” Smith said. “It’s a special honor. I consider Bristol my home track, and I look forward to returning every year. My entire family and friends come along since it’s so close to my home in North Carolina.”
Spending a holiday weekend at the track is not unusual for the Smith family. Rickie’s son, Matt Smith, is the 2009 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, and his daughter-in-law, Angie Smith, is also a Pro Stock Motorcycle rider. For this family, the pit area is where memories are made.
“Father’s Day weekend at Bristol Dragway is always lots of fun, and it is always special,” Smith said. “My wife and kids all come out. It was amazing to win last season with the family there, and I plan to do it again in front of them.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars and an extremely diverse collection of vehicles, including ’63 Corvettes, ’68 Camaros, ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds, and a number of late-model cars, the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every hot rodding enthusiast.
In addition to Smith, other NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series favorites include early-season winner Von Smith, of nearby Oak Ridge, Tenn., defending world champ Troy Coughlin, and points leader Canadian Kenny Lang. Veteran racers Danny Rowe, Chip King, of Semora, N.C., and Mike Castellana also will be in the hunt to win in Bristol along with Englishtown champ Mike Janis, Clint Satterfield, Steve Matusek, Pete Farber, and Mike Knowles.
• SCHEDULE: NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. Friday, June 14, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations will begin Saturday, June 15, at 4 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations continue Sunday, June 16.
• TICKETS: For tickets for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, call 423-989-6900 or log on to www.bristoldragway.com.