VICTORY RIDER BLOG: FIT, FOCUSED & FAST-STARTING NHRA RACER ANGIE SMITH FORECASTS BREAKOUT SEASON FOR RACE TEAM
Angie Smith races a Pro Stock Victory Gunner in the NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class. In 2015, Angie qualified for the elimination rounds at 14 events and won her first-round races three times. She finished 13th in Pro Stock Motorcycle points. She and her teammate and husband, Matt Smith, are excited for the 2016 season, and Angie shared her optimism with us as she answered our questions about the season ahead.
Q: What letter grade would you give yourself for last season?
Angie Smith:Angie Smith: Maybe a B. I struggled a bit with the changes from what we had raced the previous year to riding the Victory Gunner. I think all in all, I get an A for effort because we had great horsepower and because we did all the things to get to where we were.
I think we had a good learning season, and for it to be our first season and Victory’s first season, I think we did an outstanding job for Victory. So, actually, I think we got an A overall, but as far as me personally, I think I got a B just because I think that we could have tweaked some things, I could have done some things better, and we could have been better on race day. But going into this season, I think we’re going to be really strong, and I think we’re going to get an A this year overall.
Q: How different was it to ride the bike with the Victory Gunner bodywork last season compared to what you rode previously?
AS: Riding the Victory Gunner bike is a lot different. There is less frontal area, which means we have less of a windshield to get behind so the wind doesn’t affect us. Wind is a big factor, and when you’re going 195 mph – well, I said last year in an interview that it feels like you have cinder blocks pressing on your shoulders trying to pull you off the back of the bike. I’ve gotten more used to that feeling now and we’ve changed some things and I’m doing a lot better on it, but it was a huge difference in riding something with such a small frontal area.
But we love our Victory Gunners and we did everything that we could and made all the necessary changes. We’re ready to go this season, and I think we’ll show this year.
Q: To improve, will you change your riding style or focus on the bikes’ mechanical makeup and setup?
AS: You can always try to improve your riding style and be a better rider. The main thing in drag racing is to be consistent, doing the same thing every time. You have to perform like a machine. You have to do it repetitively, over and over. . . . If you turn into a machine, then you can be a winner on race day, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this year.
In the mechanical department, I think we’re going to be really good. We found a lot of horsepower through the winter. We really focused on finding horsepower, and that’s what we did. The dyno shows it, and we went and tested at the racetrack and the racetrack shows it, so I think we’re going to be really good this year.
Q: Are you still learning how to approach individual racetracks, or have you been racing long enough to be familiar with all of them?
AS: Well, considering that I have been racing NHRA since 2008, I’ve become familiar with a lot of the racetracks. Certain tracks pull you to the center line, some tracks pull you to the wall, some tracks are crowned a bit, some tracks have a very aggressive starting line where you can really get aggressive with the clutch, and some tracks don’t.
I think through all the notes that we keep from every race over the years we have a lot of data, so it’s merely us looking back and looking at our notes and just knowing what to do. Of course, as a driver, you have your favorite tracks and you have the ones that you don’t excel. But I think if you do this long enough, you’ll be successful at all of them.
Q: What do you do to stay in shape during the off-season?
AS: Unlike Matt, I go to the gym! I try to train over the winter really hard. I don’t get to train as much during the season because I’m really dedicated and I spend a lot of time in the shop helping the guys and learning all the fundamentals of the motorcycle.
I can assemble a whole motor basically by myself, and I think I’m one of the few females that can actually work on the bikes and work on the motors and actually ride. I think it’s important for me to know what’s going on mechanically, and it makes me a better rider because I can give extra feedback when the motors don’t perform like they should.
During the off-season I go to the gym three to four times a week and I’ve started a new training program that has characteristics of CrossFit, a kind of a 1-on-1 training program. . . . I think this is really going to improve how I feel on race day and improve my performance because it’s about being precise.
During the race season it’s hard for me to get to the gym as much. If I don’t get to a gym for a workout, in the evenings when I’m trying to wind down, I’ll just go for a walk. That helps calm me down and gives me time to think and gives me a little bit of exercise as well.
Q: On the starting line, you have very quick reaction times. Is this a God-given talent, or have you done exercises over the years to get so quick?
AS: I will say it’s a God-given talent, but I will also say that it takes a lot of focus and a lot of mental training to be there. It takes being that machine that I talked about – doing the same thing over and over and over. You want to turn into a machine when you go up there.
I have a God-given talent that I have good hand-eye coordination. But I do practice at stoplights. I’ll sit there with my hands on the steering wheel like I have a clutch lever in my left hand and when the light turns green, I always release the clutch. I do practice during the season here and there, but I think it’s about turning into a machine when you go up there.
Q: You spent a lot of time with Victory riders and dealers at your trackside Victory Club hospitality center last season. You would mix with Victory owners and dealers one minute, then switch into racing mode and go out onto the track. How difficult was that?
AS: There would be plenty of times where I was working on the bike and somebody would call my name and I’d say, “give me two minutes,” and then I’d go over and take a picture because that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about engaging with the fans and having that experience with the fans.
And when it was 10 or 15 minutes before “go” time, I went into the trailer and changed into my suit and it was time to focus. We’re there to do a job and we were going to the starting line, and it’s about getting your mental focus. When I put my helmet on, that’s when I’m 100% focused and the guys know not to talk to me unless they’re giving me data or something I need to know about the bike. When I put my helmet on, everything else goes off. If you’re sick, you’re not sick any more. If your head hurts, your head doesn’t hurt any more. When that helmet goes on, it’s about getting that bike from A to B and doing the best possible job you can do.
Q: When you get to go riding for fun, which Victory model or models do you ride?
AS: I have a Victory Vegas and I absolutely love that bike. . . . I’ve gotten the most compliments on my bike and how beautiful it looks. They think it’s awesome and I love riding it. It’s smooth, but if I need to get on it, I can get on it. I love my Vegas and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m a Vegas girl! That gets my vote.
Q: You and your team spend a lot of time together throughout a season. What do you do away from the track to have some fun and keep it fresh?
AS: We try to make the best of it. We always go to Kalahari [resort and water park] during Norwalk [race week], and there are a couple places that we always hit during the race season. When we were in Vegas we went to the global rally cross race, which Matthew’s brother-in-law races, and that was a bunch of fun. We always do the banquet in Hollywood and we just try to make the best of it. We have a great time together. We have a great team. These guys have been with us for a couple years now and these guys are awesome. They work really hard.
We all have one focus and it’s winning. I think when you have a whole team that’s focused like that, you’re going to do great. So I think that this year is going to be our come-out year and I think we’re going to be there when the championship ends in Pomona, so just look for us.