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Reigning world champ Matt Smith successfully defends Gatornationals Pro Stock Motorcycle title

Four-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion kicks off 2021 season with second straight Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals victory.
14 Mar 2021
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
smith win

Matt Smith dominated the shortened 2020 season with a performance that included a win in Gainesville, a solid 17-6 record in elimination rounds, and his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship. A lot has changed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in the last six months, but one thing that has not is Smith's ability to win races. Smith, aboard his Denso EBR, earned the 27th title of his career when he stopped Ryan Oehler in the final round. Smith ran more than 200 mph on every run on Sunday including the final where his 6.785 easily covered Oehler’s competitive 6.869 effort.

Smith was the second-quickest qualifier with a solid 6.76 and then earned his way to the final with wins against Jimmy Underdahl, Hector Arana Jr., and class veteran Steve Johnson, who made his first start in the class 34 years ago. Smith kicked off the day with a convincing win against Underdahl, who is now a member of Jianna Salinas’ Scrappers team. Smith’s 6.811 easily covered Uunderdahl’s 6.91 best. Arana Jr. put up more of a fight in the quarterfinals, but Smith left first and rolled to a 6.808 to 6.816 victory. Johnson also proved to be no match for the power of Smith’s V-twin EBR. Smith has now won back-to-back Gainesville titles, but this marks the first time he’s left the first race of the season as the points leader.

“I knew I just had to race my lane,” said Smith, who was hurried to the starting line to accommodate the FOX television schedule. “This Denso EBR was running on mean this weekend. I was not getting the E.T. I wanted but we were running the big speeds. I also have to thank Cory [Reed] and Joey [Gladstone] for loaning me a front wheel and brakes. I wouldn’t have won this race without you.”

A year ago, Oehler sprinted to the early-season points lead in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class when he won the first of four events held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and after his performance in Gainesville, he figures to be among the class’ leaders again this season. Oehler raced to his third career final round with wins against Jerry Savoie and Karen Stoffer. He may not have needed it, but Oehler also caught a break in the semifinals when Indy champ Scotty Pollacheck lost oil pressure on his Denso EBR and didn’t’ leave the starting line.