Memphis: Chip Ellis final summary

Smith's Number 1 Qualifier is G2's Memphis Highlight Matt Smith's number 1 qualifying effort on the Torco Race Fuels/Skull Gear Buell turned out to be the high water mark for an otherwise difficult weekend for the G2 Motorsports NHRA Pro Stock...

Smith's Number 1 Qualifier is G2's Memphis Highlight

Matt Smith's number 1 qualifying effort on the Torco Race Fuels/Skull Gear Buell turned out to be the high water mark for an otherwise difficult weekend for the G2 Motorsports NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle team. Both Smith and teammate Chip Ellis were out of competition after the second round of eliminations as the team struggled to put all the pieces together on a long and intensely hot and humid Memphis weekend laced with rain and thunderstorms.

Memphis Monday Morning Blues

The weather was so bad that eliminations were completed on Monday. Smith was in the water box for his round 1 pairing with Mike Berry when racing was halted and eventually postponed. Those two were the first pair down the track the next morning, with Smith taking a close win in a stirring, wire-to-wire race.

Ellis got past Steve Johnson on Sunday, despite the fact that favorite motor number 007 was not up to snuff. "I don't know what's goin' on with that," said Ellis. "We hurt a cylinder and piston at Brainerd. We repaired it at the track and it seemed to be running good. We sent it home to fix it (replacing the cylinder and piston with new parts) and it just hasn't run the same since."

Indeed, Ellis and the DRAG Specialties/S&S Buell were outrun Monday morning by eventual race winner Andrew Hines. "I was disappointed with how Chip's bike ran," said G2's George Bryce. "We worked on it all weekend and never did get it to respond. We gave it our best shot in the second round and it just didn't work. That was the same motor we qualified number 1 with in Brainerd, that's why we're really confused."

What little confusion there was previously in the smoothly efficient G2 camp had swirled around Smith's bike. The team went back to a neglected motor with a successful past for Memphis, and the Torco Race Fuels/Skull Gear Buell shot to the top of the qualifying order. "That's the motor (number 016) that I ran at Indy and Pomona last year," said Smith. "We tested it over the winter, and we got these new motors that we've been running since because they were better in testing. Then we said 'Let's put 016 back in.' Now it's gotten me the pole twice."

"We were real proud to get number 016 running as well as we did," said Bryce. "We've been working hard for awhile to get a competitive combination for Matthew."

Unfortunately, a bad light brought Smith and number 016's run to an early halt against Michael Phillips in round 2. "I don't know why I did what I did," Smith said about his .100 bulb. "I can't put my finger on what happened. I had .05, .04, and .02 lights in qualifying, and an .04 in the first round. I don't understand why I was so late."

"We felt like Matt's bike was the fastest bike out there, but we didn't get a chance to prove that," said Bryce. "Although Antron's bike ran well there (7.04 in the semis). They really found something."

"G2 and S&S gave me an awesome bike this weekend and I feel bad that I let everybody down," said Smith. "This is the first race I can honestly say we had the fastest bike. Everyone on the team did an awesome job."

Looking Ahead

"Everybody was upset when we left because Chip and I lost in the same round," continued Smith. "But we know that engine is good, and I'm looking forward to going to Indy and running both races (the U.S. Nationals and the Ringer's Gloves Pro Bike Battle). I've gotta watch some video and figure out what happened. I haven't had a light that bad since Englishtown (where Smith had enough S&S power in the bank to drive around Karen Stoffer for the win). It's my fault and I take full responsibility for it."

"Matt's been struggling with his lights, and I'm sure he'll be practicing on the tree in the downtime between now and Indy," said G2's George Smith. "Matt knows we finally got him the bike that he wanted. I know he'll be ready to answer the challenge at Indy.

"The team worked together well, but we just couldn't get Chip's bike running the way it should. We've been working with a couple of combinations to make the very good performances we've shown over the last few races more consistent. I think that we're closer, and we'll be ready to pick up where we left off."

Ellis expects his DRAG Specialties/S&S Buell will be every bit as fast as any other bike when it's unloaded at Indy. "This will be the first time we've gone back to the shop since Sonoma, so it will give us a chance to look at everything and get it back running good," said Ellis. "We just have to keep digging."

"We're really glad the NHRA didn't change the rules on us," finished Bryce. "Antron's bike is very fast, Andrew's bike is very fast, we've got Matt's bike pretty fast, now we've got to get Chip's bike back up there, too."


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Berry , George Bryce , Karen Stoffer , Andrew Hines , Matthew Smith , Michael Phillips , Steve Johnson , Chip Ellis