Matt Smith, currently No. 2 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, knows the relevance of winning a Countdown to the Championship race such as St. Louis, and he's done so five times before in his career – but that isn't why the Matt Smith Racing (MSR) camp is in the midst of a shake-up.
After a series of events that damaged every last one of the race-ready engines he had to complete this three-in-a-row to start the Countdown, DENSO campaigner Smith found himself in a bind. He could not effectively power the Suzuki that he's been aboard all season long, and he had to make a one-race return to the motorcycle he rode last season en route to his sixth championship.
"At Charlotte [last weekend], we had two catastrophic engine failures on our Suzuki bike, and there was no way we could get the motors fixed in three-day's time," said Smith. "We called all the people we could get a hold of to try to get everything rushed, next day air, and it just could not get done. I made the call to Chris Wheeler at Suzuki, and I got a grant to be able to ride my V-Twin for this race. I have to thank Suzuki for allowing me to do that. I'm running for a championship, and I will be back aboard the Suzuki for Dallas, Vegas, and Pomona, but thank you to them for letting me do this. Hopefully, we can do a good job this weekend on the bike that we won the championship with the last three years."
To anyone raising question to timing or the necessity for the temporary change, Smith said that he has pictures to prove the damage, and he explained that through no fault of Suzuki, replacement parts have been difficult to get quickly. In Charlotte, one engine was hurt and shut itself off in fifth gear in his second-round race with Gaige Herrera, after one had already been injured in the first round.
"I was out of motors," said Smith. "I couldn't take anything from Jianna [Evaristo, MSR teammate] because she's running for a championship, and that's not right. This is the only thing I could do right now. We next-day'd heads to get welded up, and they're going on to get CNC'd, and hopefully, everything will be back home when I get there from St. Louis. We'll put the stuff back together, dyno it, and have everything ready to go racing. We've been fast with our Suzuki this year, and I think we'll be fine."
There's more shuffling happening in the MBR pits: in addition to Smith riding the "Red Rocket" in St. Louis, wife Angie Smith will be aboard the carbon fiber black Buell Chip Ellis rode in Reading. Ellis is absent this weekend as he attends a boat race with his daughter, and that left available space on one MSR entry – Joey Gladstone will be filling the seat this weekend on the pink DENSO Buell usually ridden by Angie, while Gladstone's teammate, Cory Reed, will command the bike he typically rides.
"Plan A was for Chip to come in and block for us at the first two races, and we knew he was going to go to the boat race with his daughter this weekend," said Smith, who defeated Ellis in the final in Reading. "We had already asked Joey to come and ride the bike here, and that was Plan B. We don't know if we're going to do this [have a blocker] at Dallas; it will just be according to how this race shakes out and if I think it's possible to continue fighting for this championship.
"But I'm excited. We've won this race two years in a row, and I've won it five times. We have a good record at this track. Hopefully, we can win this weekend and get the points closer so that when we get back on our Suzuki for the last three races, we have a shot."