Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith wasn’t at the first race in the class, but the six-time champ will be at the 500th official race for the category, which takes place at this weekend’s 15th annual betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Smith also enters the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event, which is the second in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, with plenty of momentum, having won back-to-back events and jumping into the points lead for the first time this year on his Denso Auto Parts Suzuki.
Racing at his home track adds another great layer for Smith, who is tied for the most world championships in class history. He’s enjoyed a number of significant milestones in the category along the way and getting the victory at the 500th Pro Stock Motorcycle race this weekend in Charlotte would certainly be another.
“I’ve won No. 498 and 499, so it would be really nice to win the 500th race,” Smith said. “It would add even more to do it at my home track. To say you’ve won the 500th race in class history, that would be a pretty big accomplishment.
“It’s amazing at what has happened in our class over the years, and to see where it started and where it is now, it’s pretty neat and I’m glad to be a part of it. Our class has really accelerated in E.T. and speed the last four years and we all want to continue to make this class as good and as close as possible. That’s what is going to keep our class growing and, ultimately, we’re out there to put on a good show for the fans.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) claimed victories in 2022 at the fall race at zMAX Dragway. This year’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 24. It is the second of six playoff races and not many riders have been better than Smith over the years during crunch time.
He won the U.S. Nationals to end the regular season on a high note and made a big opening statement in the Countdown to the Championship with a victory last weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.
That sent him past Gaige Herrera, who dominated the regular season, and Smith currently leads the six-time event winner in 2023 by 17 points heading into zMAX Dragway. Smith was pleased with the progress the bike made early in the run last weekend and hopes more improvement can be found, especially with the way Herrera has performed in 2023. Of course, Smith will also have to deal with the likes of Hector Arana Jr., Eddie Krawiec, his wife, Angie, and Jianna Evaristo.
“In the finals (at Reading), we made a big change on my bike and it worked out in our favor,” said Smith, who has a pair of wins at zMAX Dragway in his career. “Ultimately, we got our 60-foot time back in the finals. If we can go off that and keep going forward, we’ve got a really good shot of racing against Gaige and making this is a hard-fought battle. But I love these types of challenges and I think our whole class knows what the challenge is. We know who the dominant bike is, but our goal is to win a championship and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
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