Matt Smith knew something was wrong, he just didn’t know what. His normally potent Denso EBR struggled in qualifying at the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, ranking just 13th, followed by a first-round exit.
He had already watched his name plummet down the standings, from third entering the Countdown to the Championship to sixth, and couldn’t understand why the bike that had carried him to the No. 1 spot at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals in St. Louis had become possessed.
With a rain delay forcing a Monday conclusion to the Charlotte event and the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationls in Dallas just days away, Smith knew that he had to act quickly if he had any chance to defending his 2018 world championship.
“We left Charlotte Monday night and I had two of my crew guys, Michael Ray and Nate Kendrick, come home with me instead of flying home,” he said. “We stripped the bike down, pulled the motor out, pulled all of the wiring off and saw that the chassis was broken. I called ‘Dog’ [chassis builder Mike Furick] and told him we needed to get the bike on his chassis jig. Tuesday morning, we made the two-hour drive to his shop in Mooresville [N.C.], and he had it fixed by 1:30 that afternoon. We left there, drove home, and I rewired the bike, put the motor in it, and got everything else ready.
“Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. we left King, N.C., and drove straight through to Texas, and got here at 1 a.m. then went to a little eighth-mile track just up the road [from Texas Motorplex]. At 7 a.m. we were testing and, problem solved. Kudos to my crew; I couldn’t have done it without them.
Smith’s hard work paid off Friday night when he made Texas Motorplex history by powering to the track’s first 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle pass and the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot. He now hopes to parlay that into a victory at the event and the chance to cut into Andrew Hines' points lead if he wants to have any real kind of chance of holding onto the No. 1 plate,
“I’ve come here my whole life and never won this race,” he said. “We’ve had a customer –- Michael Ray –- win this race, but I’ve never done it and this race is not on the 2020 bike schedule so I’d like to have this off my bucket list.”