NHRA at Sonoma: Riding with Mr. and Mrs. Smith
For Matt and Angie Smith, the attraction was immediate. Both were drawn to motorcycles almost from the first time they rode in their late teens.
As for their attraction to each other — well, that one took a while.
“I think his mentality was he didn’t want to get beat by a girl,” Angie said. “... He was cocky, he was arrogant, and I didn’t like that.”
“I think just being a girl, out there in our sport,” Matt said when asked what rubbed him the wrong way. “And she had a cocky attitude a lot of times.”
They raced against one another on numerous occasions, mostly in their native state of North Carolina in the early years, before they finally learned to embrace the mutual cockiness. Now they are happily married and racing for Matt’s Pro Stock Motorcycle team. They will be garage-mates, and possibly drag-strip competitors, during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway today.
NHRA includes a lot of father-son, father-daughter and sibling connections, but the Smiths are unique.
Some people complain about not getting to spend enough time with their spouses. Matt, 41, and Angie, 35, face the opposite challenge. They share the cab of a truck for long hauls across the country, work together at the track, talk shop after races, and team up on sponsorships and marketing. It can be a little much.
“It’s not always peachy-creamy between us,” Angie said. “There are days where we feel like nothing goes right. And there are days that we butt heads. Sometimes I just have to take a walk or go do something. I mean, in every relationship you have those days. But the good thing about it is we’re married, and we’re in a great relationship, and we get through it.”
Both have accepted the inherent dangers of drag racing, not only for themselves but for their better halves. Neither has been seriously injured on the drag strip, but they’ve had close calls. In 2003, a 50-mph crosswind blew Matt into a wall at Englishtown, N.J.; he stayed on the bike but got banged up. In 2012, Angie lost her brakes while qualifying at Norwalk, Ohio, and ran straight through the sand trap, over a strip of grass and into a cornfield before laying down the bike. Her motorcycle was totaled, but she suffered only a sprained pinkie finger.
Neither dwells on the risk.
“I feel like when we’re out here racing, it’s a little bit safer than riding on the street,” Angie said. “I feel like when he goes on the track, I’m safe with all the tune-up calls he makes.”
Matt learned the trade under his father, Rickie, who also was a successful drag racer. Matt rode dirt bikes a bit as a kid, but rode his first street bike at 17 and was soon racing on tracks around his home in King, N.C. He also learned the mechanical side of the sport.
“Even in high school, I never took an automotive class or shop class or anything,” Matt said. “I learned this stuff on my own. There’s no better way to do it than just hands-on experience, and to tear stuff apart and rebuild it.”
He has won 17 Pro Stock Motorcycle events and two series championships, including last year’s. He also serves as crew chief for his bike and Angie’s, as well as those ridden by John Hall and Scott Pollacheck, both of whom ride under the Matt Smith Racing banner. Separate crews do most of the work on each bike. All of them ride Buells.