Sometimes being the championship points leader has perks before the season ends. Saturday at the NHRA Midwest Nationals outside of St. Louis, the Pro Stock racers, both the four-wheel and two-wheel versions, benefitted from being at the head of the pack.
NHRA race officials awarded Jason Line and Matt Smith No. 1 qualifier status based on their current championship points standings. Rain had delayed qualifying into later in the night, making running the Pro Stock vehicles an unsafe proposition.
“Every once in a while, number one pays off, I guess, although I’m not sure my reward is that fantastic, but nonetheless, I think it was the right decision for tonight,” Line said. “Obviously the track is very cold, and lots of folks out here that are fairly new and inexperienced and you don’t want to get experience that way. So I think it was the right call, and we’ll make the best out of a not-so-great situation.”
For Line, it was a bit of a payback for the veteran driver, who picked up his 58th No. 1 qualifier. In 2010, the now three-time Pro Stock champion missed the field at the NHRA Midwest Nationals.
While Line was satisfied with being seeded at the top without a run, Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Matt Smith was no fan of the decision.
“It sucks,” Smith said. “I think NHRA made a bad call. I know Josh Peterson was the one. I’ve been in contact with him. I’m pretty pissed off because I’m a person that’s going to say what I need to say, and basically, it sucks for the racers, and it sucks for the fans. The fans got f***** in this deal, in my opinion. This is all about money for NHRA right now. As long as they got nitro in the book, they don’t have to give a refund, and Josh Peterson should have come down here to this pro pit and talked to the Pro Stock motorcycles in the group and say, “Hey, we have a safety concern.”
“There was no safety concern. If it was a safety concern they wouldn’t have ran the rest of Top Fuel and Funny Car down the track, so there’s no safety concern. It’s all about getting the nitro cars down the track so they don’t have to give refunds. They had a huge crowd today and they didn’t want to give that back and that’s what I’m upset about is they didn’t come and talk to us because as a group, we wanted a race. We wanted to put on a show.”
Smith said that while the Pro Stock cars might fight with a lack of downforce in this situation, the bikes present a different scenario.
“We might spin the tire a little bit too much in low gear. But you know what? We don’t ever have a problem,” Smith explained. “When we have a problem, it’s side wind, crosswind. We’ve reached out to NHRA when there has been 30mph crosswinds in Chicago, and they go, “Oh no, you need to go down the track. It’s no big deal.”
“Yeah it’s no big deal. It was a safety concern then, and they made us go down the track. There ain’t no safety concern. It was them wanting to collect their money and go to bed tonight. And that’s what we’re upset about right now.
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— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) September 20, 2020