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Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown preview: A repeat champ or someone new?

Just four riders in this year’s Countdown to the Championship have previously won a Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, including current points leader Matt Smith. But is this the year to welcome someone new to the club? If so, who will it be?
15 Sep 2022
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown

Of the 10 riders who are competing in this year’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, just four — Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, and Jerry Savoie — have previously won a championship. So, what are the odds that one of those four wins another NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series title? Or is this the season that we welcome a new champ into the fold?

Should a new rider emerge as the champion, the odds-on favorite will be Joey Gladstone, who recently won back-to-back races in Sonoma and Topeka and enters the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. Gladstone has been known as a rider with championship potential for much of his career, but it’s only been in the last year that his Reed Motorsports team has connected all the dots to become a winning organization.

Other than Gladstone, the potential new champions could include Karen Stoffer, Steve Johnson, or possibly Angie Smith. At times this season, all three have had arguably the best bike in the class but have not yet shown the consistency necessary for a deep championship run.

Although a title battle appears wide open, the road to the title goes through Matt Smith, who has all the experience in the world with five prior titles, including last year’s dominant effort. Smith is coming off a win at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, where he also passed Gladstone for the No. 1 spot. Smith also confirmed that he’ll start the playoffs on his Denso Buell, the same bike that carried him to last year’s title and two of his three wins this season.

“I told them all. If they keep pissing me off, I’m going to bring the old red rocket [Buell] back out,” said Smith following his Indy win. “I am gonna run the V-Twin at the next two races in Reading and St. Louis. I’m not even going to bring the Suzuki out. They’d better watch out for me. I’m still here. I’m getting older. We’re going to defend our championship, I can tell you that.”

Observations and predictions from some of this year's Countdown participants:

Matt Smith (first place): “That black [Vance & Hines] trailer worries me. Eddie is a great rider. Angelle is a great rider. They’ve got good power. I think Joey is the dark horse in this thing. Ever since Norwalk, he’s been coming on. Joey is an awesome rider but don’t count out MSR. We’ve got good bikes in our camp.”

Joey Gladstone (second place): Most of his competitors are willing to admit that he’s the best rider in the class right now, and for the most part, he’s got a bike that is capable of winning at any given time. We’re going to assume that his performance in Indy was an anomaly, which makes him one of the favorites to capture the title.

Steve Johnson (third place): Johnson came out swinging this year with back-to-back wins in Houston and Charlotte followed by a runner-up finish in Richmond. Since then? Not much has happened. Johnson has won just four rounds over the last six races, although he’s coming off a semifinal finish in Indy that helped bump him from fourth to third place. If Johnson can regain the magic he had earlier this year, he’s got a fighting chance to win it all.

Angelle Sampey (fourth place): She could have left Indy as the Championship leader, but an ugly round-one loss dropped her to fourth. “I would love to have had the lead going into the Countdown, but I’m just trying to win each round. If you do that, the points will come, and that’s how you win a championship.”

Eddie Krawiec (fifth place): Can he win a fifth championship? Absolutely.  Will it be easy? Absolutely not. The good news is that Krawiec has scored eight of his 15 round-wins in the second half of the regular season, so his Vance & Hines Suzuki is clearly more competitive now than it was to start the season. Then again, he’s spotted reigning champ Smith a 50-point lead, which is difficult to make up under any circumstances.

Karen Stoffer (sixth place): When she won in Gainesville and made a pair of record-setting 6.6-second runs, there was no reason to think that the Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki wasn’t capable of taking the top spot in the Countdown, but a brutal summer has pushed them to No. 6, which means they’ve got their work cut out for them. The Reading race tends to favor the quickest bikes in the category, so that might be a great place to gain some ground.

Angie Smith (seventh place): Remember back in Gainesville when this bike made a string of low 6.7-second runs and nearly won the NHRA Gatornationals? Somehow, someway, the Denso team needs to find a way to get back to that place in order to have a shot at this year’s title. Making up 60 points on the leader is difficult, but not impossible. The greater challenge is leapfrogging six other riders because it's unlikely that all of them will struggle.

Jerry Savoie (eighth place): In 2016, Savoie began the Countdown as the No. 4 rider and then won in St. Louis and Las Vegas to build momentum. Savoie only led the standings for one day, but it was the most important day of the season, Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, when he went to the semifinal round. Savoie also had a shot to win the 2019 title before his shocking final-round loss to Jianna Evaristo [Salinas]. The bottom line is that he’d been there before and could get there again.

Mark Ingwersen (ninth place): He’s been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2022 season with back-to-back semifinals in Bristol and Richmond and his first Top 10 finish. This season, he’s beaten Angelle Sampey and Karen Stoffer twice and also has a round-win against Matt Smith, so those at the top of that standings would be wise not to take him lightly.

Ryan Oehler (tenth place): To put it mildly, this has been a frustrating season for “Flyin’ Ryan” who has two career wins in four final rounds but just a single round-win during the nine-race regular season. Winning a championship is all but out of the question, but raining on someone else’s parade is a distinct possibility.


Top Seed (Season Finish)

World Champ (Starting Seed)


Matt Smith (3rd)

Eddie Krawiec (7th)


Eddie Krawiec (2nd)

Hector Arana Sr. (3rd)


Andrew Hines (2nd)

L.E. Tonglet (7th)


Eddie Krawiec (1st)

Krawiec (1st)


Eddie Krawiec (1st)

Krawiec (1st)


Hector Arana Jr. (4th)

Smith (2nd)


Andrew Hines (1st)

Hines (1st)


Eddie Krawiec (2nd)

Hines (3rd)


Andrew Hines (3rd)

Savoie (4th)


L.E. Tonglet (3rd)

Krawiec (2nd)


Eddie Krawiec (2nd)

Matt Smith (6th)


Andrew Hines (1st)

Hines (1st)


No Countdown



Matt Smith (1st)

Smith (1st)