With his opening round win over Michael Phillips, Matt Smith joined exclusive company as a six-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. Smith came into the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a solid, but not insurmountable 104 point lead over Joey Gladstone and officially locked up the title when he rode his Denso Buell past Phillips in round one. Smith continued his recent string of quick runs with a 6.770, 200.92 to easily distance himself from veteran Phillips.
Smith now joins the late Dave Schultz and Andrew Hines as the only riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class to win six titles. Smith has won three-straight titles and four of the last five. His championship seasons have come in 2007, 2013, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
“This Denso bike has been bad all year,” Smith said. “Angie and I had a shot to finish 1-2 in the points and we missed that but we made a lot of progress this season. I knew Dave [Schultz] a little bit and I always looked up to him because he was the best out here and the same goes for Drew [Hines]. To be associated with them is amazing. It’s cool to think I’ve got six championships and I might not be finished. I’m 50 now, but I’m not done yet. Next year, we’re going to continue developing our Suzuki program and I expect us to be fast. We’ve got some new parts and we’ll be fast.”
I had to race Michael Phillips in the first round and he was all over me,” Smith said. “It started in driver intros and he followed me around most of the morning just blabbing away,” Smith said. “It got to the point where it was annoying, but I didn’t let it bother me. I just ignored him and won the race.”
Throughout his career, Smith has been known for his resourcefulness and savvy as he leaves no stone unturned in his quest for victories and quicker elapsed times. This season was no different as Smith alternated between Suzuki and Buell brands this season oftentimes at the same event. Most notably, Smith parked his Suzuki in favor of his Buell V-twin before the final round of the Houston event. Although he lost that final to rival Steve Johnson, it proved to be a key moment in his championship run.
Smith went on to win in Richmond, Denver, and Indianapolis to secure the top spot in the Countdown to the Championship. Smith has been at his best during the Countdown to the Championship with a win in St. Louis, a runner-up in Las Vegas, and a semifinal showing in St. Louis to build a solid lead in the standings.
Smith lost the Las Vegas final to Hector Arana Jr., but collected enough points to give himself a comfortable margin heading into the final event in Pomona. Unlike past season’s where he’s had to sweat the title until late in the day, Smith was able to lock this one up with relative ease.
It would also be hard to argue that Smith hasn’t had the best bike in the class for most of the season as he has been the low qualifier five times and has made more 200-mph runs than anyone else in the class. Smith is also the current speed record holder at more than 205 mph.