CLERMONT, Ind. -- Battle Decades ago, Rickie Smith and Roy Hill waged battles on Southeastern tracks for supremacy in the mountain motor Pro Stock ranks. The friendly rivals renewed their war under different circumstances in an arena larger than they ever imagined. Far removed from those early days, Smith and Hill, now a team owner, waged battle for the ultimate Pro Modified title at the NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
The larger scale event didn't faze Smith in the least that he entered the seventh stop on the ten-race AMS Pro Modified Challenge as the only nitrous car. He complimented the underdog status by being the only driver to leave with the victory. It was a battle of Smiths as Rickie tracked down a Hill's quicker reacting driver Von Smith for his first ever Indy triumph.
"We may have won the first one, but Indy was the one victory I have always wanted," explained Rickie. "Winning that first one will always go in the record book, but this one will always stay in my heart. To win Indy is just an awesome deal. I got beat up here about five years ago and this was gratifying. Getting in the finals just doesn't happen that often."
Rickie smiled when he was able to remember those days that he did battle in a Ford and Hill had a Mopar. Today Smith was in a Chevrolet and Hill had a Ford. As for Von, he was in a zone when it came to the starting line. He strapped a .036 holeshot on Rickie in the finals.
"I wish Roy had been over there because we might have been about the same on the tree because we 're both getting old," Smith said with a laugh. "Von is a good driver and he did a heck of a job for Roy. They are going to be a tough team to deal with."
The key to Rickie's success was in going up and down the track like a bracket racers except for the final qualifying session of the rescheduled event. That proved to be the most crucial one as both Tim McAmis and Fred Hahn improved and bypassed the eventual champion in qualifying. When McAmis fell in the first round and Rickie flat outran Hahn in the semis, he gave credence to the adage that raceday and qualifying are two different endeavors.
"You have to get up and down the track and that's what I told the boys today," Rickie explained. "We went out and shook the tires on our last qualifying run and that's something you don't want to do. Going into Sunday, you want to get down the track. I knew exactly where the problem was and we went back to our old tires and everything just fell into place."
Rickie entered eliminations as the third quickest and beat New York Mortgage Banker Mike Ashley in the first round. Proving that round to be no fluke, he picked up the pace to a 6.240, 228.58 to stop Hahn.
On the other side of the ladder, the former Funny Car pilot had Hill's Mustang flying. Von was the fourth quickest qualifier but was the quickest car every round except in the finals. He reeled off a 6.216, 228.81 to establish low elapsed time on a single where Mike Stawicki couldn' t fire. Von advanced to the finals with a 6.240, 228.58 to take out Thomas Patterson.
In the final round, Von left Rickie at the line, but the nitrous entry tracked him down with a winning 6.240, 224.40. Von reached the final round in his first AMS Pro Modified Challenge event and settled for runner-up with a 6.286, 227.69.
The next stop on the ten-race AMS Pro Modified Challenge tour rolls into Memphis in two weeks.
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