NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Woman on a mission: Angie Smith returns after season-altering wreck

After a top-end wreck in St. Louis , Pro Stock Motorcycle standout Angie Smith was all but counted out for the final races of 2023. However, with medical clearance and a plan to salvage the year, she was back on track in Las Vegas and doing all she could to keep a spot in the top 10.
27 Oct 2023
Kelly Wade
Angie Smith

After a nasty top-end wreck in St. Louis just a handful of weeks ago, Pro Stock Motorcycle standout Angie Smith was all but counted out for the final races of the season. However, with appropriate medical clearance and a plan to salvage the year, she was back on track in Las Vegas and doing all she could to keep a spot in the top 10.

"I was in pretty decent shape and had a pretty vigorous workout routine before this, and I feel like that helped me more than anything," said Smith. "I'm not one to lie around in pain, so I got up. I'm a woman on a mission, I guess you could say. This isn't going to stop me or hold me back, and I'm not going to give these boys or girls racing against me any breaks. I'm coming back."

Smith was riding a bike she was somewhat unfamiliar with in St. Louis when the incident occurred in Saturday qualifying just a handful of weeks ago, but unfamiliarity wasn't what she identified as the root cause of the painful spill. 

"Some of our bikes have different types of brakes, and the brakes on the one I was riding are more aggressive — I'm not throwing mud; it's good that we have aggressive brakes," said Smith. "But as I went through the finish line — you cannot make a perfectly flat racing surface, and it's just the nature of the earth moving and the time and years that the asphalt has been there. There were a few bumps, and I just happened to brake at the time the front wheel was coming up. I stopped the rotation of the front wheel because I was braking when my front tire hit the bumps, and when it came down, the front tire was not rolling, [so] it just washed out and went under the bike. It was a freak accident that could have happened to any of us."

Smith was pinned between her motorcycle and the racing surface for a brief moment and slid down the track past the finish line, and the resulting injuries were all on the right side of her body. After a swift but effective healing period, she arrived at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a skin graft on her toe, one on her arm, and a small area of road rash, as well as the skin-graft spot of origin.

"The recovery has been great," she said. "Tony Stewart was so gracious and flew me home from St. Louis on Sunday, I went to the doctor on Tuesday, then had the preliminary surgery on that Friday. [A week later], I had the skin-graft surgery, and everything took; everything is good." 

Smith, who was No. 5 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings entering St. Louis, dropped to sixth after missing St. Louis eliminations and having to sit out Dallas. She was still on the entry list for Las Vegas — a race she won in 2020 — and with only 15 other drivers planning to make the trip, an interesting scenario began to develop. With the approval of her physician, she rejoined the Matt Smith Racing team to make the trip west and ride again, if only briefly and not at full speed. Once on the property, she was cleared by NHRA Medical Director Dr. Phillip Surface as well. 

Although cleared to race, Smith still has a bit of healing to do before she is in optimal form, so the plan as of Friday afternoon in Las Vegas was to come to the starting line for the third qualifying session, take the tree, and then travel the length of the track — but not at full power. The session would likely be the only one in which she would participate, and as the 16th bike on the property, Smith would claim points for making the show, even if she chooses not to race on Sunday. If things go according to plan, Smith will be awarded 31 points and hold back her competitors from stretching too far ahead and potentially knocking her out of the top 10. Matt Smith Racing teammate Jianna Evaristo is just one point behind her in seventh, while Mark Ingwersen, Steve Johnson, and Kelly Clontz round out the top 10. Smith's husband, six-time and reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith, is No. 3 in the standings.

"I have sponsor obligations, and I want to stay in the top 10 — those points are very valuable," she said. "And Dallas was tough. Being at home and watching the races from afar was very, very tough for me. When you do something for 15 years and it's all you know, then it comes to a halt very abruptly, it's hard. 

"But there were some positives that came from it. Matt was very gracious; he set up cameras outside and inside so that I could feel like I was part of it, and he's been wonderful. And the outpouring of support from my fans, my competitors, and just the entire racing family — it's been breathtaking. That all plays a vital role in the mental health side of things, which is very important when you go through something like this. That outpouring of support has really helped."

As for the final race of the season, the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals in Pomona, Smith is unsure of her intentions. She's already been cleared to race, and so she may compete in earnest if the two weeks between now and then allows just enough healing. Although the next race is still undecided, Smith is making big plans for the 2024 season. 

"Oh, it's full speed ahead next year," she said.