Smith Regains Points Lead in Red Hot NHRA PSM Battle

Matt Smith took back the points lead after his third victory of 2018 at the 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Matt’s 21st win of his career came on a run of 6.830 at 196.64 on his Elite Motorsports Denso Auto Parts EBR against redlighting (.077) Chip Ellis.

PSM final between Chip Ellis (near lane) and Matt Smith

Smith knocked off Karen Stoffer, Scotty Pollacheck and a very strong Angelle Sampey to reach his third final round in the playoffs, giving Smith a 41-point advantage over LE Tonglet—who lost in E1

I asked LE Tonglet about his .161 light followed by a 1.115 60 foot time against Angelle Sampey in E1. “I didn’t want to win,” deadpanned Tonglet.
“Oh come on,” I said. “What happened?”
“That’s it, I just didn’t want to win,” repeated LE.
“He just screwed up,” said his brother GT. “It happens. He didn’t choke or anything. It’s only because it’s the Countdown that anyone even notices. If this was Chicago or something, no one would think twice about it.”
Maybe, but I think of LE as flawless, so I don’t expect to see this again for another ten years or so.

The points lead changed hands for the fourth straight race as Smith, a two-time world champion, jumped back on top for the second time during the Countdown to the Championship.

Matt with his mom, his sister Amanda, her husband Scott Speed, and their kids celebrating the win

“It’s pretty big if you look at the points,” said Smith, who has two playoff wins. “I went up and raced scared in Dallas and didn’t do my job, so I figured I would come here and do my job. I said it to begin with that if we can win three races in the Countdown I think we can win this championship. We just can’t have another first-round loss and we have to keep going rounds. We’re going to do everything we can to make this dream come true again.”

Which includes rebuilding three engines that Smith said need work for his and wife Angie’s bikes.

Matt thinks he’s narrowed the parameters of the bog that has plagued him at crucial times this season. “I don’t really know the cause of the bog. But if I look at the big picture, it’s happened at 3000 feet of air or worse,” said Smith. “I don’t leave at a very high RPM because I like to control the tire. So I guess when I’ve gotta do a better job when I see a lotta water in the air. It wasn’t like that this weekend so we didn’t have any issues.”

No one in #nhraPSM ran a 6.70 this weekend other than Chip Ellis, and he went deep to a 6.778 at 197 mph. The bike pogo’d in E2 and Chip still ran a 6.831, also at 197.

Ellis, who won the fall race at zMAX Dragway in 2016, reached his first final of 2018 on the third Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, beating Joey Gladstone, Angie Smith and Jerry Savoie before going red in the final round.

“Me and Chip are good friends,” said Matt. “I go and see him a lot down at Coby Adams’ shop. He does a lot of stuff for me on the side. He’s just a good friend.”

Ellis’s bike is a brand new piece, just finished by Matt Hines and Mike Mullaney before sending it to Charlotte. “It’s a little lighter,” said Hines, who really didn’t want to talk about it too much. He did indicate that Andrew might be riding this bike in Vegas.

Angelle Sampey might have to consider posing in her Daisy Dukes more often after having a strong raceday at zMAX. She took out previous points leader LE Tonglet in E1 and third-in-points Eddie Krawiec in E2 before falling to new leader Matt Smith in the semi.
A well-attended winners circle for homeboy Smith


ROUND ONE — Angie Smith, Buell, 6.902, 191.10 def. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 8.462, 117.98; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.883, 194.02 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.910, 192.19; Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.778, 197.19 def. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.973, 194.32; Matt Smith, 6.869, 196.67 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.010, 192.33; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.878, 194.18 def. Hector Arana Jr, 6.855, 197.65; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.812, 196.53 def. Hector Arana, 6.903, 196.56; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.848, 197.91 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.073, 158.99; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.809, 196.90 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.940, 194.77;

QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.881, 197.19 def. Pollacheck, 6.890, 194.27; Ellis, 6.831, 197.08 def. A. Smith, 6.913, 191.67; Savoie, 6.842, 194.27 def. Hines, 6.857, 195.53; Sampey, 6.834, 195.31 def. Krawiec, 6.837, 197.91;

SEMIFINALS — M. Smith, 6.869, 194.86 def. Sampey, 6.922, 193.18; Ellis, 6.854, 197.13 def. Savoie, 16.849, 35.06;

FINAL — M. Smith, 6.830, 196.64 def. Ellis, Foul – Red Light.

Jerry Savoie was having a great weekend, qualifying third with a 6.81 on the White Alligator Racing Suzuki and racing well into the semis before breaking a chain against Ellis.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points

  1. Matt Smith, 2,426; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,385; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,370; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,326; 5. Andrew Hines, 2,291; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,288; 7. Angie Smith, 2,221; 8. Angelle Sampey, 2,216; 9. Steve Johnson, 2,209; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,177.
Flyin’ Ryan Oehler qualified 10th but “blew the tire off like a Funny Car” in round 1 against Angie Smith.
Mark Paquette’s hot streak came to a screeching halt, DNQing in 20th and dramatically raising Bud Yoder’s stock as crewman.
Kelly Clontz came up short in 18th
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bobby Webb
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Arman Zinusal?
Rick Hord at Gateway

No. 1 qualifier Rick Hord powered to his first career NHRA Pro Mod victory in his Carl Lewis Jr. and Sr. built and tuned turbocharged ’16 Corvette. The race, presented by Mr. Race Oil, is the 11th of 12 races during the 2018 Pro Mod season.

Hord, who posted the second-quickest pass in the history of the class earlier in the weekend to qualify No. 1, went 5.706 at 257.68 mph to knock off Sidnei Frigo in the final round, who slowed to a 5.952 at 253.75 in his ’69 Camaro. It was Hord’s second career final round.

“I thought we had a good chance,” Hord said. “In Dallas, we had the combination and we broke parts, and we really thought that was going to be our race. Here, we just tried for consistency and that worked real well for us. This is amazing.”

Hord defeated Bob Rahaim, Justin Bond and Michael Biehle to advance to the final round, setting up Hord’s first ever matchup with Frigo in eliminations. In the points race, leader Mike Janis now holds a 24-point lead over Rickie Smith heading into the final event of the year.


ROUND ONE — Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, 5.817, 252.95 def. Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.894, 251.95; Sidnei Frigo, Camaro, 5.714, 258.81 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.743, 250.69; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.693, 250.23 def. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.743, 249.67; Jeremy Ray, Chevy Corvette, 5.694, 250.51 def. Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 11.053, 83.79; Todd Tutterow, Camaro, 5.879, 249.39 def. Steven Whiteley, Camaro, 7.362, 133.70; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.725, 250.69 def. Danny Rowe, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Justin Bond, Pontiac firebird, 5.766, 258.27 def. Chad Green, Corvette, 6.847, 169.36; Rick Hord, Corvette, 5.718, 256.89 def. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 9.170, 102.14;

QUARTERFINALS — Biehle, 5.745, 256.75 def. Tutterow, Foul – Red Light; Frigo, 5.692, 259.56 def. Smith, 5.716, 252.24; Ray, 5.690, 249.76 def. Janis, 5.709, 250.18; Hord, 5.728, 256.70 def. Bond, 5.744, 258.96;

SEMIFINALS — Frigo, 5.698, 259.26 def. Ray, 5.765, 245.09; Hord, 5.713, 258.07 def. Biehle, 5.781, 256.41;

FINAL — Hord, 5.706, 257.68 def. Frigo, 5.952, 253.75.

Pro Modified points

  1. Mike Janis, 736; 2. Rickie Smith, 712; 3. (tie) Mike Castellana, 627; Steve Jackson, 627; 5. Chad Green, 578; 6. Jeremy Ray, 574; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 548; 8. Rick Hord, 491; 9. Todd Tutterow, 484; 10. Jose Gonzalez, 435.
Another of my growing collection of Gary Pritchett running away from Steve Torrence photos.

Top Fuel points leader Torrence went 3.703-seconds at 329.67 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster to defeat defending world champion Brittany Force in the final round, earning his ninth win in 2018 and 25th in his career. He also became the first driver in Top Fuel or Funny Car history to win the first four races of the Countdown to the Championship. In sweeping both races at zMAX Dragway this season, Torrence, who beat Chris Karamesines, Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher to reach the final round, opened up a commanding 169-point lead over Clay Millican with two races remaining in the 2018 season as he seeks his first world championship.

“It’s been truly unbelievable for us to go out and accomplish what we’ve done,” Torrence said. “We’re in the middle of this thing and it’s truly remarkable. I did my job today, but it’s a team and it takes the whole village to make this machine work. I couldn’t be more proud of what those guys are doing. They’re pushing me to the front and it’s pretty special to be part of. You don’t win a championship by default. You go up there and do your job when it’s crunch time. This was the biggest race of the season for us and we needed to capitalize, and we did what we needed to do.”

No. 1 qualifier Force reached her second career final round at zMAX Dragway and second this season in her Advance Auto Parts/Monster Energy dragster thanks to victories against Audrey Worm, Dom Lagana and Mike Salinas.


ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 4.405, 244.16 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 5.574, 119.80; Leah Pritchett, 3.707, 324.67 def. Richie Crampton, 3.750, 317.79; Doug Kalitta, 3.718, 329.42 def. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.00; Mike Salinas, 3.725, 331.12 def. Pat Dakin, 20.722, 23.17; Brittany Force, 3.717, 323.12 def. Audrey Worm, 5.162, 157.23; Steve Torrence, 3.954, 323.81 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.121, 225.37; Tony Schumacher, 3.699, 329.91 def. Antron Brown, 3.736, 328.14; Dom Lagana, 3.716, 329.42 def. Terry McMillen, 3.780, 324.98;

QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 3.723, 329.83 def. Kalitta, 3.741, 328.30; Force, 3.702, 328.54 def.Lagana, 3.730, 329.58; Schumacher, 3.712, 330.55 def. Millican, 3.729, 328.86; Torrence, 3.716, 330.96 def. Pritchett, 4.222, 219.76;

SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.728, 328.38 def. Schumacher, 3.718, 329.42; Force, 3.708, 330.07 def. Salinas, 3.737, 328.94;

FINAL — Torrence, 3.703, 329.67 def. Force, 3.708, 329.26.

Top Fuel points

  1. Steve Torrence, 2,592; 2. Clay Millican, 2,423; 3. Tony Schumacher, 2,382; 4. Leah Pritchett, 2,297; 5. Antron Brown, 2,253; 6. Brittany Force, 2,243; 7. Mike Salinas, 2,228; 8. Doug Kalitta, 2,225; 9. Terry McMillen, 2,221; 10. Scott Palmer, 2,149.
Ron Capps

In Funny Car, Ron Capps picked up his third victory in 2018 and 61st of his career after going 3.890 at 331.20 in the final round in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T to defeat J.R. Todd, who slowed to a 4.311 at 214.96 in his DHL Toyota Camry. Capps, the 2016 world champion, earned his third career victory at zMAX Dragway and advanced to the final round with victories over Dale Creasy Jr., defending world champion Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson to stay in title contention.

“To throw down those speeds and E.T.s when we needed it, that was very cool,” said Capps, who moved to third in points. “You’ve just got to be up for everything and I was just so glad that we did what we talked about doing. We’ve got a lot of business left and it’s not over. Anything can happen and we’re going to go down fighting. I can’t wait to celebrate and get to the next race. We’re gaining momentum and it really gives me a lot of confidence.

“In St. Louis we lost on a holeshot first round and I’m sick to my stomach when that happens,” said Capps. “I go home, I don’t sleep, I’m up in the middle of the night, watching frame-by-frame of when my blades open compared to the person I lost to on a holeshot and it’s not fun. I live it, I breathe it. I just could not wait to get to the next race after St. Louis. We really had a great car there and we really had the opportunity to make a lot of points up and we didn’t, and I wore that. I probably aged a year in that week. Then we got to Dallas, had a great car, and just got outran by John Force first round.

“Tobler and I left Dallas, shook hands, gave each other a little hug like we always do when we leave the track and he said ‘let’s just go win the last three. If we win, they can’t,’ and I’m just so glad we came here and did what we talked about doing.”

Todd reached his third final round in the Countdown to the Championship with victories against Jonnie Lindberg, Cruz Pedregon and John Force. Todd, who has four wins this season, also closed in on the points lead and now trails Hight by just 11 points heading into the penultimate race of the 2018 season.


ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.915, 308.28 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 7.556, 86.70; Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.283, 279.27 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 7.265, 112.70; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.926, 328.86 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.041, 316.67; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.874, 330.55 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.964, 325.22; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.019, 270.00 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.132, 232.31; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.891, 328.62 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 9.638, 78.22; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.877, 330.96 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.906, 329.26; John Force, Camaro, 3.970, 325.45 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.146, 256.60;

QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 3.948, 329.18 def. Richards, 4.272, 260.56; Wilkerson, 3.910, 328.46 def. Hagan, 3.903, 323.58; Todd, 3.919, 325.53 def. Pedregon, 3.943, 306.46; Capps, 3.889, 332.43 def. Hight, 3.953, 285.23;

SEMIFINALS — Todd, 3.891, 326.48 def. J. Force, 3.968, 331.12; Capps, 3.903, 320.97 def. Wilkerson, 3.978, 323.97;

FINAL — Capps, 3.890, 331.20 def. Todd, 4.311, 214.96.

Funny Car points

  1. Robert Hight, 2,445; 2. J.R. Todd, 2,434; 3. Ron Capps, 2,336; 4. Tim Wilkerson, 2,334; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,296; 6. Courtney Force, 2,264; 7. John Force, 2,241; 8. Matt Hagan, 2,229; 9. Jack Beckman, 2,204; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,152.

Jason Line grabbed his first victory of the season and 48th in his Pro Stock Car career after going 6.531 at 211.89 in the final round in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to knock off points leader Tanner Gray. Line, a three-time world champion, became the 10th different winner in Pro Stock this season, also securing a victory for a 15th consecutive season. He knocked off defending world champion Bo Butner, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Drew Skillman to reach the finals.

“It’s been a struggle for sure, so I guess the good part of that is when you do finally win you definitely appreciate it,” said Line, who now has a Pro Stock-best four wins at zMAX Dragway. “I was just trying to be calm (against Gray) and cut the best light I was capable of cutting. It was a great run and our team did a great job on my racecar today.”

Gray, who had won two straight races and has seven this season, reached his 10th final round this year in his Gray Motorsports/Valvoline Camaro by defeating Alan Prusiensky, Alex Laughlin, Erica Enders. The second-year star also extended his lead to 130 points over Coughlin.


ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.30 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 18.517, 33.29; Alex Laughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.505, 211.83 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 16.308, 37.67; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.503, 211.96 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.526, 211.76; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.499, 212.76 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.535, 210.77; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.522, 212.09 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 12.410, 71.33; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.537, 211.63 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 12.705, 69.24; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.493, 212.73 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.722, 205.79;

QUARTERFINALS — Skillman, 15.965, 34.99 was unopposed; Gray, 6.563, 211.66 def. Laughlin, 6.529, 211.39; Line, 6.510, 212.16 def. Coughlin, 6.527, 211.89; Enders, 6.521, 212.26 def. Nobile, 6.585, 211.46;

SEMIFINALS — Gray, 6.527, 211.20 def. Enders, 6.529, 211.36; Line, 6.527, 211.86 def. Skillman, 6.547, 211.10;

FINAL — Line, 6.531, 211.89 def. Gray, 6.534, 211.43.

Pro Stock Car points

  1. Tanner Gray, 2,509; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,379; 3. Vincent Nobile, 2,373; 4. Drew Skillman, 2,356; 5. Erica Enders, 2,338; 6. Greg Anderson, 2,299; 7. Jason Line, 2,291; 8. Bo Butner, 2,186; 9. Deric Kramer, 2,168; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,096.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Megan Meyer, 5.421, 218.76 def. Joey Severance, 5.546, 206.57.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.403, 271.13 def. Phil Burkart, Camaro, 6.832, 159.83.

Competition Eliminator — Art Hodges, Chevy Camaro, 7.249, 187.31 def. Danny Holt, Ford Escort, 8.171, 164.99.

Super Stock — Herbie Null Jr., Chevy Camaro, 9.799, 129.10 def. Joe Lisa, Camaro, 10.292, 130.29.

Stock Eliminator — Terry Taylor, Chevy Corvette, 11.128, 105.87 def. Anthony Fetch, Chevy Camaro, 11.105, 111.00.

Super Comp — Corey Manuel, Dragster, 8.930, 173.63 def. Tom Stalba, Dragster, 8.894, 168.07.

Super Gas — Joe Fisher, Chevy Corvette, 9.912, 169.38 def. Phil Smida, Chevy Cavalier, 9.885, 153.75.

Top Dragster presented by — Anthony Bertozzi, Dragster, 6.030, 224.21 def. J.B.

Strassweg, Dragster, 6.093, 217.35.

Top Sportsman presented by — Ronnie Proctor, Ford Mustang, 6.662, 194.35 def.

Jackie Robison, Chevy Nova, 6.896, 198.38.

photos by Tim Hailey story by Hailey, NHRA and team reports

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