For the first the first time since 2004, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class has welcomed back-to-back first time winners after Ryan Oehler stopped three-time world champion Matt Smith in the final round of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals. Oehler entered the final round with lane choice, left first with a very competitive .010 light and sealed the win with a 6.974. Oehler joins 2019 Pomona winner Jianna Salinas as a first-time NHRA champion. The last time the Pro Stock Motorcycle class had back-to-back first time winners was 2004, when Andrew Hines and Karen Stoffer scored wins in Gainesville and Houston, respectively.
"Weve been hunting for this for a long time," said Oehler. "This has been my dad's dream. We've raced Pro Stock Harleys and Pro Stock cars in the 1970s. We got into motorcycles because it was a little bit more our style. We got here, and we just keep on working every day. As soon as I did the burnout, the bike starts dragging out of the water and we don't have the right freeplay in the clutch. My crew chief Terry [Sutton] even told me that so when I went to the line I knew it was going to try and pull me through the beams. I held it back and waited to go on the two-step until the very last second. When the light dropped I knew it was good. To have it all come together like that; this is for my family and my wife, and my team and for God. I love you all very much."
Oehler, who has made steady strides since his debut in the class several years ago, took just 37 starts to reach the winner’s circle on his EBR-bodied entry. During Saturday’s qualifying, Oehler was fifth-quickest with a 6.931 and steadily worked his way through eliminations with wins over Marc Ingwersen, Scotty Pollacheck, and Hector Arana Jr. Pollacheck had an excellent chance to end Oehler’s day with a strong 6.859, the quickest run of eliminations, but it was accompanied by a frustrating -.001-second red-light start. Oehler lost to Matt Smith all three times they raced in 2019, but ultimately found a way to turn the tables on one of the class’ most savvy and experienced racers.
Smith, who had one of the quickest bikes in the field during qualifying and through most of eliminations, worked his way to career final No. 55 with wins against Chris Bostick, Angelle Sampey, and reigning champ Andrew Hines. Smith narrowly defeated Hines in a great 6.943 to 6.943 side-by-side race in the semifinals. Smith and his Denso crew worked quickly to change engines before the final round but his fate was sealed when his bike bogged badly as soon as he dumped the clutch lever.