Matt Smith saved his best performance for the last run of the Dodge NHRA Nationals. That worked out just fine. Smith took down rival Steve Johnson to win for the second time in 2019 as he went wire-to-wire, combining pole position with a Wally after running a 6.855-second pass at 195.90-mph to beat Johnson's 6.863 at 194.04.
Smith took advantage of his sixth pole position of 2019 to reach his fourth final of the campaign. The rider of the Denso EBR took down Katie Sullivan, his wife and teammate Angie Smith and rival Andrew Hines while riding the most consistent bike he's had this season.
"It doesn't matter who's in the other lane," said Smith, reference his and Johnson's war of words from earlier in the season. "We're just out here to win no matter what for our partners. (The championship chase) is not totally over yet. It's not mathematically over but (Andrew Hines) has got a pretty big dagger in it and we're gonna do our best to try to pair up against him in the first round and knock him out in Pomona."
Johnson reached his second final of the season, both of which came in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, from the No. 2 position. His performance surge has come after taking several races off during the middle of the season, which cost him a shot at making the playoffs.
That has not kept him from being a contender during the Countdown. Johnson defeated Ron Tornow, Angelle Sampey and Scotty Pollacheck en route to the final. He took advantage of a red-light by Sampey, but used terrific performance in the first three rounds to set up a matchup with Smith.
Andrew Hines will enter the final race of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals, with a 115-point lead over Jerry Savoie. There are 191 points on the table at the Pomona-based event and Savoie, Eddie Krawiec, Karen Stoffer and Matt Smith are all still in contention for the world championship.
The Auto Club NHRA Finals are set to begin on Nov. 14. You can get your tickets here. Smith and Krawiec battled in the final round to decide the 2018 title, with Smith earning the 2018 title over 2017 world champion Krawiec.