2022 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE NOTEBOOK
MONDAY NOTEBOOK - MATT SMITH RIDES A BUELL TO WIN U.S. NATIONALS
Reigning NHRA world champion Pro Stock Motorcycle pilot Matt Smith made the bold decision to switch from his Buell to a Suzuki in the offseason.
However, when his Suzuki wasn’t running like Smith would like he has not been afraid to switch back to his trusty Buell.
That’s exactly what he did at the Mile-High Nationals in July in Denver and won the race, and he followed a similar script at the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend. Smith swapped his Suzuki for his Buell after Friday’s lone qualifying session and it proved to be a wise decision.
On Monday, aboard his Buell, Smith was celebrating his second career PSM U.S. Nationals win at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. Smith clocked a 6.872-second elapsed time at 195.99 mph in the finals and cruised to the win when Karen Stoffer slowed to 8.094 seconds in the other lane.
This was Smith’s 35th career victory – third this season – and his second of at the U.S. Nationals to go along with his inaugural victory in 2006.
“We started with the Suzuki this weekend on Friday and the goal was to run that,” Smith said. “We have a brand-new motor in the bike, so we have two motors (for the bike), but I just wasn’t happy. I couldn’t get the bike to leave the starting line right. I had a bad 60 foot, and it ran good to the eighth-mile, and I just shut it off. I was frustrated. I made the decision that night to bring out the V-Twin.
“We have had good success with the V-Twin, and we brought it out Saturday morning and it went to the No. 1 qualifying spot until Angelle went 6.796, but we did set the track speed record at 201 mph, and we had a good bike the rest of the weekend.”
Smith’s victory parade consisted of wins over his teammate Scotty Pollacheck, Hector Arana Jr., Jerry Savoie and then Stoffer.
“All in all, I felt like I had the bike beat, but I didn’t do my job today on the starting line,” Smith said. “I could not let the clutch go on time. I was just a little bit late every time, but the bike did its job.”
The first round in Pro Stock Motorcycle saw a slew of upsets. Ron Tornow shocked No. 1 qualifier Sampey, Stoffer stunned Joey Gladstone, winner of the previous two events, and Jianna Evaristo upended world champion Eddie Krawiec.
“We had five bikes that qualified in our camp and four of them won first round,” Smith said. “We had four bikes in second round and none of us had to run each other. We had a good chance of doing even better, but everybody lost but me in the second round, but I kept it going.”
Smith took a moment to discuss his plight with his Suzuki.
“We have run good with a Suzuki it is just not up to the potential that I want it to be yet,” Smith said. “When we do make good runs, we can run with every Suzuki out there. I’m just struggling with the clutch on that thing. It doesn’t react right, and it doesn’t 60-foot like it is supposed to with the way I’m used to. That has been my problem. It is a totally different clutch than what I run on the V-Twin. It is something I have to do some testing with. You will probably see that bike back out in Dallas (Oct. 13-16). I am going to run the V-Twin at the next two races – Reading, Pa. (Sept. 15-18) and Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 23-25), I’m 100 percent sure. I’m not even bringing a Suzuki out. It is V-Twin from this point to Dallas.”
Smith acknowledged the rule to be able to switch bikes at races has been a blessing for him.
“Here’s the whole thing, we can go test anywhere we want but it is nothing like testing at an NHRA prepped track,” he said. “You can’t learn a lot of stuff you need to and the stuff I need to learn is the prep. I just can’t get that bike to work right. That’s why I have been very blessed to do that (switch bikes). I hope they don’t make a rule change for next year, but I’m sure they will at some point, and we will just call it the Matt Smith Rule because this was an Eddie Hill Rule back in the day that he could that.
“I hope they don’t take that away. I think it is good for our class to be able to switch and I think it good for all the pro categories. If something happens, fans don’t want to see a bye run. They want to see two bikes or two cars going down the track battling it out. So, it (switching bikes) has been a blessing this year.”
The wait between his U.S. Nationals victories also was not lost on Smith.
After his inaugural U.S. Nationals title, he tuned John Hall (2013) and Scotty Pollacheck (2020) to Indy wins.
“I won this thing in 2005 (against Steve Johnson) and two days later they overturned it from video,” Smith said. “I came back the next year and won it and I have been in the finals four or five times, and I have been blessed now I have my second one.”
With the six-race Countdown to the Championship now on the schedule Smith is ready to defend his world championship.
“I told them all at the beginning of the year, if they keep pissing me off with the way they are running I’m going to bring ‘ol red rocket back out and every time I do it,” Smith said. “They better watch out for me because I’m still here and I’m getting older, I’m not like my dad (racing legend Rickie Smith), I’m not saying I’m retiring but I’m getting older, and we have a good bike, and we are going to defend our championship I can tell you that.”
SAMPEY GRABS THE NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT IN INDY – Veteran Angelle Sampey won Pro Stock Motorcycle championships in 2000-02. She hasn’t lost a step in the two decades that have followed.
Sampey, aboard her Vance & Hines Suzuki, took the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 6.796-second elapsed time at 199.88 mph. Sampey made the blistering pass during Q2 Saturday afternoon, and it held through Q5 Sunday afternoon.
This is Sampey’s 57th No. 1 qualifying spot of her decorated career and fourth of the season. This is also the seventh time she has been the No. 1 qualifier in Indy.
“That’s amazing and seven happens to be my favorite number,” Sampey said. “This is an outstanding accomplishment. I have been surrounded by
wonderful people my whole career – that’s the way I have done it. It definitely was not me, it is the teams I have been with, and this is the ultimate team that I’m with. I’m just so excited to finally be a part of Vance & Hines. We have a whole package of motorsports people always surrounding us, and Mission sponsor loves motorsports and of course we are back at Suzuki.
“With Vance & Hines, Terry and Byron and Andrew and Eddie (Krawiec) and all the guys back at the shop, it is expected for me to do well. If I don’t do well, I put a lot of pressure on myself because I know I’m the one who made the mistakes, and fortunately I drove a little better this weekend.”
Sampey faces Ron Tornow in round one.
“I feel confident going into (Monday),” Sampey said. “I know Matt (Smith) is gunning for me, and I know Eddie has the power to take it. But I’m going to hold on as best I can. I keep saying I’m being greedy, but I feel like I have to say that. I have to tell myself it is OK to want it all. I think sometimes when you get No. 1 qualifier you start worrying about whether you can seal the deal. You know what, I’m going to give it all I have, and I’m going to be greedy. I want it all.”
Because he was ill, tuner Andrew Hines wasn’t at the U.S. Nationals until Sunday. He had been tuning the team’s bikes remotely Friday and Saturday.
“He’s back on-site with us which is amazing for me,” Sampey said. “I didn’t know how much I was going to miss him not having him on the race track with me. He did such a fantastic job tuning that motorcycle to a ‘79’ from his house. We did it over FaceTime and we were running the computer back and forth to him, sending him videos and he was watching NHRA TV. I think he had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do to the motorcycle. It was pretty cool to see what he was capable of doing with not being here.”
Sampey won Indy in 2001-02 and would love to add No. 3. If she does, she will have the opportunity to move from second to first in the points. She trails Joey Gladstone by 64 points.
“I would love to the points lead going into the Countdown, but I’m being very honest when I say this to you, I really just want to win the race,” Sampey said. “That’s how I am all the time, and sometimes I want to win a little too much. What I want to do is try and win each round and the points come and you will get the championship. I’ve learned it in my 26 years that thinking way ahead of yourself can be very dangerous in this sport.”
AU REVOIR TO SAVOIE? – Jerry Savoie won the PSM world championship in 2016, and he took U.S. Nationals trophies home to Louisiana in 2015 and 2019.
He entered the 2022 U.S. Nationals seventh in the points on the strength of a win in Bristol, Tenn. – his 14th career Wally. Savoie qualified sixth at 6.846, and stablemate Karen Stoffer is ninth on the ladder at 6.875.
However, Savoie told CompetitionPlus.com this may be his last season as a full-time driver in the class.
“This is my last year,” Savoie said. “I’m not saying I won’t make one or two races, but to make a full season, I'm pretty much done. I don't want to get too old to where I'm struggling to try to do my job, which this year I'm riding probably just as good as any year, or any one of my beginning years. Things are good.
“But I don't want to get to that age like, ‘Man, I know I can still do it. I know I can still do it.’ And in your mind, and then you start looking at graphs, and you're not doing it. I don't want to get to that stage. Plus, I have a beautiful wife at home. She's very understanding, and I want to spend more time with her and more time in Mexico.
“Yeah, we'll probably still have the team out. We'll have two bikes. We're going to lease them. I can pop in and out. I might be a spoiler in the Countdown.”
No matter what Savoie decides in 2023, he is glad to be back competing in Indy.
“We were talking about that yesterday, what Indy meant to me,” Savoie said.
“The way the U.S. Nationals used to be … a lot of people don't know it was East Coast against the West Coast. The bad boys who were doing the most bragging would all meet here. That's where they decided who's the King of the United States or the King of the World. I've been lucky here. I've been in the finals, I think, three or four times. I won twice. It's pretty special. But a lot of tracks, when you win, every year it's the same thing. You just have a lot of mojo. We did pretty good in qualifying, and we'll see by the time the weekend is over.
A year ago, Savoie missed the U.S. Nationals while cleaning up the damage at his house and property in Cut Off, La., after Hurricane Ida.
“I missed Indy three times in my short career here. I've missed it three times because of hurricanes,” Savoie said. “Well, we just, we're not even close to rebuilding yet, but we are getting there. I've been through every hurricane since 1959, and this one was the worst.
“The people in south Louisiana, no disrespect to New Orleans, but that (expletive), that's all they talk about on the news. There's New Orleans. And there's a whole other world out there outside the city of New Orleans, and people were devastated in south Louisiana. But it's all about New Orleans, and New Orleans is not where it's at. The culture of south Louisiana was created on the values of Louisiana and south Louisiana. So, the media is a joke.
“We're rebuilding. I do have a new roof on my home, but the inside is still not done. My sister-in-law lost everything, and she's trying to take what she had and start over. And many, many, many people, Cajun people in south Louisiana lost everything, and they're leaving. A lot of them are going to Mississippi. A lot are going to Texas. And it's a sad day because the culture of south Louisiana is really dying. And the reason the people moved there originally was because it was so thriving with seafood and the trapping industry and the fishing industry and everything. And it's just a dying culture.”
STOFFER HAS EXPERIENCED ROLLERCOASTER SEASON – Karen Stoffer started the 2022 season in grand fashion winning the season-opening Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. She also was blistering the track with elapsed times in the 6.70s.
Since then, things have not gone great for Stoffer. She arrived in Indy eighth in the points standings.
“A lot of ups and downs,” Stoffer said about her season. “Started out up and then (an) NHRA rule change just kind of threw us for a little bit of a loop. I think out of all the teams out here that had to deal with weight, we were the one that were probably most inexperienced. The weight kind of threw us for a loop, and the bike hasn't quite been back there, … We have a great bike. I’ve just got to ride it well. I'm hopefully looking for an upward trend for the rest of the year.”
Stoffer, who said several months ago that this is likely her final full-time season of NHRA action, would like nothing better than to take an Indy Wally home to Nevada.
“It'd be phenomenal for me,” she said. “This track hasn't generally been on the top of the list for me for good performance. I'm hoping to turn that around. It has actually been good for Jerry. Jerry's won here multiple times.
He's got his name marked here, and he's got it in Dallas, which are his two favorite tracks. I'm going to work really hard at trying to do well here. Again, it hasn't historically been good, but hopefully this year, we'll be able
to change that.”
Stoffer is eager to see what the team can do once the points get reset for the Countdown to the Championship, which encompasses the final six races of the season.
“I mean, you race all year long to try and stay in that top 10 and get up as high as you can to get the points,” he said. “For us, really, it's race by race. Every race is different. Every track has a different personality. Every climate is different. Some favor the V motors, some favor the inline four. It just depends. We just got to keep our head down, stay focused and take round by round, race by race, event by event. That's the goal.”
JOHNSON TALKS ABOUT HIS SEASON, STATE OF PSM – The 2021 and 2022 seasons have been a revival for veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer/team owner Steve Johnson. He entered the 2021 U.S. Nationals fourth in the season points on the strength of two wins and a runner-up finish.
“Well, I think coming to Indy, I told the crew is it's just another race, and we just need to do what we're always doing,” Johnson said. “But there's so many people here, so many executives, so much corporate America stuff, the fans are ... just have a different level of fever that you just can't help to ... dig deeper and to find other things. And I find myself looking longer at the computer or longer at the motorcycle. It is a different race, even as much as it's been so storied for us.”
Johnson, who won Indy in 2005 and ‘08, qualified fifth at 6.835 seconds.
“It's just fun. It's just exciting. And to be part of the mix is just a blessing,” Johnson said. “Well, I think the motorsports world recognizes and rewards teams that are more or less all in. I think of Joe Gibbs or Richard Childress. I think of the Formula 1 teams and Red Bull and (John) Force out here and (Larry) Dixon’s back with Will Smith driving for him.
“I mean, anybody who works hard, and definitely got to have money, got to spend money. You've got to have sponsors and stuff. I think it's like anything in life, though. I think if you work hard at your relationship, you have a great marriage. I think if you work hard at making money, you become rich. So, it's a long process, but I have great mentors. I have a really blessed situation to learn about how engines are put together.”
Johnson emphasized piloting a Pro Stock Motorcycle is much harder than it looks.
“I keep going back to Frank Hawley and George Bryce and the drag racing school, and riding these motorcycles are so challenging,” Johnson said. “I think it's the hardest thing in this sport. So, I wish everybody got an opportunity to at least feel what it's like.
“Darrell Alderman, the Pro Stock car guy, got a chance. One of the best Pro Stock drivers ever, and he got on a motorcycle and almost fell off it. It's like people just have no idea how hard these accelerate. So, I wish everybody got a chance to feel that, and that's why riding them is so important. Actually, driving them, not riding them. You ride a bull; you drive a Pro Stock Motorcycle.”
Johnson, with his wealth of experience, has a new mission these days.
“My focus now is to really communicate back to the sanctioning body what the fans and what other drag race motorcycle people think the brand of our class is,” Johnson said. “Changing the rules so many times, I mean I guess you could change the salt and pepper on your steak a few times, and I suppose you could identify which one was better, but with the motorcycles it's like, man, 10 pounds? You need more than a couple runs to figure out if those 10 pounds is in the right spot or not. And them changing the rules is really hard on the class. The whole second motorcycle thing is hard on the class in my view.
“Again, they're not doing anything wrong. (Matt Smith is) not doing anything wrong, but I think it's a very challenging area to go into, and I think these are things that hold other people from coming into our class. And as a champion, I think you get a bigger voice on that stuff. As an also-run like me, I don't know what kind of voice. But we have a great sport and a great class, and the US Nationals is the epitome of drag racing. So, I guess I'll just retreat to my trailer and try to figure out a tune-up for the next run.”
CHRIS BOSTICK STILL ENJOYING HIS RETURN TO PSM CLASS – Chris Bostick’s NHRA career began exactly 23 years ago at the U.S. Nationals, riding the CTS offshore bike owned by Ben Hatcher.
“Back then I can't remember exactly how many bikes were here, but it was almost 30, if I recall, and I qualified for my first event out and got to race,” he said. “I lost in the first round, but at least I was here and enjoyed it. Then many, many years went by that I wasn't competing at all, as you know.”
Bostick left the racing arena to start a business career in Nashville, Tenn.
“So, it was another milestone three years ago on this exact weekend is when I returned to NHRA,” Bostick said. “I have been loving it ever since.”
Bostick is piloting a Suzuki with the monster head.
“Yeah, I was actually the very first one to ever have the four-valve monster head in competition at an NHRA event.”
Bostick has competed in six races this season and sat out Norwalk, Denver, and Sonoma before returning in Topeka, where he lost in the first round to Angie Smith. Bostick has one round win this season.
“It's been a struggle,” Bostick said. “We have blown up a lot of equipment. We have gone through five engines in the last four races, but we've found a computer glitch … that has been hindering us and blowing up some engines. So, hopefully, we'll get Lady Luck on our side.”
Unfortunately for Bostick, he came up short as his quickest pass was 6.989 seconds, which was only good for 18th in a 16-bike eliminator field.
Falling short doesn’t dampen Bostick’s enthusiasm about competing in the sport.
“It's just the love of it,” Bostick said. “My father competed. My father and grandfather competed in the very first national event in the early 1950s that NHRA ever had. It's kind of in my blood. My grandfather (Wilson Bostick) was the very first person to ever go 150 miles an hour in a dragster on gasoline.”
CLONTZ’S IMPROVEMENT CONTINUES – Kelly Clontz continues to make progress, and even after missing two races for medical reasons, she entered Indy 13th in the points. During her absence, she had 2010 PSM champ LE Tonglet onboard at Bristol and Norwalk.
“It's been a great year,” Clontz said. “It takes a little bit to have to step back, but we were able to have LE come in and continue to bring his Steamfitter team out here, and he made great progress on the bike, and then I was able to get on it in Sonoma and do a career best. We're hoping to jump back on and continue to move forward.”
Clontz qualified 12th for the U.S. Nationals at 6.900 seconds, and will face Steve Johnson in the first round.
“I met my husband (Chris) in 2001 at the racetrack, and he raced motorcycles. I loved him, so I wanted to get into motorcycles,” she said. “I started racing in 2003 with him, and it's something that we've just kept up together, and we've raced every weekend since then. We're able to work our way up to here, and find some awesome sponsors to help us be out here full-time. So, we work full-time and we race full-time.”
Clontz said that watching Tonglet ride her Suzuki was beneficial.
“Oh, you come in and you think everything's going to be perfect, and you can come in and do everything yourself, and then when you actually have to step off the bike, it kind of makes you a little uneasy. But we had the perfect person to fill the spot, and it was the right call,” Clontz said. “Now we just want to continue to put our best foot forward and try to get some round wins, try to get a win. I would love to get a win.
“We've been out here five years, and we think we’ve got the bike to do it, and we know we have the skills to do it and we need some luck on our side and the whole package and we know we can make it happen.
“Vance & Hines is our biggest supporter and it's my husband and me. That's our team and then we have sponsors come in and out and it's a great opportunity for us. Right now, we're with the four-valve and everything we learn this year, we'll push forward to next year and keep trying our best and looking for career-best numbers and just keep moving forward.”
SMITH KNOWS IMPORTANCE OF INDY – Veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Angie Smith said she relishes everything about the U.S. Nationals.
“I love Indy,” Angie said. “This is the one that everybody wants to win. So, you have to put a little bit of extra effort into Indy and it's the most-prestigious race in NHRA. Everybody wants to win Indy, so you have to work harder, and you got to keep calm and you got to do your job. This is also the last race going into the (six-race) Countdown, so it kind of sets the momentum for the Countdown as well.”
This season, husband Matt Smith, the reigning PSM world champion, switched from riding a Buell to a Suzuki. That same transition may be in store for Angie in 2023.
“If parity is right, I'll be on my V-Twin, but if parity is not right, I do know that we have the ability to put me on a Suzuki for next year,” she said. “So, we'll see what happens if NHRA gets parity right and we're not getting out run by five hundredths, then I'll stay on my V-Twin. I prefer to be on a V-Twin, but I'm not going to get outrun five hundredths and be happy about it.”
Angie said the last time she was riding a Suzuki was in 2004 when she competed in one race for George Bryce.
“I'm sure there'll be a learning curve, but I don't doubt that I can get it,” she said.
Matt Smith qualified No. 2 (6.800) and Angie was fourth at (6.828).
REED TALKS ABOUT HIS TEAM’S BREAKOUT SEASON – Seeing his team, through years of hard work, finally reach the pinnacle as a
national-event winner has been very gratifying for Cory Reed. Reed’s teammate and best friend Joey Gladstone won the last two events (Sonoma, Topeka).
“Just after a little bit of a long road, four or five or six years for me, five years for Joey, it feels nice to finally get some success,” Reed said. “Keeps us wanting to come back.
“We put the work in, honestly. It's just as simple as that. We've tried a lot of stuff. We've simplified a lot of things. We went testing a bunch and worked at it, honestly. We're more prepared this year racing-wise than we've been at any point, and we've learned a lot the last few years too, like how to race on Sunday and all that type of stuff. Just kind of a combination of everything coming together.
“If we had to do our own engine stuff still, like when we did … the V-Twin stuff, we'd be full-time, all the time, working at it at the shop. We're lucky that we have the luxury of being able to get good power from somebody, you know?” Reed said. “But other than that, it gives me and Joey the luxury of going testing a lot, traveling, doing all the other stuff that you normally have to hire people to go do. Me and Joey drive the rig, you know? We drive everywhere. We've driven to every race for the past four or five years.”
Reed, 29, is a veteran PSM rider, but has been sidelined since last fall when he crashed in Charlotte last fall. He said he’s still in the recovery process.
“It hurts. It's hard to walk every now and then, but I'm good now,” he said.
Reed is also adjusting to being a father to his and wife Karolina’s year-old son.
“It's awesome,” Cory said. “He loves this place, too. Every morning ... he wakes up pretty early in the morning, so I'll take him out while she's making him breakfast. We'll ride the scooter around, and he likes watching all the Super Stock cars and all that stuff warm up. He starts jumping out, growling at them and stuff. I'm like, ‘That's funny.’ Shoot, all my other nephews do it already, so I would imagine he would follow suit with all the other kids.”
Reed would love nothing more than to see Gladstone add a third Wally in a row Monday.
“Oh, it'd be awesome. That, and it would be the third one in a row,” Reed said. “I think we've been in the finals five times this year, and I think we've only lost in the first round one time this year.
“I mean, it's a good season. No matter how it ends up, that's a good season. Hopefully we just keep it going. Hopefully we keep everything fresh and maintained well and stay on top of this stuff, and hopefully just don't change nothing. Keep doing what we're doing. Just keep working at it, chipping away at it, and keeping our consistency, keeping the same people doing the same jobs.”
Gladstone qualified eighth at 6.873 seconds.
Reed said he and Gladstone will both be riding Suzukis in 2023.
“My bike and my chassis is in the trailer right now, actually,” Reed said. “I've had it since Virginia. I got it back from Vance & Hines when I crashed … I'm just waiting on some new bodywork stuff that's supposed to be coming out. …
“And things were going so good there was no reason to bring back another bike right now, so we'll finish the year out like it is and then come back with our normal two-bike deal.”
Reed is anxious to get back on the bike, saying, “I'm just now getting back to where I feel like I could be comfortable riding, racing again.”
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK- PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
SAMPEY GOES TO THE TOP AFTER THREE QUALIFYING SESSIONS - World champion Angelle Sampey has enjoyed a strong season aboard her Vance & Hines Suzuki, and that trend continued Sept. 3 at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
She took the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a 6.796-second elapsed time at 199.88 mph during Q2 Saturday afternoon.
“I know Eddie (Krawiec, her teammate) had the No. 1 spot and I managed to take it away from him,” Sampey said. “When we made the first run, there was more in it, and I do believe there’s actually more in it right now. One of things that has been kind of crazy is Andrew (Hines, the team’s crew chief), has been tuning from home (in neighboring Brownsburg, Ind.) He wasn’t feeling well this week, and he wanted to make sure he was completely healthy before he showed up and he says he’s coming (Sunday).
“It has been kind of weird. We have been doing a lot of Face Time with him and running the computer back and forth to his house for him to do the tune-ups. It has been amazing that he’s done such a good job and not being here with us. For me, it is weird because I like having him next to me. It is pretty crazy how spoiled I’ve gotten. Last year, he was on a motorcycle, and half the time he was either behind me in the lanes or at the end of track already. I didn’t always have him right next to me, and I didn’t have him the last two days. I’m looking forward to having him back (Sunday). With him, he will be able to do a better job if that is possible.”
Matt Smith is No. 2 on the qualifying ladder at 6.800 seconds and Krawiec dropped to No. 3 at 6.826 seconds.
KRAWIEC WANTS TO WIN, NOT JUST WIN NO. 50 – Eddie Krawiec has nothing to prove in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, but he would love to accomplish a milestone this weekend on his Vance & Hines Suzuki.
“It's just the building year. It's kind of to learn the motorcycle, learn everything,” Krawiec said. “I mean, it doesn't matter how many runs you have, you got to adapt to and get your muscle memory to the new stuff and kind of make it second nature for everything to happen. I think the last couple of races for me, all that's kind of coming together and just kind of showing where our program is. (The motorcycle) is very consistent. I just got to work on making the motorcycle work in the front half of the track a little better.”
Krawiec clocked a 6.826-second elapsed time – the quickest in Q1 and third best on the ladder.
“I mean, to not say we don't expect to … we have good motorcycles, we have experience, we have everything,” Krawiec said. “I think this year it's going to be a combination of whoever manages what they have the best and gets it down the track and does the best job racing on Sunday.
“It's a tight field. It goes pretty deep with riders and racers that could win on any day. So, when you're in that position, that's just going to be, I think, eight guys – eight guys or girls – eight to 10 of them, really – that are going to be fighting for a championship here when the points reset.”
The Pro Stock points will reset for the final six races of the season after the U.S. Nationals.
“Yes, it has hype around it,” Krawiec said about Indy. “Is it any different than any other? No, I want to win every race I go to. I don't really care where it is. I just want to win, that's kind of my goal and that's my mentality. Obviously it is an extra special race for us just because it's home. Our shop's right down the road. We've got a lot of friends, a lot of family, that come to it, and more important it's just a good morale boost going into the Countdown.”
Krawiec then took a moment to talk about the milestone that’s within his reach.
“You'd love to say you have 50 wins and, yeah, I want to check that off my list and I want to keep going,” Krawiec said. “I just want to win. It doesn't matter if it's Indy, it doesn't matter if it's my 50th. I said, it's not like I'm going to get 50 and hopefully get off the bike. I want to win 58, 59, 60, 65. Whatever it takes, I'm just going to come out here and stay focused on my program. Kind of keep my head looking forward and race forward, and I feel very confident.
“I'm coming into where I need to be at the right time, because we all know, this is a points-and-a-half race. And then after this, everything gets thrown away. That lead that anybody has is gone. And it's about really being consistent on the race day for the next five races for us.
“The thing is when you look at the class 15 years ago to now, or even 20 years ago, we kind of often look at that. When you look at the 90s, it was Dave Schultz and John Myers, who you expected to go pretty much to the final of that race. Then towards the end of the 90s, early 2000s, it was Matt Hines and Angelle (Sampey). And then when you got into the middle of the 2000s, it kind of started really shifting. And I think that's partly due to the level of competition, the racers, everybody that's coming out here. People are putting more of a serious effort in it, and here we are in 2022, and I really think there's 12 bikes on any given day that could win.”
MARC INGWERSEN MAKING PROGRESS IN PSM CLASS – Marc Ingwersen has made an investment in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class, and the investment is paying dividends.
Ingwersen arrived in Indy ninth in the points standings, and has a respectable 6-8 elimination-round record aboard his Buell.
“Officially, we bought the bike in the end of 2014, and just kind of really raced a couple times only,” Ingwersen said. “A year here and there, just trying things out and the motor wasn't quite where it needed to be. Jon's been working on that. But really officially, I guess this is really our first kind of full season. Just over the last couple years we've seen that we're progressing. So, we figured we'd just keep pushing forward.”
Jon Miller and his son, Parker Miller are tuning Ingwersen’s bike.
“They're the ones who work on the bike and have done a great job,” Ingwersen said. “Jon is really the magic behind all this. We do all our own motor stuff in-house. Everything is done in house. We've got our own shop (in Ohio) and we just got that, what? End of 2019, beginning of 2020s, really when we opened that shop up. We just have that relentless, never-give-up attitude. Jon, he's been doing drag racing for his whole life, 35, 40 years, and he's still got the fastest 40-degree motor in the world. He built the bike, the whole bike. Tuned it and everything.”
Ingwersen did imagine what it would be like to be the coveted U.S. Nationals champ.
“I've done a lot of complicated things in my life, and this is by far the hardest thing I've ever done,” he said. “There are so many moving things that have to be perfect, right? Everything has to be perfect. And a lot of people don't understand that. It's complicated, definitely.
“Yeah, and we're still running with one motor, and that's part of the problem. We only have the Gen One motor. … so, being really careful. I mean, if we could get a sponsor to really jump onboard, then we definitely would (buy another motor). We have everything very safe and the rev limiters at a safe, safe amount. So, we don't hurt anything.”
MALCOLM PHILLIPS JR. MAKING HIS INDY DEBUT IN PSM – Back in June in Bristol, a new face entered NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class as Malcolm Phillips Jr. made his debut. He qualified No. 12 and lost in the first round.
Phillips Jr. is the nephew of veteran PSM racer and national-event winner Michael Phillips.
“Different,” Phillips Jr. said about being at the U.S. Nationals. “It's a dream come true, thanks to them. I mean, it was a plan, but just had to try to find a way to get the funding together to come out here. I mean, we band together. DME stepped up and helped me out a lot. I thank those guys over there, DME Racing. They stepped up a lot and helped me out. Suzuki Extended Protection, they stepped up and helped me out a lot, but mostly them, all of us banding together working, you know?”
GT Tonglet talked to CompetitionPlus.com on how Phillips Jr. came to ride his family’s Suzuki in Indy.
“This is the one LE normally rides, and LE couldn't make it this weekend, so we have Malcolm on it,” GT said. “That was the plan (to have LE ride at this race). We were going to hit a few with LE, with his schedule, with everything working in a perfect world, he could have made it. And then the deal arose with Kelly (Clontz). She had some issues and couldn't ride the bike. So, we decided earlier in the year we put Malcolm on it in Bristol. He did good. And we planned on coming here. We all took off work, so we were going to come anyway. And Malcolm's doing a hell of a job. It's just getting him used to riding something with a wheelie bar.
“He's been riding our Pro Stockers for the past couple years, but no one really knew that. His first full run on a Pro Stock Bike was in qualifying in Bristol, but we've made a bunch of runs with slower engines along the last couple of years.”
Phillips Jr., 29, is once again competing on the Tonglet family-owned Suzuki.
“I do a lot of grudge, outlaw stuff. I race XDA, KOGs, MLGs, grudge nationals (on other types of motorcycles),” Phillips Jr. said. “I do a lot of those. This (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is what I actually grew up around. Coming with my uncle and being with them. I've been with them (the
Tonglets) all my life.”
Phillips lives in Baton Rouge, La., about 90 minutes from Metairie, La., where the Tonglets reside.
“I've been around them since I was a kid coming to the track,” Phillips said. “It was like, man, I'm really here. This is my first time ever even coming to this race. I've always watched it on TV. I went to a lot of races with my uncle, but around this time I had to be in school. So, I would always miss it. And I was like, one day I'm going to go. This year I told myself, ‘I'm going. Whether I'm racing or not, I'm going. And then I raced Bristol, and it was good. It was a dream come true, and that's all I planned to do. That was my biggest plan, was to just go out and qualify. I wasn't worried about making rounds. I just wanted to at least qualify.”
Phillips Jr. has simple goals for this weekend at the ‘Big Go.’
“Like I told Gary and GT, I said, ‘I still have the same agenda, that's qualifying. Maybe we could qualify 11th. We would be better than we did the last time out.' And that's just my plan, riding better. I'm definitely excited. I've been smiling all day, just high on life”
GT Tonglet acknowledged it isn’t as simple as swapping LE out for Phillips Jr. when it comes to riding their family Suzuki.
“He's probably about 15 pounds lighter than LE,” GT said of Phillips Jr. “We're trying to get the bike happy with more weight on the front, and now we're even lighter. Because now we run a two valve, we don't have a four valve. So, we take advantage of the 25-pound weight break, but trying to make the bike work that light with a little bit of weight on the front, it's a lot of variables right now. And like I said, Malcolm's so much lighter, there's a lot less weight on the rear tire. So, trying to get it like every setup we have for LE wouldn't work. So, we still don't know what set up he needs, but he's doing a darn good job at making the best of what we're giving him, so we're happy.”
Phillips Jr. is hopeful this race is one of more to come.
“I would like to,” Phillips Jr. said about competing in more PSM races after Indy. “I mean, like I said, I really don't have the funding to. Hopefully, somebody listening will help us out. If not riding this one (the Tonglet’s Suzuki), I'll probably end up riding my uncle's bike.”
GT said LE, his brother and PSM world champion, should make a few more appearances riding this season on their family Suzuki.
“We plan on it. If we can get everything working right, we plan on hitting a few more; at least Dallas (Oct. 13-16), I know,” GT said. “St. Louis isn't a bad run for us as well. And Vegas and Pomona are just awesome. I love that area. So that wouldn't be totally out of the question.”
GAIGE HERRERA MAKES CAREER PSM DEBUT IN INDY – Gaige Herrera added his name to the list as a career newcomer in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. Herrera, 28, is riding Gary Stoffer’s Suzuki.
“Yeah, it's a totally different experience,” Herrera said. “I come from the XGA series around the pro street and the grudge side of things with Malcolm (Phillips Jr.) and all that,” Herrera said. “We go all over. Last weekend, we were in Virginia racing. But yeah, it's a totally different atmosphere. Oh, it's a different feeling. All the people and seeing the stands full. It's definitely a lot to take in. So, I like it so far. I mean, this is where everyone wants to be.”
Herrera, who’s from Indiana, explained how his opportunity came to fruition.
“I'm really good friends with Gary Stoffer and Greg Underdahl and I do a lot of wiring,” Herrera said. “I wired Jimmy's bike, put a EFI on it originally, and tuned it for a little while. So, it just kind of led to it. I rode this bike about a year ago, just testing. He offered me the opportunity and I couldn't pass it up. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; dream come true. It felt good. Smooth, definitely ran better than I thought originally off the trailer. So now we got something to work with, so we go from there.”
Herrera is optimistic this will not be a one-off race for him.
“We're going to try to do the rest of the season, and then we're going to work towards next season,” Herrera said. “See if we could pull it off.”
Herrera said the speed of the Pro Stock Motorcycle doesn’t faze him.
“My personal bike (in Pro Street), I've been 6.49 seconds at 210 mph,” he said. “Basically, street tire, no wheelie bar. My bike's nitrous. I race against a lot of turbo bikes.”
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
HECTOR ARANA SR.’S RETURN IN DOUBT BECAUSE OF INJURY - Hector Arana Sr.’s return to competition was supposed to happen this weekend, but according to Hector Jr., that now seems unlikely.
“That was the plan for my dad, but at work about a week and a half ago, he got hurt stepping off a ladder,” Arana Jr. said. “He hurt his right knee. We came to (Indy), and we brought both bikes, but right now I don’t think he’s going to be able to run.”
Arana Sr. has competed in 326 NHRA national events, and has amassed seven wins, 16 runner-up finishes and a 2009 PSM World Championship.
The last time Arana Sr. competed was at the 2019 season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals. He lost to his son in the first round.
Back in 2020, Arana Sr. was going to race at the Gatornationals, but that didn’t happen because the event was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Of course, I wanted to race with my dad again,” Arana Jr. said. “He’s doing a lot better than when he first got hurt, but he is still sore. He’s always wanted to run again, and Indy is a close race, and we have a lot of people there and he wanted to run. Now, it looks like we will just have to wait until he gets healthy before he races again.”
Arana Jr. has competed on a limited schedule since the start of the 2021 season. He has 15 career national-event wins, including the 2011 U.S. Nationals as a rookie. Arana Jr. also was the first rider to break the 200-mph barrier in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Arana Jr. will be competing on an EBR (Erik Buell Racing) motorcycle in Indy.
“I do have high expectations for Indy,” he said. “The motor is really good right now, and I think we are ready to rock ’n' roll. I’m coming to this race really confident and really positive about this weekend. I’m glad to be a part of Indy. It is one my favorite races and the first race I ever won, so I have great memories here.”
This is only his third race of the season on the heels of Charlotte and Norwalk. The races at Reading, Pa., and Madison, Ill., are possibilities following Indy.
SCOTTY POLLACHECK RETURNS TO RACE IN PSM CLASS - Following the 2021 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle season, Scotty Pollacheck opted to step away from the sport this year to take care of his family business and other things.
Well, it didn’t take Pollacheck too long to return.
Pollacheck, who finished sixth in last year’s points standings on the strength of a win in Atlanta, is back at the U.S. Nationals this weekend driving the same Buell he was on the last couple of years for Matt Smith Racing.
“Well, a phone call,” said Pollacheck on what brought him back to competing this weekend. “Yeah, we are just kind of helping Mike Salinas and Matt out.”
Pollacheck is running a Buell for Scrapper Racing, which is under the MSR banner.
“It wasn’t hard to say yes. I mean, we’ve loved this for so long, Susan (Scotty’s wife) and I both,” Scotty said. “It was really different for us being at home (in Medford, Ore.). But it’s awesome to come back out. We definitely missed it. There’s always that part of us that when we’re not here, we’re like, ‘Man, I wish I was there.’ No better place to get started at (than the U.S. Nationals).”
Lucas Oil Raceway has provided great memories for Pollacheck. He won his first career national event at the 2020 U.S. Nationals and also eclipsed the 200-mph barrier that weekend.
“You know, it would be so wild to have been off all year and then to come back at Indy and have that kind of success again,” Pollacheck said. “That would be unbelievable. That’s a pretty lofty goal. But it happened before so it can happen again.”
Pollacheck wasn’t ready to announce any racing plans beyond Indy.
“I don’t know,” said Pollacheck, when asked if this was a one-off race. “We’re going to just kind of see how it goes. We might do some more. We might just do this one. I don’t know yet.”
Pollacheck took a moment to discuss why he walked away from the sport after 2021.
“We have a tire store and then we’re getting to build a house,” Pollacheck said. “That’s been kind of challenging, getting the logistics lined up on that, so we decided not to build the house. We're going to remodel the house we’re in. We’re in the middle of the remodel now. A lot of stuff going on.”
Pollacheck said he expected to have butterflies this weekend starting with Q1.
“Oh, I’m sure there will be (butterflies). Once we get up there in the staging lanes it’ll creep back in,” Pollacheck said. “But there’s nothing wrong with that. It's almost like a motivating factor when you have that.”
Pollacheck said that the rush he gets piloting a Pro Stock Motorcycle is something he can’t duplicate away from the track.
“There’s a different adrenaline rush when you’re riding one of these machines,” Pollacheck said. “I’m kind of an adrenaline junky. A lot of different things. I’ve skydived, I’ve bungee jumped. All that stuff is really fun. I love that. But none of it is the same as letting a clutch out on a Pro Stock Motorcycle.”
MATT SMITH READY FOR ANOTHER INDY - Matt Smith has been victorious at the coveted U.S. Nationals as a Pro Stock Motorcycle rider and owner/tuner. He won in 2006 as a rider, and then as an owner with John Hall (2013) and Scotty Pollacheck (2020).
The five-time and reigning world champion is back for another swing for glory this weekend.
“Indy 2022 is we’re still learning,” Smith said. “We’re learning the Suzuki. I’m committed to that. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I mean, I’ve given up my whole year for R&D and just trying to learn this thing, and we’ve made some big gains. So, we’ll see what happens the rest of the year.”
A year ago, Smith won the PSM world title on a Buell, but he made the decision to switch to Suzuki in the offseason. Smith said parking his championship-winning Buell was tough.
“It is. And we brought it out one time this year for the whole race and won the race,” Smith said. “So, it’s sitting in the top of the trailer — and who knows, we might run it here this weekend. We don’t know yet for sure. I know we’re going to start with a Suzuki, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Smith unloaded the Buell and ran it at the Mile-High Nationals — ran it all the way to the winner’s circle at Bandimere Speedway.
Smith entered Indy fifth in the season points on the strength of two wins and a runner-up finish.
“We have really good power,” Smith said. “I just haven’t managed going to the first 150 feet of the racetrack with a Suzuki yet. It’s a totally different clutch. It’s totally different than way I run my V-Twin program. And all these other guys have got years and years and years of doing that, and I’ve just got to learn that and I’m gaining. Once I do that, I’ll probably have one of the fastest Suzukis out here.”
Smith believes with the current state of the PSM class he needs to ride a Suzuki.
“The way the rules are, yes,” Smith said of the reason he switched. “The rules right now for the four-valve is giving them a lot. Suzuki is coming here as the official bike of NHRA. So, there’re props to that because they seem to have more rules in their favor, just like Harley-Davidson used to back in the day. So that’s why I’m committed to it. And there’s a lot of potential left in that thing. I’ve just begun. We’re just on the tip of the iceberg. There’s a massive amount of power to be found in that. And that’s why I’m going to stick with it right now.”
Smith’s wife, Angie, is riding a Buell again this season, but Matt said that may change sooner than later to her making the switch.
“I mean, we have another Suzuki that we are building, so yes, that’s a good possibility,” Matt said. “It would be for next year, but yeah, we are building another one, and we also have the bike right now that Jimmy Underdahl ran if we wanted to put her on it right now. It’s just sitting at our shop right now, but we are building another one to clone to what I have right now.”
Like seemingly every weekend, Smith has a full plate when he’s at the track as he has five total motorcycles running under his Matt Smith Racing umbrella.
“We have Scotty (Pollacheck), and Jianna (Evaristo) for Team Scrappers, and I put in a motor in Ron Tornow’s bike for this weekend,” Matt said.
Matt took a moment to go down memory lane in Indy.
“Probably the greatest accomplishment I’ve had here is we’ve won this race, and then we won it with Scotty (Pollacheck) here. I’ve won it as a team owner, but the year that I had both bikes in the finals, which was me and John Hall, he ended up beating me in the finals. That’s what I'd like to see. I’d like to see two MSR or two Team Scrapper bikes in the finals here. And I don’t care who wins. If it’s that, we’ve already won.”
GLADSTONE COLLECTING WALLYS FULL OF CONFIDENCE - The struggle was real for Joey Gladstone. He spent several years and nearly 70 races before his breakthrough before winning Sonoma, Calif., and Topeka, Kan., the last two races on the circuit for the bike racers.
“Rewarding is an understatement,” said Gladstone about his wins. “I waited so long. It took me 69 races to get that first one. And to finally get it done really was a sense of fulfillment for basically my life’s work, to try to do it. … And to get another one to validate it, that was really cool, too. Now that we know we can do it, my expectations are a lot higher, and we just got to hunker down and can’t change what we’re doing. That’s all.”
The wins by Gladstone were even more special considering the struggles he has had to go through with his team owner Cory Reed.
“It just took time,” Gladstone said. “Because when we started getting a more and more competitive program, Sunday’s so much different ... Race day’s so much different than qualifying. And the track conditions differ as Sunday goes on and our decision making wasn’t there yet for Sunday, as far as making the right decisions to go to the next round. So, we’re learning that, and that’s really the main difference. So, we’ve always had a competitive bike, but we didn’t really know how to do Sunday. And now we’re learning how to win races. So, like I said, our expectations are definitely higher now.”
And Gladstone is extremely grateful with the support his team has been given from Vance & Hines.
“Well, Vance & Hines does our engines, and we work closely with them, and they give us a killer product,” Gladstone said. “They give you the horsepower to win. It’s just like Eddie (Krawiec) always tells me, you just got to use it. You got to figure out how to get it down the racetrack. And like he says, whoever does it best that day is going to come home with it.
“But it’s very gratifying, man. We dedicate our lives to this lifestyle. And to do it with Cory and we’re closer than brothers. So, to do it with Cory is awesome. And to do it with the Whiteley family is awesome too. I couldn’t be with a better group of people.”
Reed and his team are headquartered in Richmond, Va., and he and Gladstone keep plenty busy when they aren’t traveling on the NHRA circuit.
“I do performance machine work and we try not to stay too busy because we’re gone so much,” Gladstone said. “But whenever I get home, I got a couple of weeks’ worth of work to do and I do a lot of honing and resleeving of blocks and rod reconditioning, things like that. It’s all good.”
Gladstone, thanks to his recent winning momentum, took a moment to talk about the ‘Big Go’ in Indy.
“Well, I’ve never really thought of Indy in a really special fashion because … everybody thinks they can win, but it was never really a reality to be in the talks to be in contention of winning it,” Gladstone said.
“So, now that I think about it and the history of this race and what it actually means to drag racing, it would be a huge, huge honor to be able to do it. And we got a lot
of momentum on our side, so I think we’re in a good position to have good results. So, we’ll see what happens.”
CHIP ELLIS RIDING SECOND BIKE FOR FLYIN’ RYAN - Over the last several years, veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chip Ellis has welcomed the role of being a rent-a-rider. Ellis will be in that role again when he competes on a second Buell for Ryan Oehler’s Pro Stock Motorcycle team.
Ellis also rode a second bike for Oehler’s team at Norwalk in late June.
“It was fun, man,” Ellis said about racing in Norwalk. “We had a good time, ran pretty decent. And I think we’re going to try to take what we learned over there and apply it here and see if we can maybe run a little better. I’ve run Buells pretty much my whole career except when I was with Schumacher, so this is very familiar to me to work on Buells. I think it’s some stuff we can help him with. He has some new stuff that he’s trying, that they tried in (Topeka).
“So, we’ll see if we can take what he learned and take what I know and try to speed up his program. I think he's got good power and stuff. We just got to work on applying it.”
Prior to Norwalk, Ellis last competed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class last season, when he tackled a limited schedule on one Matt Smith’s Buells. Back in 2018, Ellis ran a third Harley-Davidson for Vance & Hines in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif. He qualified No. 1 in St. Louis and made it to the finals in Charlotte before losing to Matt Smith.
Ellis loves competing at the prestigious U.S. Nationals.
“Oh man, this is the (biggest) drag race in the world,” Ellis said. “There’s nothing bigger, there’s nothing better. You’ve got a lot of walking to do, brother, because there’s cars around this whole facility. It’s just awesome. One of my favorite things is the Hemi Shootout that they have here. We work on some of those cars, and it’s the place everybody wants to be. They have got 22 bikes here. What does that say?”
Ellis is excited to be racing in Indy but has no definite plans after this weekend.
“You never know,” Ellis said. “The phone rings from time to time. And I know I definitely don’t want to run the full schedule, but if I ran three or four races a year, that would be cool just to come out and have some fun and hang out with my friends. That’s the main thing.”
When Ellis isn’t racing in the NHRA ranks, he keeps his hand in the game by boat racing with his 20-year-old daughter McKenzie.
“We go boat racing Oct. 1 in Chattanooga, Tenn.,” Ellis said. “Right now, we ran six or seven races this year, and she’s either won or runner-upped at every one.”