NHRA Gatornationals: Pro Stock Motorcycle

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith’s accomplishments—and his personality—are the stuff of legend. Both were in full bloom during NHRA’s spring classic Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

I left the track right after PSM’s Friday evening qualifying session—electing to beat the crowd while the cars were still running and get a jump on finding the house I was staying in.

House found, nearby restaurant located, seat at the bar taken. While drinking a local brown ale and waiting on my blackened grouper, I read on Facebook that Matt ran long into the sand-trap, but that the bike was mostly OK. It seems that the left front rotor broke.

Ryan Oehler qualified a strong 4th with a 6.81 at 198.70.

I first learned there was more to the story when I got to the staging lanes for round two of qualifying. The first person I walked up to was Ryan Oehler. Before I could even say “Hi,” another racer rolls up to Ryan and said “Man, you’re a better man than me. I could never let a man get in my face and talk to me like that.”

I could tell that Ryan didn’t really want to talk about it, but clearly the cat was outta the bag. “What’s that about?” I asked.

“Matt,” Ryan said dryly.

Matt Smith—same smile, longer hair

It wasn’t the first time that the talk of the PSM pits in the morning was about something Matt had done the night before. Last year at one of the Indy races, it was Chris Clontz with a story to tell. A couple of years ago at zMAX, the cops were beckoned to the MSR trailer by Joe Riccardi. Add in Hector Arana, Michael Phillips, Shawn Gann, etc…

It seems that Matt went to Ryan’s trailer in search of rotors, calipers, etc. to fix his EBR, and Oehler travels with a spare bike. “No problem,” Ryan reports as his response. “Let me button up what I’m in the middle of. It’ll be about 30 minutes.”

That apparently wasn’t good enough for Matt, who I’m told bypassed discussion and went straight to ballistic mode.

“I then knew Matt Smith was the Shooter McGavin of PSM,” said Oehler.

Apparently, everyone from MSR apologized to Ryan for the outburst except Matt. “I saw Matt walking over to Ryan’s trailer and I thought he was going to apologize to him, but instead he started motherfucking him again,” said one racer.

Was there any history between the two leading up to this short fuse? “Nothing,” said Oehler. “He always was there for me when I needed something just like I was gonna be for him, but he cracked for some reason.”

As luck would have it, Matt and Ryan met in the final. “After the semis, at the end of the track, when it was clear we would be racing each other, I went up to him and said ‘I know you’re not going to say anything to me so I’m telling you it’s over, I’m putting it behind us,’” Ryan reported saying to Matt.

“What did he say?” I asked Ryan.


Whether there would be a handshake before the final or not turned out to be a moot point. Matt rolled up at the hectic last second and, with the Fox broadcast apparently live, the NHRA crew was shouting before he even had his jacket on “Get in the water NOW!” The featured photo at the top of the page is from that moment.

Matt said he was building a new bike in the offseason, but it’s still a “Red Rocket”

Matt ran a 6.785 at 200.65 to beat Ryan Oehler’s 6.869 at 196.53. It was Smith’s quickest run of the weekend, and every run in eliminations put a 200 on the scoreboard. He knocked off Jim Underdahl, Hector Arana Jr. and Steve Johnson to reach the final round and win in Gainesville for a second straight year—his 27th career win.

“I just have to go up there and race my lane,” said Smith, a four-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion. “This bike was on mean this weekend. We weren’t able to quite get the E.T. we needed, but this bike was running the speed.”

Oehler advanced to his third career final round thanks to round wins against Jerry Savoie, Karen Stoffer and Scotty Pollacheck.

One of the last people I saw before leaving the track Sunday evening was Angie. “If Matt wants to say anything about what happened, let me know,” I said. “I’d be happy to publish it.”

“No, it’s over,” said Angie, possibly referring to Ryan’s statement after the semis.

But it didn’t seem over right then and as the week after the event wore on and people were still talking about it, it clearly wasn’t.

Meanwhile, scroll on for photos, video and stories about the rest of the field.


ROUND ONE — Scotty Pollacheck, 6.833, 196.82 def. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.870, 195.59; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.811, 194.80 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.913, 194.04; Hector Arana Jr, 6.812, 199.32 def. Angie Smith, 6.835, 198.38; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.869, 197.42 def. John Hall, Buell, 9.745, 86.02; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.764, 197.13 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.900, 194.72; Ryan Oehler, 6.845, 197.28 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 15.853, 41.55; Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.840, 196.27 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.819, 194.88; Matt Smith, 6.811, 200.89 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.915, 192.60;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.853, 197.02 def. Bostick, Foul – Red Light; Oehler, 6.818, 198.99 def. Stoffer, Foul – Red Light; M. Smith, 6.808, 200.71 def. Arana Jr, 6.816, 197.97; Pollacheck, 6.831, 197.13 def. Sampey, 6.820, 196.27;

SEMIFINALS — Oehler, 6.880, 196.85 def. Pollacheck, Broke; M. Smith, 6.850, 200.29 def. Johnson, 6.912, 195.56;

FINAL — M. Smith, 6.785, 200.65 def. Oehler, 6.869, 196.53.

Here’s a video of Steve Johnson and Jock Allen talking about running an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle team, the Monster 4 valve Suzuki, Matt Smith, and more:

Angelle Sampey qualified #1 on her new Vance & Hines/Mission Foods four-valve Suzuki and put the first Suzuki into the Denso PSM 200mph Club, but lost on an .015 to .002 holeshot against Scotty Pollacheck in round 2.

It wasn’t the Gatornationals that Gatorman Jerry Savoie hoped for. After having an electrical issue with their new V&H 4V Suzuki, the White Alligator Racing team switched to the trusty 2V and qualified 13th. But the bike sounded off key after the E1 burnout and struggled at launch, much like in the 2019 Pomona final against Jianna Salinas. The results was the same—a loss. Savoie will be back to the 4V and on a ‘Busa body this weekend in Las Vegas. WAR tuner Tim Kulungian tells me the team also has a brand new clutch they’ve developed with MTC. More on that later right here on Eatmyink.
Chris Bostick and George Babor seem to have a handle on their Monster 4V Suzuki’s power. Chris qualified 14th with a 6.90, then stepped up to a 6.84 to beat Joey Gladstone on a holeshot. Bostick then timed out against fellow Monster customer Steve Johnson in E2. I joked with Chris that he had added an extra syllable to “1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi,” but he said he pre-staged too shallow. The Bostick/Babor team is anxiously awaiting their new Mike Mullaney chassis, and will not make the Vegas race after a high speed testing crash.

George Babor and his daughter Christyne
Hector Arana Jr. ran strong and consistent all weekend, qualifying 7th with a 6.817. But a 6.816 wasn’t enough to get past Matt Smith in E2.
Scotty Pollacheck qualified mid-field in 8th, but raced well on Sunday. His .002 light put Sampey out in E2, and he might very well have gone to the final had he made a pass in the semi. “We lost a little oil pressure after the burnout so I really didn’t want to take the chance and hurt a motor,” said crew chief Michael Ray. “So we decided to not go down the track to save parts. We wouldn’t have had time to change engines between rounds if something bad happened anyway. Big picture thinking I guess…”
Gladstone qualified very well in 3rd with a 6.78, then had an .092 light against Bostick. Joey won’t be in Vegas this weekend after crashing his Pro Street bike last week.

Gladstone’s teammate (and team boss) Cory Reed lost E1 to Scotty Pollacheck. Reed told me that despite neither of his team’s ‘Busa-bodied V&H 4V Suzukis getting out of first round, he was happy with the new bikes’ performance. Neither he nor Joey had good lights, which Reed explained was due to not having the bikes’ reacting properly. He said his team uses a different set-up than V&H when it comes to setting up how the bikes react when the clutch is thrown.
The Gladstones and Oehlers—along with Top Fuel’s Torrences—are part of a baby boom in the NHRA pits. In this pic, Ryan Oehler fistbumps Olivia Gladstone in her mother Nicole’s arms.
Despite losing to Karen Stoffer in E1, it was a great weekend for Kelly Clontz. She qualified 12th with a 6.875 with a 2V. Husband/tuner Chris Clontz blamed the last two years on the Sunoco SR18 that was forced on the class. “The best thing is that it’s just me and her,” Chris said about the Clontz’s performance.
Stoffer’s day ended in E2 with an uncharacteristic -.009 redlight against Ryan Oehler. This was Karen’s first race since sitting out all of 2020. She is back with on a WAR 2V TL1000. The TL has a narrower seat that favors women, I am told.

John Hall in the evning glow of his shiftlight. He qualified 11th with a 6.87, then lost to Steve Johnson in E1 when his MSR EBR shut off with a bad sensor.
Here’s Hall flanked by Bobby and Allyson Webb to his right and Larry Velez on his left.
Angie Smith qualified 10th and lost to 7th qualifier Hector Arana Jr. both at the tree (.082 to .024) and on track (6.83 to 6.81).
Jimmy Underdahl is back, the two-bike Underdahl/Stoffer purchased by the Salinas family Scrapper’s team. The plan is to run the whole season, but neither bike is entered in Vegas. Jimmy qualified 15th at Gainesville and lost to Matt Smith in E1. Both riders had identical .037 lights.
Underdahl’s teammate (team owner?) Jianna Salinas didn’t make the cut, finishing 18th in the order. But check it out—this photo shows a good, straight pass.

Michael Phillips had his Suzuki’s power under control, but just squeaked into the field by .001. Mike nailed a .006 light and ran his best pass of the weekend against Angelle in E1. Despite here .130, she was still able to take the stripe by about 4 feet.
Phillips and crew chief Red. Let’s hope these two become permanent fixtures again in the class.
Jon and Parker Miller. Their guy Marc Ingwersen missed the field by .001 on his EBR. “We had a lot of ups and downs,” said Parker. “Testing was frustrating. We had no air fuel data due to a broken exhaust pipe we didn’t find till Thursday night. Then into qualifying we felt good going a 6.96 then a 6.926 to move us up to, I believe, 13th. For Q3 I got a little aggressive with the tune-up and we spun the tire hard in the better conditions, slowing us to a 6.98 and letting Mr. Phillips get it with a 6.925.”
Pablo Gonzalez finished 17th in the qualifying order on one of Blake Gann’s Buells.
Pablo is a popular addition to the PSM field.

I didn’t get any “good” photos of Lance Bonham, but I did get this far away, backside view of his highlight reel moment.
Here’s Bobby Webb holding one of the injured blocks, signed by Lance and the entire PSM community.
David Barron and his former Reed Motorsports EBR DNQed at 20th in the order,

story and photos by Tim Hailey

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