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Thu, 06 Apr 2017, 13:39 PM

Smith's Rockingham Pro Mod Bid Gets A Little 'Tricky'
Courtesy of Steve Earwood

Back Surgery Makes NHRA, IHRA Champ a Cheerleader at ADRL Spring Drags

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - When the all-conquering IDG Chevy Camaro rolls to the starting line for the first time at this week's (April 7-8) ADRL Spring Drags at Rockingham Dragway, there'll be a world champion behind the wheel - but it won't be Rickie Smith.

Recovering from recent back surgery, the three-time and reigning NHRA Pro Mod Champion was told not to lift anything heavier than three pounds and, while it wasn't specifically mentioned, that order apparently includes wrestling a 2,500 pound, 250 mile per hour hybrid race car down a quarter mile racetrack.

Fortunately, the native of King, N.C., a multi-time champion on both the NHRA and IHRA pro tours, didn't have to look far to find a capable surrogate.

Matt Smith
His son, Matt, twice the NHRA World Champion in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class (2007 and 2013), will shed his leathers for a firesuit for one weekend only and join another second generation racer, Jonathan Gray, in pursuit of the only Spring Drags Pro Mod title contested at the quarter mile distance.

While Matt will assume his dad's ride in the "red Camaro," Gray, the son of former NHRA Funny Car tour winner Johnny Gray, brother of recent NHRA Gatornationals Pro Stock winner Shane Gray and uncle of last week's Las Vegas Pro Stock winner, Tanner Gray, will pilot RSR's "blue Camaro." Both cars are capable of 5.70 second performance at the quarter mile distance.

Although Smith and Gray will race at the traditional drag racing distance, there will be equally intense competition on the one-eighth mile course where champions will be crowned in Outlaw Pro Mod, Insane Pro Mod and Extreme Pro Stock Motorcycle as well as Top Dragster, Top Sportsman, Top Bracket and Top and Pro Jr. Dragster.

"Tricky" Rickie Smith
As for "Tricky Rickie," he'll settle for playing the role of advisor and cheerleader along with Matt's wife, the former Angie McBride, an accomplished professional motorcycle racer in her own right having won a 2014 NHRA tour event at Epping, N.H.

Meanwhile, the elder Smith, who at 63 is the second oldest racer ever to win a major NHRA championship (after John Force, who was 64 when he won the Funny Car title in 2013), is doing whatever it takes to get back to what he loves most.

Twice he's tried to walk away. Both times he's failed miserably, leading him finally to declare that he's just going to keep on going until he can't go anymore. And a little back surgery is no big deal.

Free tickets for the Spring Drags are available on line at or at There is a $20 fee to park a vehicle in Rockingham's main lot, regardless of the number of occupants.

In addition to competition on BOTH the quarter mile and eighth mile, other changes to the format include Saturday eliminations, the addition of Top Fuel Harley motorcycles, Pro Alcohol Funny Cars and Pro Alcohol Dragsters and nightly exhibition performances by the "Black Pearl" Pro Mod jet car.

A Thursday test session for pro cars from 2-8 p.m. is open to the public with no parking fee. Friday's program includes pro qualifying at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. followed by the "Black Pearl" jet at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, last chance qualifying begins for the pros at 9 a.m. with the first round of racing at 1:30 p.m.; jet car and fireworks at 9:30.

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