NHRA: Jianna Salinas’ wild ride/crash will make her a better rider, says defending champ Matt Smith

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Jianna Salinas’ father, Mike Salinas, races for Scrappers Racing in NHRA Top Fuel competition.

That San Jose, California-based team’s name is also the perfect description of Jianna Salinas’ bounce back from a terrifying run in Pro Stock Motorcycle during eliminations Sunday in the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Illinois.

Jianna, a 22-year-old rookie rider on the NHRA national event circuit, was indeed a scrapper after she fell off her bike, the bike crashed, bounced over her, hit the wall – and after a few moments of lying motionless, she got up under her own power and emerged from the incident with only minor bruises.

Jianna Salinas. Photo: NHRA.

The younger Salinas was reportedly doing over 130 mph when her bike went down.

“I’m doing great,” she said about an hour after her wreck. She even went back on-track to watch the next round of bike eliminations.

“You fall down, you get right back up and you learn from it, that’s all you can do,” Salinas said. “They were amazing, honestly everybody, the NHRA, Safety Safari, they came up to me super-fast.

“I was trying to out-run them (so she could get to her wounded two-wheeler), but they wouldn’t let me go. They were great.”

Salinas was racing Hector Arana Jr. in Sunday’s quarterfinals and jumped out to an early lead before her bike began drifting toward the centerline. She struck two timing blocks on the centerline, which is an automatic disqualification, and then her bike shot to the right and the outside retaining wall.

Salinas and the bike went down just before reaching the wall. While the bike made contact with the concrete wall, Salinas did not, fortunately. She went to the track medical center, was checked out and released.

2018 NHRA PSM champion and Sunday’s winning rider, Matt Smith, spoke with NBC Sports after the race and was asked about Salinas’ mishap.

Here’s what he had to say:

Matt Smith. Photo: NHRA

“I hate to see anybody wreck, especially in our class or any class for that fact. I’m just glad she bounced back up and wasn’t hurt.

“It’s part of a learning curve of new people coming in, especially when they get out of control like they do. They probably haven’t told her yet when she gets out of control to shut the bike off.

“Now, she might have found that limit and will be more conscious the next time, ‘I’m in that situation, I just better let off and save it for another day’ because there’s always a next race. That’s our motto. … I’m just glad (Salinas is) okay.”

Smith added that while he’s never crashed a bike, he came close in his own rookie season, and it was a very valuable learning experience that has stuck with him ever since.

“I’ve never come off the bike, I hit the wall one time, but I never physically come off the motorcycle,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I did that when I first got into my career, my first year I hit the wall.

These things are animals and they will hurt you.

“And I learned right then, look, these things are animals and they will hurt you. It’s good that she got away from the bike. We’ve got all the leather suits and all the safety gear. Most times, if you get away from the bike, you’re going to be fine. It’ll tear the motorcycle up and you’ll get a little bit of road rash. The person can come back the next race. I don’t know if the bike will be ready for the next race, but she’s fine and that’s the main thing, that she’s okay.

“I spoke to (Salinas) in the staging lanes and asked if she was good, she said yes. She’ll probably be a little sore (Monday) but hopefully she’ll be back at Norwalk (Ohio, the next race bikes compete in, June 20-23).

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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).