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Mon, 18 Nov 2013, 18:57 PM

One-on-One with Pro Stock Motorcycle Champion Matt Smith
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

MODERATOR: Matt Smith clinched the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship in Las Vegas by racing to the finals and winning the event. This is his second world championship and first since 2007. Matt, all the way back in Gainesville, we talked then, you were confident about your bike. After the Chicago event, it really just started to have tremendous success. What did you find at that Chicago event to this point that propelled you to this championship?

MATT SMITH: Well, we started the year out really good at Gainesville. Number one qualifier, ran really good the first three or four races of the year. We had transmission problems. The bike wasn't shifting. We couldn't win rounds because we'd make one run in qualifying, haul butt, then the next few runs we couldn't go down the track. It was all breakages in the transmission. We got all that fixed. It showed in Epping. We went to the Epping race. My teammate John won his first race ever. We never looked back from that point on. We've been to 10 finals since Epping and won six races between me and John.

Matt Smith celebrates second Championship.
Q. This is your second championship. I recall interviewing John Force many years ago, he said, The first one is tough to achieve, but the second one is even harder. Do you have a comment on that?

MATT SMITH: We won our first championship in 2007. 2008, at Pomona we thought we had the second one won. We went into Pomona leading the points. All we needed was two rounds to win. Second round we had a battery short-out and ended our championship hopes there.

I would say the second one is hard. We've been third, fourth, sixth in points ever since, trying to find that little thing we needed to get to get the number one spot. We finally got back to on par this year.

Q. In a playoff, you race all year long trying to get into the Countdown. When you get there, you have to start all over again. How does that wear on you and your team?

MATT SMITH: I like the Countdown format. There's a lot of times through the year you'll have a problem, either a parts failure, or you just get in a slump. For racers, it's great I think to be able to reset things right after Indy or at Indy for the simple fact that the last six races is when you need to be good. We were good all year long, but we had some problems here or there. Just to make a long story short, it makes it a lot interesting for the fans. I think the fans like it. They want to see side-by-side racing. They want to see, just like now, all the Vegas fans come there knowing maybe a championship could be won, maybe there couldn't. Good side-by-side racing. All the fans at Pomona are going to say, We're going to get two champions be crowned there, plus see me and John race there at Pomona. I think it's a neat deal for the fans and the class.

Matt Smith won the Las Vegas race.
Q. Throughout the entire season, was there a single competitor that you looked at every single week concerned with what they were doing or were you totally focused on your motorcycle throughout the entire season and nothing else?

MATT SMITH: We were focused on our team. I have a three-bike team, sometimes have a four-bike team. I have enough going on with our team to know that we have to focus on our deal. We know we have fast bikes. We know other teams have fast bikes. But if we take care of ourselves, we know we'll be in position to qualify good and win rounds. NHRA did a fabulous job this year of getting our class back under control where Harley-Davidson had such a big advantage last year with a motor that nobody could buy or build. I applaud NHRA for getting our class back on a level playing field. You've had all three makes running within two or three hundredths at every race. It's coming down to tuner's and rider's racing again.

Q. I know your father won a championship this year. He's had a successful career in cars. Can you catch me up on what led you to race motorcycles and not follow your father down the four-wheel path?

MATT SMITH: Our family never had a lot of money. We didn't have the big sponsors to where he could put me in a car. He told me if I wanted to do it, I had to do it on my own. The bikes were cheaper to do than a car. That's all it boils down to. I'm a little guy. That's what I followed. I followed my dream to be able to drag race. So I did it on my own and found little sponsors to be able to run a motorcycle. I think everybody knows the last three years I drove a car, I drove a Pro Mod car off and on for the last three years. I would really love to be able to drive a car a lot, but my heart is in the bikes. We have a four-bike team. That's where I want to be. I want to help somebody else win races and win a championship.

Q. How difficult is it to race and run a four-bike team? Sounds like a handful.

MATT SMITH: You know, it's really a lot easier than what people think. I have a good team behind me. I have a good wife, good family behind me. Having four bikes on the team, if I had one bike and I was the only bike, I would probably drive myself crazy and second-guess myself so much by just doing one bike. With doing three other bikes plus mine, it totally takes the focus off my bike. I try to work on the other bikes more than mine. I just get to go out there and ride the bike and have fun. It shows. Our whole team does a great job.

Matt Smith
Q. Do you see any similarities between your situation and the Arana's?

MATT SMITH: Yeah, his two sons are riding, I heard his daughter might ride in the future. My son is not interested in riding motorcycles. He doesn't care anything about drag racing. He's 17 years old. My dad loves to race, my wife loves to race. My brother-in-law Scott Speed runs NASCAR and rally cars. Our whole family loves to race. It's a family-oriented sport. We're just happy to be part of it.

Q. You need to get Scott on a bike.

MATT SMITH: That would be pretty funny to see that.

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