Matt Smith wins by .0006 at NHRA Gateway

Matt Smith earned his second Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of 2018, 20th of his career, and third at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.

Matt’s .008 reaction time vs. LE Tonglet’s .018 earned him a .0006 margin of victory, holeshot win with a 6.877 at 198.44 miles per hour to LE’s 6.876 at 196.10.

“LE had him at the eighth mile, had him at the 1000 foot, but lost it at the finish line,” said Tim Kulungian, tuner of Tonglet’s White Alligator Racing/Nitro Fish Suzuki. “I guess it’s the body (Matt’s slippery new EBR), I don’t know. We’re gonna half to figure out how better to beat him by half track.”

Tonglet’s path to his 27th career final round included victories against Jimmy Underdahl, Angie Smith and Jerry Savoie.

Matt picked up wins against Scotty Pollacheck, Joey Gladstone, and No. 1 qualifier Chip Ellis en route to the final.

Alan Reinhart will have to wait onstage while the winners make out

“We hurt our motor on Friday night,” said Matt. “Angie (Smith, Matt’s wife and teammate) and I stayed up all night last night rebuilding it.”

Matt then echoed the main topic of the weekend: “The Harley’s got three bikes out here trying to whoop up on us but we’re going to try and do our best to stay focused and do our job. As long as we don’t have any part failures, we will be fine.”

Watch more of what Matt had to say in this video:

Matt took the points lead after his win, Tonglet moved into second, and Krawiec dropped to third after leading qualifying on Friday.

“If you’re gonna be the best, ya gotta beat the best,” someone said recently….it wasn’t that #13 qualifier Joey Gladstone’s .045 round 1 light was killer, or that #4 Eddie Krawiec’s -.001 redlight was lurid, but it produced one of many unusual results in the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle at Gateway.
#9 qualifier Angelle Sampey’s Buell moves in E1 but #8 qualifier Hector Arana Jr’s EBR doesn’t—apparently out of gear.
Krawiec’s redlight wasn’t lurid but Hector Arana Sr’s -.107 sure was as Savoie won with an electronics problem in the near lane. What a terrible round for the Arana’s.
Andrew Hines qualified well in second but slowed on raceday, especially in his round 2 loss to Jerry Savoie. Billy Vose has even suggested that this loss could have been to throw a bone to Vance & Hines customer Savoie, who’s expressed displeasure with the third Harley running during the Countdown.
Savoie’s comments about the third Harley—and Eddie Krawiec’s response—were the talk of the pits all weekend. Jerry treed teammate LE Tonglet in the semi, but his bike just wasn’t as quick as Tonglet’s
Angelle’s .001 wasn’t good enough to hold a lead against her buddy Chip on the third Harley. Erica Enders lost with a .000 light just before this pair.
Angie Smith’s .012 light fueled a round 1 holeshot win over Steve Johnson despite moving towards the centerline. In round 2 she went the other way with a .212 against LE Tonglet. “I had a senior moment,” she said later, with a smile on her face after husband Matt’s win.
Greg (right) and Jimmy Underdahl. Greg was telling me that the Underdahl/Stoffer team will run bikes for Karen Stoffer and Jimmy next year, and maybe for Gianna Salinas if she’s ready. That means Scotty Pollacheck will have to ride elsewhere. “I hate losing a rider of Scotty’s ability,” said Greg. “But we just can’t afford to run that many bikes, and I have to have one for Jimmy. Family’s family.”
Hector Arana and daughter Abigail
Is Jock the real Arman Zinusal?
“What? You think your kid Joey’s gonna beat Eddie Krawiec in the morning? Are you freakin’ nuts?”
“He will! He will! You wait and see!”


ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.138, 163.28 def. Hector Arana, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.925, 192.52 def. Hector Arana Jr, Broke; Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.885,194.77 def. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.938, 190.86; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.838, 195.90 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.953, 193.82; Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.893, 194.58 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, Foul – Red Light; Matt Smith, 6.889, 197.31 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.955, 193.07; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.889, 194.86 def. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.915, 194.66; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.879, 193.21 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.849, 194.80;

QUARTERFINALS — Ellis, 6.863, 190.27 def. Sampey, 6.941, 190.83; Savoie, 6.897, 195.62 def. Hines, 6.968, 192.82; Tonglet, 6.864, 195.34 def. A. Smith, 13.648, 57.27; M. Smith, 6.869, 197.45 def. Gladstone, 6.940, 192.80;

SEMIFINALS — Tonglet, 6.890, 195.65 def. Savoie, 6.924, 194.86; M. Smith, 6.879, 198.03 def. Ellis, 6.901, 194.63;

FINAL — M. Smith, 6.877, 198.44 def. Tonglet, 6.867, 196.10.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points

  1. Matt Smith, 2,263; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,242; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,222; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,214; 5. Andrew Hines, 2,201; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,154; 7. Angie Smith, 2,115; 8. Steve Johnson, 2,108; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,094; 10. Angelle Sampey, 2,085.
Stevie Fast!

Stevie “Fast” Jackson raced to his second consecutive win during the E3 Spark plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service portion of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by Real Pro Mod Association, is the ninth of 12 races this season.

Jackson ran a 5.759-second pass at 250.88 mph in his ’17 Chevrolet Camaro to Chad Green who red lit on the start line. This is the fourth career win for Jackson and second of the season.

“If you had asked me five races ago if we would win another race in my career I would’ve told you, ‘no,’” Jackson stated. “This car kicked my butt for a while. If you give Billy Stocklin (crew chief) and I enough swings at it though we can knock the candy out of the pinata.”

Jackson defeated Rickie Smith, Jim Whiteley, and Mike Janis to advance to the finals. He is third in points.


ROUND ONE — Marc Caruso, Chevy Camaro, 5.834, 244.87 def. Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, Broke; Chad Green, Chevy Corvette, 5.766, 248.34 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 6.076, 185.56; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.276, 239.82 def. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 6.729, 173.61; Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.721, 251.86 def. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.852, 248.48; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.746, 248.34 def. Brandon Snider, Corvette, 5.812, 245.14; Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.894, 251.95 def. Rick Hord, Corvette, 9.431, 80.10; Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 5.808, 248.39 def. Jason Scruggs, Camaro, 5.820, 247.11; Erica Enders, Camaro, 10.728, 88.73 def. Jeremy Ray, Corvette, Broke;

QUARTERFINALS — Castellana, 5.746, 251.63 def. Enders, 5.826, 252.43; Jackson, 5.749, 250.92 def. J. Whiteley, 5.797, 249.12; Janis, No Time Recorded def. Caruso, Broke – No Show; Green, 5.802, 247.57 def. Rowe, 5.800, 252.90;

SEMIFINALS — Jackson, 5.736, 249.90 def. Janis, 5.774, 248.16; Green, 5.816, 248.34 def. Castellana, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — Jackson, 5.759, 250.88 def. Green, Foul – Red Light.

Pro Modified points

  1. Mike Janis, 650; 2. Rickie Smith, 604; 3. Steve Jackson, 563; 4. Mike Castellana, 541; 5. Chad Green, 514; 6. Khalid al Balooshi, 485; 7. Jose Gonzalez, 435; 8. Jeremy Ray, 383; 9. Todd Tutterow, 362; 10. Danny Rowe, 349.
Robert Hight (near lane) and Tim Wilkerson, right about 4 seconds before Hight’s car exploded and slammed into the wall.

Defending Funny Car world champion Robert Hight, secured the category points lead after going 4.036 at 276.29 to beat Tim Wilkerson’s 4.413 at 201.91 and pick up his third victory in 2018, 10th Countdown to the Championship win during his career and 44th overall. Hight suffered an engine explosion as he crossed the finish line and exited the vehicle under his own power. He was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

“First, we are happy Robert is okay. He went to a local hospital to be checked out and after being x-rayed and evaluated he was schedule to be released tonight. I’m glad Robert has the points lead and now we are going to rest and get ready for Dallas,” said team owner John Force.

Hight started the day in the No. 1 qualifying position after a stellar performance throughout two days of qualifying. The performance of the AAA Missouri Chevrolet Camaro team continued through race day. He made quick work of Dale Creasy in the first round running 3.938 seconds at 324.75 mph that bettered Creasy’s 4.124.

The win landed him in a second-round matchup with teammate and mentor John Force. It was a close race with Hight getting the upper hand at 4.017-seconds to Force’s 4.043.

Against Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinals, Hight and his AAA Missouri team had a stout 3.945-second pass at 323.04 mph to oust Johnson Jr. and his 4.008 at 320.13 sending Hight to his sixth final round of the season and 70th of his career.

Hight is racing to become just the fifth Funny Car driver to win back-to-back world championships and the first to do so in the Countdown Era. The last to accomplish the feat was Force whose streak of 10 straight titles ended in 2002. The other back-to-back champions are Don Prudhomme (1975-1978), Raymond Beadle (1979-1981) and Kenny Bernstein (1985-1988).


ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.999, 315.86 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.952, 320.51; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.925, 325.22 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.003, 321.50; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.938, 324.75 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.124, 295.34; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.992, 317.05 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.978, 316.23; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.937, 329.02 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 13.179, 70.12; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.348, 251.67 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.585, 201.19; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.954, 318.69 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.997, 320.20; John Force, Camaro, 4.025, 322.96 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.523, 185.28; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 4.064, 307.58 def. Pedregon, Foul – Red Light; Johnson Jr., 3.950, 323.50 def. Tasca III, 9.014, 82.83; Hight, 4.017, 313.07 def. J. Force, 4.043, 310.34; Wilkerson, 4.000, 315.19 def. C. Force, 4.051, 310.70;

SEMIFINALS — Wilkerson, 5.186, 175.23 def. Todd, 6.100, 152.28; Hight, 3.945, 323.04 def. Johnson Jr., 4.008, 320.13;

FINAL — Hight, 4.036, 276.29 def. Wilkerson, 4.413, 201.91.

Funny Car points

  1. Robert Hight, 2,270; 2. J.R. Todd, 2,240; 3. Courtney Force, 2,200; 4. Tim Wilkerson, 2,196; 5. Ron Capps, 2,182; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,166; 7. Matt Hagan, 2,144; 8. John Force, 2,116; 9. Jack Beckman, 2,113; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,086.
Top Fuel final

Coming off his victory to kick-off the Countdown to the Championship, Steve Torrence remained hot and went 3.770-seconds at 323.66 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster to defeat Clay Millican’s 3.798 at 320.28 in the final round, earning his seventh victory of the season and 23rd of his career. With the win, Torrence now has a 70-point lead over Millican.

“This is going to be a really hard-fought war,” Torrence stated. “I couldn’t have a better group of guys to be backing me up. I’m blessed and fortunate to be a part of that team right there and not drop the ball. I’m very confident going forward and this is all we could’ve asked for to start the Countdown.”

Torrence beat Bill Litton, Mike Salinas and Leah Pritchett to reach the final round. Millican defeated Shawn Reed, three-time world champion Antron Brown, and Pat Dakin.


ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.728, 328.86 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.792, 323.58; Blake Alexander, 3.730, 330.72 def. Terry McMillen, 5.158, 137.69; Clay Millican, 3.758, 325.61 def. Shawn Reed, 5.084, 138.39; Pat Dakin, 3.814, 322.58 def. Billy Torrence, 4.589, 170.49; Steve Torrence, 3.751, 327.19 def. Bill Litton, 4.245, 211.66; Leah Pritchett, 5.568, 125.37 def. Scott Palmer, Broke; Tony Schumacher, 4.067, 257.73 def. Richie Crampton, 5.641, 115.95; Mike Salinas, 3.758, 324.36 def. Brittany Force, 4.483, 186.56;

QUARTERFINALS — Dakin, 3.946, 286.13 def. Schumacher, 4.115, 270.43; Pritchett, 3.802, 322.73 def. Alexander, 8.032, 80.82; S. Torrence, 3.771, 325.30 def. Salinas, 9.692, 74.79; Millican, 3.803, 323.04 def. Brown, 3.842, 323.66;

SEMIFINALS — Millican, 3.857, 310.41 def. Dakin, 7.703, 70.54; S. Torrence, 3.772, 325.22 def. Pritchett, 3.809, 322.11;

FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.770, 323.66 def. Millican, 3.798, 320.28.

Top Fuel points

  1. Steve Torrence, 2,346; 2. Clay Millican, 2,276; 3. Tony Schumacher, 2,225; 4. Leah Pritchett, 2,192; 5. Antron Brown, 2,169; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2,135; 7. Mike Salinas, 2,119; 8. Terry McMillen, 2,093; 9. (tie) Brittany Force, 2,085; Scott Palmer, 2,085.
Tanner Gray

Pro Stock’s Gray grabbed his sixth victory of the season and 11th of his career in his Valvoline/Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro after going 6.567 at 211.06 in the final round to defeat Drew Skillman’s 11.409 at 78.68. Gray, who knocked off Chris McGaha, Erica Enders and Vincent Nobile to extend his points lead over the category.

“During qualifying we didn’t run as well as we thought we should have,” Gray said. “We made nice runs, but we never got aggressive enough. It was cool to see everyone come in with their head on straight and fight back to get a win. I felt like all of us did a really good job of just going round-by-round.”

Skillman was in his second consecutive final round and was seeking his first victory of the 2018 season. He didn’t get the victory but did climb to third in points after beating Kenny Delco, defending world champion Bo Butner, and No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. on Sunday.


ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.579, 211.49 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 18.901, 42.36; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.546, 211.49 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.554, 211.43; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.544, 210.80 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 8.120, 122.07; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.545, 211.89 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.619, 209.46; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.546, 211.46 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 8.707, 109.64; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.536, 210.24 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.744, 204.63; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.553, 211.00 def. Charlie Westcott Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.746, 204.48; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.542, 210.60 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.943, 170.04;

QUARTERFINALS — Gray, 6.568, 210.37 def. Enders, 6.599, 210.18; Skillman, 6.559, 211.66 def. Butner, 13.412, 63.70; Coughlin, 6.573, 210.54 def. Anderson, 6.591, 210.54; Nobile, 6.580, 210.57 def. Line, 10.660, 83.80;

SEMIFINALS — Gray, 6.579, 210.54 def. Nobile, 6.597, 209.85; Skillman, 6.581, 211.63 def. Coughlin, 6.778, 207.62;

FINAL — Gray, 6.567, 211.06 def. Skillman, 11.409, 78.68.

Pro Stock points

  1. Tanner Gray, 2,296; 2. Vincent Nobile, 2,244; 3. Drew Skillman, 2,222; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 2,215; 5. Greg Anderson, 2,206; 6. Erica Enders, 2,192; 7. Jason Line, 2,133; 8. Bo Butner, 2,120; 9. Deric Kramer, 2,104; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,064.
Leah Pritchett (this photo courtesy of NHRA)

Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak driver Leah Pritchett continued to own the Factory Stock Showdown class, celebrating her second consecutive event win one day after becoming first in the class to run in the seven-second range during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.

The double-duty driver made history during Factory Stock Showdown qualifying on Saturday, shrugging off a recent decision by the NHRA to effectively slap a 50-lb. weight handicap on all Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles to post a 7.936-second E.T. and become the first NHRA driver in the class to make a hit in the seven-second range.

Despite owning a new entry in the NHRA record books, Pritchett would wrap up qualifying No. 2 after her teammate Mark Pawuk ran even lower with a 7.929 E.T. to earn the pole.

Pritchett, winner and No. 1 qualifier at the most recent NHRA Factory Stock Showdown event at the NHRA U.S. Nationals earlier this month, kept the seven-second train rolling with a 7.948 pass at 172.70-mph to defeat former NHRA Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson in the opening round. She used an 8.031-second pass to send home Pete Gasko Jr. in the quarterfinals and then knocked out Arthur Kohn in the semifinals with an 8.011 E.T.

In the final, Pritchett nudged up near the seven-second range in an easy defeat of Stephen Bell, who knocked out her teammate Pawuk in round two, unleashing her Kevin Helms-tuned Drag Pak with a blistering 8.001 E.T. to claim victory after Bell experienced problems early.

“Incredible weekend by the ‘el Bandito’ team with Mopar,” said Pritchett who moved up to the No. 2 spot in the FSXX standings. “We carried that momentum from the U.S. Nationals without a hiccup. That extra 25-pounds didn’t seem to faze this Mopar power. I’m not saying it was easy by any means. We put it to it every single round and that’s extremely impressive and a testament to the durability of the race cars, the powerplant and the people that Schumacher has put in place to run this program.

“We are in a fantastic spot, second place in the points. It’s like Christmas Eve going into these last races. I really wouldn’t want a different perspective. We have a little bit of freshening up to do but overall this has been an incredible weekend of just straight teamwork all the way around, and the Mopar power just continues to show through and we continue to want to show up.”

Qualified: No. 2 (7.936 E.T. at 172.98 MPH)

E1: 7.948 E.T. at 172.70 MPH defeated Allen Johnson 16.672 E.T. at 68.78 MPH

E2: 8.031 E.T. at 172.12 MPH defeated Pete Gasko Jr. 8.812 E.T. at 165.58 MPH

E3: 8.011 E.T. at 171.88 MPH defeated Arthur Kohn 8.079 E.T. at 168.47 MPH

E4: 8.001 E.T. at 172.36 MPH defeated Stephen Bell, Broke

Competition Eliminator — David Rampy, Bantam, 7.240, 166.13 def. Allen Wilson, GTO, 8.238, 163.75

David Rampy claimed victory and took home is his 99th NHRA national event win this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park. Rampy, of Piedmont, Ala., worked his way through the field and ran 7.240 seconds at 166.13 mph in his final round victory over Allen Wilson, Kokomo, Ind., who clocked in at 8.238 seconds, 163.75 mph. Wilson took the starting line advantage off the line but could not hold off Rampy, giving Rampy win number 99 at the national level.

Stock Eliminator — Drew Skillman, Ford Mustang, 8.864, 150.03 def. Daryl Bureski, Olds Cutlass, 11.421, 115.53.

Drew Skillman was pulling double duty this weekend and nearly pulled off the double as he advanced to the final round in both Stock and Pro Stock. Skillman took the holeshot in Stock against Daryl Bureski and held on for the win in a double breakout for his 15th career win. He then faced off with Tanner Gray in Pro Stock with Gray taking the win and ending Skillman’s hopes a double.

Super Stock — Greg Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 9.937, 130.63 def. Brad Zaskowski, Camaro, 10.075, 120.20.

Super Comp — Rick Hughes, Dragster, 8.921, 161.40 def. Don Higgins, Dragster, 8.884, 166.05.

Super Gas — Tim Nicholson, Chevy Camaro, 9.904, 101.97 def. Mitch Withers, Chevy Corvette, 9.856, 149.48.

Top Dragster presented by — Jenifer White, Dragster, 6.164, 209.36 def. Afton Swanson, Dragster, 6.104, 226.85.

Top Sportsman presented by — Glenn Butcher, Chevy Camaro, 6.534, 203.68 def. Bill Yates Sr., Camaro, 6.717, 209.85.

story by Tim Hailey and NHRA, photos and video by Tim Hailey

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