Relentless Smith Grabs Points Lead with Gateway Win

After Matt Smith took over the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead with his win at the 11th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) on Sunday, I told second-in-points Joey Gladstone that Matt would hold on to that lead tighter than Donald Trump holding on to the White House.

Smith ran a nearly-perfect weekend on his Denso Auto Parts Buell, setting both ends of the track record with a career-best run, qualified No. 1, and picked up his fourth win of the season—the 36th victory in his career.

You do NOT want to fight Kelly Clontz. As she prepared to race Steve Johnson in E1, Kelly and Johnson’s crew chief Ervin “Jock” Allen engaged in a mock boxing match. I’m here to tell you that Clontz unleashed a fury of quick punches and epic dodges. I repeat, you DO NOT want to fight Kelly Clontz. Oh, and she beat Steve when his bike blew the tire at the hit for the third straight pass.

Matt reached the final round with a bye in round 1 followed by wins against Kelly Clontz and Gladstone, who came into the race with the points lead. Smith took it back and then led wire-to-wire against Jerry Savoie to win for the fifth time in St. Louis, which is the most in the class.

“It was a big weekend for this whole team,” Smith said. “Leaving here No. 1 and (Angie Smith) No. 3 in points was huge for the team. I had my opportunity second round in Reading against Joey and messed up, so it was good to make up for that here today.

Matt Smith

“What a weekend here. I love the track and the fans here, and I just love the atmosphere. This whole class is tough and we’re looking forward to going to Dallas.”

Here’s Matt’s entire winner’s press conference, where he reveals his plans for Chip Ellis in Dallas after prompted by my question:

Jerry Savoie reached the final round for the second time this season on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki, and the 32nd time in his career, knocking off Ryan Oehler, Angelle Sampey and Eddie Krawiec—the last two on holeshots.

Jerry Savoie

Savoie and Smith both had good lights (.028 and .026) in the final and both bikes repeated their semifinal performances, meaning that Smith’s Red Rocket had the 6.75 at 202 advantage over Savoie’s 6.81 at 197.

Smith’s slim points lead stands at 21 over Gladstone heading to Dallas as he seeks a sixth world championship. With the points lead changing hands for the sixth straight race in the class, there are still many players—including Savoie.

All is personally peaceful between Gladstone—the meat between a Smith points sandwich—and the Smiths during the championship battle.

Gladstone and his Cory Reed Racing team know they can’t let up if they’re to storm the MSR trailer and win this thing, and Joey paid Matt the utmost compliment: “He’s everything I want to be—self sufficient, a champion.”


ROUND ONE — Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.030, 193.68 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, Broke; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.772, 198.32 def. Ryan Oehler, 6.849, 198.06; Angie Smith, 6.812, 199.43 def. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 7.132, 184.50; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.754, 200.26 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.876, 196.10; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.734, 201.52 def. Malcolm Phillips Jr., Suzuki, 12.313, 68.66; Ron Tornow, 6.880, 193.99 def. Marc Ingwersen, 6.841, 195.08; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.821, 199.61 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 7.082, 160.94; Matt Smith, 6.776, 202.03 was unopposed;

Chase Van Sant (right) was once again helping out at White Alligator Racing. Here he is hanging out with WAR tuner and team manager Tim Kulungian and track specialist David Fletcher.

QUARTERFINALS –Krawiec, 6.748, 200.29 def. Tornow, Foul – Red Light; M. Smith, 6.783, 200.56 def. Clontz, 7.532, 130.94; Gladstone, 6.777, 198.85 def. A. Smith, 6.831, 198.52; Savoie, 6.786, 198.82 def. Sampey, 6.763, 198.52;
SEMIFINALS — M. Smith, 6.752, 201.76 def. Gladstone, 6.782, 198.15; Savoie, 6.818, 197.10 def. Krawiec, 6.777, 198.82;

FINAL — M. Smith, 6.756, 202.00 def. Savoie, 6.819, 197.77.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points

1. Matt Smith, 2,290; 2. Joey Gladstone, 2,269; 3. Angie Smith, 2,200; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,184; 5. Steve Johnson, 2,183; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,182; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,174; 8. Marc Ingwersen, 2,138; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,109; 10. Ryan Oehler, 2,088.

Saturday was a sell-out crowd at always awesome Gateway.

Filling in for defending world champ Jose Gonzalez in the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon, rookie Daniel Pharris drove to his first career victory in the class on Sunday.

The event, which was powered by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, was the ninth of 10 races during the 2022 season in the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing. Pharris picked up the win in the final round when J.R. Gray went red, as Pharris went 5.883-seconds at 192.08 mph in the ProCharger-powered Q80 Camaro.

It was just the third career start in the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series for Pharris, but he was impressive throughout the weekend, going as quick as 5.673 at 251.134 in qualifying. He then knocked off points leader Kris Thorne and Kevin Rivenbark to reach his first career final round before picking up the victory against Gray to claim the win.

“What a crazy day,” said Pharris, who was also the No. 1 qualifier this weekend. “’I’ve got the best team, the best car, the best crew chief in the country. Jose said, ‘Go win this for me,’ and we did it for him. It’s a team win for everybody and we’re just happy to be here.”

Khalid Al Balooshi beat Mike Castellana in E1 before getting light and nosing hard into the wall. “I’ve never seen you crash before,” I told him. “I’ve never crashed before!” he said.

Gray reached his first final round this season and the third in his career by knocking off Topeka winner Justin Bond and Charlotte winner Stevie “Fast” Jackson.

Heading into the last race of the season, Thorne, who is seeking his first career world title in the class, holds a 65-point lead against multi-time world champ Rickie Smith. Jackson is also 102 points back.

The FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series returns to action with its final race of the season as part of the Texas NHRA FallNationals, which takes place Oct. 13-16 at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas.


ROUND ONE — Kevin Rivenbark, Chevy Camaro, 5.849, 245.94 def. Stan Shelton, Ford Mustang, 9.427, 91.86; Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.906, 213.64 def. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 10.804, 63.51; Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.711, 255.82 def. Lyle Barnett, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Daniel Pharris, Camaro, 5.712, 248.29 was unopposed; Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 5.776, 246.17 def. Mike Thielen, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Kris Thorne, Camaro, 5.749, 252.19 def. Rickie Smith, Mustang, 8.299, 107.46; JR Gray, Camaro, 5.719, 250.51 def. Justin Bond, Camaro, 5.774, 229.24;

QUARTERFINALS — Rivenbark, 5.854, 245.54 def. alBalooshi, Broke – No Show; Gray, No Time Recorded was unopposed; Jackson, 6.170, 172.56 def. Winters, Broke; Pharris, 5.714, 248.89 def. Thorne, 5.724, 252.05;

SEMIFINALS — Gray, 5.769, 239.10 def. Jackson, 5.772, 253.61; Pharris, 5.724, 248.61 def. Rivenbark, 5.840, 245.09;

FINAL — Pharris, 5.883, 192.08 def. Gray, Foul – Red Light.

Pro Modified points

1. Kris Thorne, 717; 2. Rickie Smith, 652; 3. Steve Jackson, 615; 4. Justin Bond, 494; 5. Lyle Barnett, 464; 6. Jose Gonzalez, 463; 7. JR Gray, 452; 8. Doug Winters, 380; 9. Mike Castellana, 342; 10. Mike Thielen, 339.

Steve Torrence

Four-time defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence is back in the title hunt, powering to his second straight win. Torrence put together a run of 3.741-seconds at 328.70 mph in the final round in his Capco Contractors dragster, slipping past Josh Hart, who went 3.749 at 329.67. Torrence also won for the fourth time in St. Louis, posting an excellent reaction time of .027 in the finals and hanging on for the victory.

Torrence, who also knocked off Buddy Hull, Clay Millican and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round, picked up his second win this season and 53rd in his career, jumping three spots in the standings to move into second in the title chase. He trails Justin Ashley by just 14 points with three races remaining as the Texan seeks his fifth straight world title in Top Fuel.

“We’ve struggled all year, some of it self-inflicted, but this was a great weekend for us,” Torrence said. “We’re glad to be back in this Countdown to the Championship and it’s been a heck of a year. To come here and have success, it’s nothing short of a blessing. I tried to screw it up a couple times today and my guys saved me, and I was able to step up in the final round.

“We saw the main players go out early today and the door creaked open a little, and we were able to get our foot in it. But it’s tough and we’re doing the best we can and trying to remain focused on the main priority, which is trying to win a championship. This place has been unbelievable to us and we’re going to carry that confidence into Texas.”

Top Fuel final between Torrence and Josh Hart.

Hart enjoyed an impressive weekend as well, defeating Scott Palmer, Mike Salinas, and Shawn Langdon to advance to his second final round this season and fourth in his career. He also moved to sixth in points.

TOP FUEL results:

ROUND ONE — Josh Hart, 3.696, 334.65 def. Scott Palmer, 8.681, 86.72; Tony Schumacher, 3.701, 332.02 def. Leah Pruett, 3.716, 327.03; Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 328.70 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.747, 327.19; Doug Kalitta, 3.901, 282.42 def. Doug Foley, 6.318, 105.49; Brittany Force, 3.665, 338.43 def. Austin Prock, 5.276, 135.24; Steve Torrence, 3.715, 330.15 def. Buddy Hull, 3.910, 316.01; Mike Salinas, 3.946, 278.23 def. Justin Ashley, 4.476, 202.06; Clay Millican, 5.829, 200.32 def. Antron Brown, 6.514, 89.45;

QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.763, 327.35 def. Millican, 3.806, 283.07; Hart, 3.768, 329.10 def. Salinas, 3.766, 328.62; Kalitta, 3.768, 324.83 def. Force, 3.833, 322.81; Langdon, 3.760, 322.58 def. Schumacher, 9.253, 65.40;

SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.725, 328.14 def. Kalitta, 4.108, 219.97; Hart, 3.712, 333.82 def. Langdon, 3.744, 326.16;

FINAL — Torrence, 3.741, 328.70 def. Hart, 3.749, 329.67.

Top Fuel points

1. Justin Ashley, 2,305; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,291; 3. Brittany Force, 2,275; 4. Mike Salinas, 2,270; 5. Antron Brown, 2,262; 6. Josh Hart, 2,241; 7. Doug Kalitta, 2,217; 8. Clay Millican, 2,179; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,162; 10. Austin Prock, 2,161; 11. Leah Pruett, 2126; 12. Tony Schumacher, 2118.

Robert Hight

In a thrilling Funny Car final round with major championship implications, points leader Robert Hight took down defending world champ Ron Capps on a holeshot, as his run of 3.911 at 331.61 in his 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS was enough to get past Capps’ quicker 3.908 at 330.47. It gives Hight, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, a 46-point lead over Capps at the halfway mark of the Countdown to the Championship and eight victories in what has been a tremendous season for the three-time world champ.

He advanced to the final round on the strength of wins against Tim Wilkerson and Matt Hagan, and then posted a reaction time of .041 to hold off Capps at the finish line and pick up his 61st career victory. It’s also the third victory at St. Louis for Hight, who already has two wins in the postseason.

“It doesn’t get any better than this. This was a 40-point swing in the finals, so it was a good job by my guys,” Hight said. “They keep digging every round and getting it done. You definitely can’t be racing defensively. You’ve got to be on offense out here, even if you’re the points leader and I knew I had to pull out a good reaction time in the final round.

“To say we’ve got eight wins, that makes me very proud, but here’s the hard truth: if I don’t have more than eight, I probably won’t win the championship. So we’ve got to stay focused and work hard, and this team is up for it. We don’t need to leave anything on the table.”

Capps reached his second straight final round – and an 80th career matchup with Hight – by defeating Daniel Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and John Force. Capps has seven final-round appearances this season and 138 in his career.

Bob Bode Jr. provided the Funny Car Q3 excitement. He was ready to run on raceday.

FUNNY CAR results:

ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.896, 330.80 def. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 9.066, 83.31; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.076, 238.60 was unopposed; John Force, Camaro, 3.925, 326.24 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 13.006, 74.36; Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.938, 328.86 def. Daniel Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.055, 284.56; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.121, 275.62 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 5.336, 137.15; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.324, 249.49 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 5.805, 122.38; J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.928, 318.24 def. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.928, 328.62; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.310, 218.94 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.402, 291.57;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.927, 328.30 def. Pedregon, 3.938, 322.81; Hagan, 3.943, 325.14 def. Tasca III, 3.968, 327.51; Force, 3.968, 324.28 def. Todd, 3.967, 321.58; Hight, 3.903, 330.72 def. T. Wilkerson, 3.972, 326.24;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.884, 332.02 def. Force, 3.950, 328.46; Hight, 3.913, 327.59 def. Hagan, 3.945, 330.31;

FINAL — Hight, 3.911, 331.61 def. Capps, 3.908, 330.47.

Funny Car results

1. Robert Hight, 2,404; 2. Ron Capps, 2,358; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,301; 4. John Force, 2,290; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,234; 6. Alexis DeJoria, 2,187; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,185; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,175; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 2,159; 10. Jim Campbell, 2,085.

Erica Enders

Erica Enders now has the most wins at World Wide Technology Raceway of any driver in NHRA history, claiming her sixth St. Louis Pro Stock Car win – and fourth in a row – by knocking off Dallas Glenn in the finals in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro. Glenn went red, while Enders put together a pass of 6.535 at 210.28, extending her points lead and winning for the eighth time in a magical 2022 season and also the 41st time in her career.

Like Hight, Enders now has wins at two of the first three playoff races, building a 120-point lead over Aaron Stanfield heading into the final stretch of the season. She reached the finals with victories against Chris McGaha, teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Kyle Koretsky. By dispatching Glenn, Enders also moved a step closer to her fifth world championship.

“This track has definitely been great to us,” Enders said. “We’ve been coming here since we were 15 and we love St. Louis. We’ve had a ton of success here and we made up some ground today. I’m hopeful to keep the drive for five (world championships) alive. This has been a tremendous year for our team, and they’ve worked so hard. I’m so proud to have them.

“I super excited we’ve opened up a lead like that. I don’t want to let it slip through my fingers and I want to showcase what my guys give me every weekend, and we were able to do that today.”

Glenn beat Mike DePalma, Charlotte winner Aaron Stanfield and Matt Hartford to reach the finals for the third time this season and the eighth time in his young career.

PRO STOCK CAR results:

ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.544, 210.21 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 8.985, 100.77; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.537, 211.79 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.534, 210.70 def. Mike DePalma, Ford Mustang, 6.545, 210.93; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.528, 210.67 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.618, 209.65; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.512, 210.87 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.562, 210.41; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.520, 211.43 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.573, 212.23; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.505, 211.00 was unopposed; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.539, 211.39 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 13.528, 63.58;

QUARTERFINALS — Glenn, 6.564, 210.87 def. Stanfield, 6.561, 209.82; Enders, 6.522, 211.03 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.543, 210.77; Hartford, 6.529, 211.59 def. Anderson, 6.529, 210.67; Koretsky, 6.547, 210.80 def. Kramer, 6.551, 210.28;

SEMIFINALS — Glenn, 6.568, 209.33 def. Hartford, 14.716, 63.30; Enders, 6.533, 210.14 def. Koretsky, 6.541, 210.80;

FINAL — Enders, 6.535, 210.28 def. Glenn, Foul – Red Light.

Pro Stock Car points

1. Erica Enders, 2,427; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 2,307; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 2,274; 4. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,270; 5. Greg Anderson, 2,267; 6. Dallas Glenn, 2,257; 7. Matt Hartford, 2,233; 8. Mason McGaha, 2,125; 9. (tie) Bo Butner, 2,117; Camrie Caruso, 2,117; 11. (tie) Fernando Cuadra Jr., 2095; Deric Kramer, 2095; 13. Cristian Cuadra, 2086; 14. Chris McGaha, 2054; 15. Fernando Cuadra, 2043.

Competition Eliminator — Adam Hickey, Dragster, No Time Recorded def. Jason Grima, Ford Mustang, Broke – No Show.

Super Stock — Marion Stephenson, Chevy Cobalt, 9.645, 120.35 def. Tyler Wudarczyk, Chevy Camaro, 10.952, 111.56.

Stock Eliminator — Jimmy Hildalgo Jr., Pontiac GTO, 10.880, 114.33 def. Chris Knudsen, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Super Comp — Junior Houston, Dragster, 8.907, 183.99 def. Jeremy Mason, Dragster, 8.924, 174.66.

Super Gas — Rob Kropfeld, Chevy Camaro, 9.913, 165.44 def. Patrick DeBottis, Dodge Dakota, 9.892, 169.55.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Darian Boesch, Dragster, 6.234, 215.34 def. Ed
Dudley, Dragster, 6.242, 222.36.

Pro Modified — Daniel Pharris, Chevy Camaro, 5.883, 192.08 def. JR Gray, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Oct. 13-16 with the Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas.

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


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