WORLD CHAMP MATT SMITH INKS PSM DEAL FOR 2018
Two-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith revealed to Competition Plus Tuesday he has signed a deal with Joe Riccardi to compete fulltime in 2018.
“I’m going to ride a Suzuki this year for Joe,” said Smith, who won his world titles in 2007 and 2013. “It is all Vance & Hines power. They are doing the motors and Joe and I are going to collaborate on tuning and it should be an interesting deal.”
A year ago, Riccardi had Joey Gladstone riding full-time for his team in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
Smith, meanwhile, was looking into acquiring sponsorship funding for his motorcycle since Polaris stopped sponsoring him at the end of the 2017 season. Smith had been backed by Polaris the past three seasons. The last two years he was riding a Victory motorcycle.
“(Riccardi) has made a change and he wants to put me on the bike and he just needs some tuning help,” Smith said. “I think we can work together and he has some new motors from Vance & Hines that they’ve told him are going to be really, really fast and we’re ready to go after it. This is a relief. With the end of Polaris/Victory last year, I was trying to find funding to run my bike and it just didn’t give me a lot of time to do it. With Joe stepping up and doing this, it is great. We are looking for a major sponsor on the bike and they can contact Joe or I and it will not take a bunch of dollars to be a major sponsor.”
Smith said Riccardi is bringing him his motorcycles for a test session Feb. 5-6 at Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park.
“I’ve never even seen the motorcycles, they have been at Vance & Hines’ shop in Indy,” Smith said. “They built him a brand-new chassis and brand-new motors. We are not going to run the new chassis at the test session, we are going to run his old bike with his new motors in it and hopefully we will have the new bike ready to test before Gainesville (Fla.). I have worked it out where we are going to use my truck and trailer since Angie (Matt’s wife) is going to compete fulltime in the Pro Stock Motorcycle season in 2018 and I will haul the bike and all that around and we will team up together.”
The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle season-opening race is the Gatornationals March 15-18 in Gainesville.
According to Matt, Angie, who finished 10th in the points standings this past season, will be competing on a Buell in 2018 and she also will be testing at Bradenton. Her deal is separate to what Matt is running with Riccardi.
“I’m hoping to get six to nine laps on Joe’s bike at Bradenton in the two days and we are hoping to get nine laps on Angie’s bike,” Matt said.
Smith will be riding a Suzuki for the first time since he campaigned a Suzuki for Don Schumacher Racing in 2009. He also ran a Suzuki in parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
“I went to some finals, but I have never won on a Suzuki,” Smith said. “That’s my main goal because I’ve won on a Buell, I’ve won on a Victory and I want to win on a Suzuki. That’s our goal this year to win on a Suzuki. I don’t think I will have to re-learn anything. I think I will do pretty good right off the bat. We are going to put a new ignition system on the bike from what they’ve been running in the past, so we are going to learn that a little bit and do a lot of dynoing and a lot of testing and we should be pretty good come Gainesville.”
Smith finished sixth in the 2017 points standings, highlighted by three runner-up finishes at Norwalk, Ohio, Denver and Sonoma, Calif. He also qualified No. 1 at Norwalk and Sonoma.
“I told Joe my main goal is to win,” Smith said. “I don’t care what we have to do, I want to win on the bike. That’s his mentality, he just wants somebody to win on his stuff. If we can accomplish that, both parties are going to be extremely happy. The way the Suzukis ran last year and the year before, I think we will be pretty competitive right from the start.”