December 14th, 2015 / Author: BTS
KING, N.C. (Dec. 14) — The year-old partnership between Matt Smith Racing and Victory Motorcycles is ready to reap some big benefits in 2016.
Matt Smith and wife Angie Smith introduced Victory Motorcycles to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in 2015, making a remarkable amount of progress while developing the new bike. But now they want more, and both riders are convinced the endless hours they’re putting in this off-season will yield multiple victories in 2016.
“We are 100 percent behind this deal,” Angie said. “There’s no 9-to-5, 40-hour work week. We’ve been putting in all of out time to make this program better because we want to make Victory happy and we want to be happy as racers. We want this partnership with Victory Motorcycles to last a lifetime. We want to get as many people as we can riding Victory Motorcycles. The best way to do that is win because that shows everyone how great these motorcycles are.”
Victory began looking for a way to get into the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class in late 2014, meeting with a handful of teams before settling on the championship-winning group at MSR. Matt is a two-time world champion, winning titles in 2007 and 2013, and already has 17 victories to date, placing him comfortably in the all-time top 10 for his class.
Angie is one of just 15 women in NHRA’s 64-year history to claim a national event trophy, and her crew chief/husband Matt says she will be adding to her career total in 2016.
“She’s come a long way over the last couple of years,” he said. “The 2015 season was kind of a setback for her, mainly because of how the wind affects her on the Victory. She’ll be a lot better in 2016. We’ve just got to get her some more laps. She’ll be good next year.”
Her slight build made the transition to the Victory a little more difficult. At one of the first test sessions with the new bike, the team discovered that the Victory’s smaller fairing produced much higher wind resistance, with Angie’s hand actually blown off the handlebars on one of her early runs. She kept control and stayed on the bike, but her confidence suffered. Still, as the year wore on, Angie returned to her old self.
“It took a while to get my confidence back,” she said. “But toward the end of the season, I was doing a lot better. I think in 2016 we’re going to be really, really good.”
After spending the 2014-2015 off-season developing the new bike in conjunction with Victory, Matt raced to three finals and won 18 elimination rounds during the 2015 season. A midseason adjustment to the bodywork helped put the Victory more on par to the other manufacturers in the class.
“We went from running 13th, 14th up to fifth, sixth,” Smith said. “It was a big boost, but we’re still behind a little bit on the body. Thankfully, we’ve made some big gains in the motor department. Elite Performance helped us at the end of the year, and we tried something with one of their combinations that helped us even more.”
Elite Performance, which powered Erica Enders to two consecutive Pro Stock championships, will continue to help Matt Smith Racing in 2016 — through a partnership with Mark Stockseth and Stockseth Racing — though Smith still will build his own engines.
“We know we’re not where we need to be with the bodywork and that’s a big factor, one that new teams go through,” Matt said. “We’re hoping NHRA will give us a couple things over the winter, and then we’ll go back to the wind tunnel. We’ll be glad for NHRA to come with us and we hope they do because I think they will see what we’ve been saying if they actually see the bike in the wind tunnel.”
Concessions or not, after racing to the final round of the last race of the 2015 season in Pomona, Calif., Matt is confident the performance of his Victory motorcycle will continue to rise.
“We are getting to where we are right there on par with everybody,” he said. “We’re still a mile an hour down from everybody, from the Buell to the Suzuki and the Harley, but if NHRA gives us just a little bit more in aero, we can be right there ready to win a lot of races and contend for the championship next year.”
The year-old partnership between Victory Motorcycles and Matt Smith Racing riders Matt Smith (above) and Angie Smith (below) is ready to reap some big benefits in 2016. (Thomas Gaines photos)
December 8th, 2015 / Author: BTS
A pair of champions will team up and carry the Mopar banner in 2016, as back-to-back NHRA Pro Stock champ Erica Enders and five-time overall Pro Stock title winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. will lead the charge for the brand in the popular factory hot rod class. The combination of Elite Motorsports teammates Enders and Coughlin steering fuel-injected, HEMI®-powered Dodge Dart cars puts winners of the past three NHRA Pro Stock World Championships under the Mopar banner.
In the NHRA Funny Car class, Mopar and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) will extend one of the most successful and longest-running partnerships in the sport. Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan will once again pilot the flagship Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
“The Mopar brand is excited to announce that two proven champions, Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., will fly the Mopar colors in the NHRA Pro Stock class next season,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “We couldn’t ask for greater competitors or brand ambassadors to represent us at the drag strip. We’re also very proud to once again partner with Don Schumacher Racing and work together to bring home a fourth NHRA Funny Car crown in six years.”
Defending and two-time champ Enders, who competed in a Mopar-powered car in 2006-2007, will chase a third consecutive title behind the wheel of her new Mopar Performance Dodge Dart GT NHRA Pro Stock car for Elite Motorsports.
Enders didn’t lose a step after breaking through for six wins and her first Pro Stock crown in 2014, stringing together one of the most impressive seasons in Pro Stock history with nine victories, 11 final-round appearances and six No. 1 qualifier spots on her road to the 2015 overall title.
The nine wins by Enders, a 32-year-old from Houston, Texas, who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, broke the single-season mark of victories by a female racer, set by Angelle Sampey in 2001 with seven wins. Enders’ total of 21 career victories ranks 39th on the NHRA all-time win list and just second among women, trailing only Sampey’s 41 wins.
“We’re entering a new era of Pro Stock and it’s going to be awesome to take a new Mopar-powered Dodge Dart into 2016 and beyond,” said Enders, who began her career at age 8 racing half-scale Junior Dragsters, with her childhood racing story featured in the 2003 Disney Channel movie Right on Track. “We won the last two championships with carburetors and now the goal is to win the first one with fuel injection. The Dart Pro Stock cars look awesome and I’m already very familiar with Mopar because I’ve driven for them in the past. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent them moving forward, along with my teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.”
Teaming up with Enders in the new Pro Stock era of fuel injection and scoop-free hoods is a driver who has already placed himself among the legends of the sport and who is also no stranger to the Mopar brand. Coughlin clinched his most recent of five Pro Stock championships driving a Mopar-powered Dodge Dart in 2013.
Coughlin will man the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart GT NHRA Pro Stock car in 2016, looking to add even more milestones to a Hall of Fame career that includes 76 victories, with 58 in Pro Stock, good enough for fourth all-time in the class.
Coughlin is the first and only driver to score wins in seven NHRA classes (Pro Stock, Comp, Top Dragster, Super Gas, Super Stock, Stock and Super Comp), the only driver in NHRA history to win in four different classes in the same season (1997, Pro Stock, Super Stock, Super Gas, and Comp) and the only driver in the pro ranks to win from every qualifying position, No. 1 to No. 16.
“The 2016 season is a turning point for the NHRA and the Pro Stock class,” said Coughlin, a Delaware, Ohio, native who raced a Mopar-powered Pro Stocker in 2005 and 2012-2014. “We’re really looking forward to the upcoming challenges. We are fortunate to have great partners with Mopar and the Magneti Marelli brands, Elite Motorsports, JEGS and Stockseth Racing. It will be a great next chapter in our careers.
“Also, I am looking forward to working beside one of the greatest drivers in the NHRA, Erica Enders, and the greatest crew, including Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll and Brian ‘Lump’ Self, all talented and championship-proven crew chiefs. It will be a great year for the entire Elite Motorsports team.”
July 28th, 2015 / Author: BTS
SONOMA, Calif. (July 28) — When five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. dons his helmet this Friday and attempts to qualify for the 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, it will be the 355th time in his illustrious career that he has gone through the procedure. But you’ll have to excuse the 58-time national event winner if he’s as giddy as a newly-minted rookie, because that’s exactly how he feels as he prepares for the first of three fill-in races with Elite Motorsports, Stockseth Racing, and Ray Skillman Chevrolet.
“This is an extremely exciting time for me,” Coughlin said. “I love Pro Stock racing, and to be returning to the class, albeit for just a three-race stint, has me very pumped up. It’s a thrill to know I’ll have the horsepower, the people, and the race car that runs right at the top of the charts.”
Coughlin and Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman are longtime friends who often talk about racing together. When the opportunity for Coughlin to jump in the group’s back-up Chevrolet Camaro recently arose, the two decided to move forward with their long-simmering plans.
“I raced Richard’s Comp Eliminator ride for him back in 2006 at Indy, and we’ve always talked about racing together again. We had a good time then and we’ll have a lot of fun this time, I’m sure. Hopefully, I can pick up right where I left off last year as far as my driving goes. When you have all the other pieces in place, it comes down to the ability of the driver, so I’ll need to be ready to race.”
Although he hasn’t competed in Pro Stock this year, Coughlin still will be considered a threat to go rounds at Sonoma Raceway and potentially reach his 100th career final round. He has won at the facility two times in the past (2003 and 2010), and he’s using the same Elite Performance horsepower as reigning world champion Erica Enders, a four-time winner this season.
“You’ve got Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston over there, two of the top engine guys in motorsports,” Coughlin said. “You’ve got two guys I really respect in Rick and Rickie Jones, as well as my longtime friend Mark Ingersoll, making the tuning calls. The crew guys have shown they don’t make any mistakes. It’s just an impressive group.
“I’m really honored to be racing alongside Erica. She’s a great champion and a wonderful driver who already has a bunch of victories this year, so she’s on top of her game. I’m thankful to share the pit with her. I’ve truly joined an all-star cast, and my passion for driving again is peaking right now.”
July 22nd, 2015 / Author: BTS
Fresh off her appearance at the ESPYs, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is ready to kick off the Western Swing at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this weekend at Bandimere Speedway.
Enders was nominated in the Best Driver category, with NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick winning the ESPY. Still, attending the ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and rubbing elbows with some of the best athletes in the world was a thrill.
“It was definitely a neat experience,” said Enders, who earned the nomination based on winning the 2014 Pro Stock world championship. “I’ve watched on TV in years past, so to be a part of it was pretty cool. I got to see and meet a lot of pretty famous athletes, so that was great. Of course, we wanted to win, but the NASCAR guy is hard to beat.”
Enders was able to meet NFL player Devin Still, who accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in honor of his daughter Leah. Still gave a stirring acceptance speech that was one of the highlights of the night.
Enders now turns her attention to the three-race Western Swing, which also includes races in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle. She’ll race the swing for the first time since 2012, as her Elite team skipped Sonoma and Seattle last year and she missed several races in 2013.
“It’ll be fun,” Enders said. “Sonoma is one of my favorite places to race at, and we’ve got a history at Seattle. Of course, the Mopars are always dominant in Denver, so we’re looking forward to trying to knock them off their rocker.”
Racing the Western Swing also means Enders and her Richard Freeman-owned team plan to compete in all 24 Pro Stock races this season, but they still are searching for sponsorship despite making the commitment to finish the season.
“Our goal is to always race all of the races,” Enders said. “It worked out OK last year, but it was definitely a nail-biter. I’m glad that we can race them all. It’s going to be a cutthroat year, for sure. Richard is going to run 15 events a year, and we do our best to fund the remaining nine. We’re not there yet, but we’re betting on it.”
July 22nd, 2015 / Author: BTS
The NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals is a milestone race for Jim Dunn Racing in 2015. Last year they missed the event, as team owner Big Jim underwent successful colon cancer surgery. Jim is now in great health and the team returns to Denver this weekend with USD, Inc. on board as their primary sponsor.
“We are grateful to be returning to Bandimere Speedway this year after being away last year,” said Jim Dunn Racing Business Manager, Jon Dunn. “The fans here in Denver are amazing and very supportive, so we decided this was the perfect race to debut our new Jim Dunn Racing: The Legend Continues T-Shirt.”
Fans can purchase the new shirt at the Modern Outlaw Apparel trailer located in the Nitro pits while attending the Mopar Mile-High Nationals this weekend.
The team will be running the USD, Inc Mopar body, which they debuted at the Phoenix race in February. (It also made a brief appearance at the NHRA Kansas Nationals, when a small crack in the ALO Drink body forced a last minute swap.) USD, Inc is the Southwest’s leading distributor of aftermarket Ford, General Motors and Chrysler original equipment parts, and has been providing top quality service to their customers for over 40 years.
While in Denver, Jim Dunn Racing will join USD employees at their offices for a lunch meet-and-greet on Thursday, and will also host more than 400 employees at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals throughout the weekend.