On most weekends, reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith has his hands full running three bikes, but it was easy for him to defend his decision to add a fourth entry to this weekend’s NHRA Route 66 Nationals. In addition to his own Denso EBR, and the similar bikes ridden by his wife, Angie and teammate Scotty Pollacehck, Smith dusted off his Victory-bodied entry, which will be distracted ridden by crewmember Michael Ray.
“This is a perfect time to test so that’s why we brought out that bike,” Smith said. “After Charlotte they [NHRA Technical Services Dept.] approved the Maxx ECU unit for competition and I wanted to make some runs and get some data on it. It’s shown a lot of promise on the dyno and sooner or later I think almost everyone will be running it so we wanted to get a head-start. There are only 16 bikes there this weekend so we can test and we’re guaranteed to qualify.”
Smith said that his plan was to run the bike in Q1 and Q3 and sit out the other two sessions on Friday and Saturday. The decision to run just two of four sessions was made so that Ray would not be distracted from his normal duties as the primary crewmember on Pollacheck’s bike.
“Depending on where he qualifies, Michael might or might not run the first round on Sunday,” Smith said. “I want him to do well, but the most important thing is that we don’t do anything that might hurt Scotty. We need to get his bike going so I’m not going to sacrifice anything there.”
For his part, Ray was more than happy to pack his helmet and leathers when he found out he’d be riding in Chicago. A three-time national event winner including the 2013 Chicago race, Ray hasn’t ridden since the 2017 Norwalk race when he rode John Hammock’s Buell.
“I’m pretty excited about it but as Matt said, I’m not going to let it take away from what I need to do on Scotty’s bike,” said Ray. “I honestly thought my career as a rider might be over at least as far as an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle is concerned. I even thought about letting my license expire but I’m glad I didn’t. The bike I’m riding is a good one. The last time Matt ran it he won the [Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle] in Sonoma last year. I just need to see how rusty I am.”
Following Friday’s two qualifying runs, Matt and Angie Smith are both in the top half of the field while Pollacheck is tenth and Ray is in the No. 14 spot after an early shut-off 7.43 at just 145-mph.