No matter how high or low they finish in races this season, NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle husband and wife team Matt and Angie Smith are guaranteed a Victory ride each time.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith will become the first PSM riders in NHRA history to ride Victory Motorcycles, which is entering the sport for the first time in 2015.
“Victory is excited to enter the world of NHRA Pro Stock drag racing,” Steve Menneto, vice president of Polaris, parent company of Victory Motorcycles, said in a media release. “It is Victory’s intent to continue to test ourselves at the highest levels, and the Victory Factory Racing team is the perfect opportunity for us.”
A Victory representative approached Matt Smith at last fall’s race in Las Vegas to gauge his interest in becoming the lead driver for the company’s first drag racing effort.
Since then, the entire program has come together very quickly, including body design and approval by NHRA.
Both Smiths will ride gunmetal grey bikes to promote the company’s popular Gunner model.
The Smiths will take their new rides to a wind tunnel for a test on Jan. 30. While the overall NHRA season begins Feb. 6-8 in Pomona, Calif., the PSM schedule does not start until March 12-15 in Gainesville, Fla.
“I won’t know how I might have to adjust my riding stance until we get to the wind tunnel, but I think it’s going to be better,” Smith said. “It’s pretty different from what I’ve ridden in the past, but it’s got a smaller frontal area than the Buell, which is always a good thing.”
Victory will join other brands in the series including Harley-Davidson and Buell.
In addition to join sponsorship on both bikes from Stockseth Racing, Matt Smith’s bike will be sponsored by Nitro Fish, while Angie Smith’s bike will be sponsored by Kandy Magazine.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.