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Thu, 8 Sep 2005, 10:47 AM

NHRA Overturns Matt Smith's win at Indy Steve Johnson is Winner
Courtesy of Mickey Schultz

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Looking back at the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round of the 51st annual NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals between Matt Smith and Steve Johnson, it seems that all the drama of that final round and the events following has had more twists and turns than a soap opera.

As many may know, and for those who don't, NHRA announced yesterday (Sept. 6) that the posted results of Monday's Pro Stock Motorcycle final round, which had Smith as the winner, has been overturned and awarded the victory to Johnson.

George Bryce and George Smith, partners of G Squared Motorsports, which owns and races the bike that Matt Smith rode throughout the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, have jointly issued the following statement regarding NHRA's decision to overturn the final round outcome:

"When Steve Johnson left on Matt Smith we were watching at the finish line hoping that Matt could catch him. When the win light came on in Matt's lane and he had run an 11 (7.114 seconds) versus Steve's 20 (7.206 seconds), we were amazed but elated that we had won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious race on the circuit.

"We then did the winner's circle celebration and returned to our pit area to continue our celebration. We never saw the video at the track. It wasn't until sometime later that we saw the video replays. Even then and all throughout Tuesday we thought that we had come away victorious. Then we got a call from Graham (Light), and were notified that NHRA had overturned the on track decision. We want all to know that we accept that decision and think it was justified.

"NHRA did a lot of reviews, including the ESPN2 video of the questioned final round, and all reviews pointed out that Steve had crossed the line first. Perhaps it was a matter of time before an incident like this took place and becomes the precedent for the NHRA version of "instant replay" review.

"Looking back, we wish that Steve could have had his time in the winner's circle, but happy that NHRA corrected, what in hindsight, was obvious - Steve was the winner.

"All-in-all, both G Squared/S&S-powered Buells did well, as did Matt and Chip. Matt Smith was runner-up on race day on one Buell and Chip Ellis was runner-up in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, a special race-within-a-race on Saturday, on the other. It was a great weekend for G Squared Motorsports, S&S Cycle, which supply our power, and the newest addition to our racing family, Mac Tools. We were proud that we could do well for Mac Tools at their race.

"Finally, the most important part, we give Steve Johnson sincere congratulation on his win and applaud the NHRA for correcting what was an obvious fluke in the system."

On paper, the results of the electronic timers had Smith, aboard the G Squared S&S-powered Buell, as the winner by .0013 seconds.

But upon further review of ESPN television tapes and inspection of the finish line timing system, together with the data from all of Johnson's previous runs at the event, as well as those of other competitors and consultation with industry experts, Graham Light, senior vice president of racing operations, NHRA, overturned what would have been Smith's first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle win.

"Although it is always our (NHRA's) desire to provide finality to the event for both the competitors and the fans at the event's conclusion, upon further review, it's obvious that the finish line beam did not detect the front tire of Johnson's motorcycle and instead was triggered by another component of the motorcycle," said Light.

"I am now convinced that the finish line camera angle did not distort the image and that Johnson's motorcycle was the first to cross the finish line. Therefore, we are reversing the original decision and declaring Steve Johnson the winner of the event."

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