By Judy Tacyn
Ask most people how they would react to driving more than 150mph and you might see them cringe, but not Ronnie Smith.
“Drag racing is an adrenaline rush. I am very competitive and always like to strive to be the best, No. 1,” Smith said. “Racing can be dangerous, but it is in my blood and it keeps me sane. I couldn’t imagine my life without racing.”
Smith has been racing motorcycles for 25 years, first in motocross and for the last six years drag-racing motorcycles, but 2018 proved to be his most successful year to date. Smith won the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) World Championship race season in the PXM (Pro Extreme Motorcycle) class. The last race of the season was held October 20 at Virginia Motorsports Park. It was there he clinched the championship after being the points leader all season.
Smith received the world championship award on December 7 in Indianapolis. He also received a reward for setting a national record at Maryland International Raceway in May, running 3.973 seconds in one-eighth of a mile at 176mph. He currently holds the national record for the fastest nitrous bike.
The international competition in the drag racing world is tough. Drivers from around the world vie for one spot in a field that has no more than 16 bikes in a final race.
Striving for perfection in a sport where winning and losing is separated by hundredths of a second or being out of position by the width of a hair requires hours of practice and fine-tuning.
“My team and I go to Capitol Raceway and Budd’s Creek a lot on the weekends to practice,” Smith explained. “We also pay to practice at all of the races the day before qualifying. All races have one practice day, so you can get experience at the track and make adjustments in your tune-up for that specific track.”
Smith said that even though he’s the one on the bike, drag racing is a team sport. “I would not be where I am without my tuner, Shane Smith,” he added. “I love motorcycles, the camaraderie and the drag-racing sport itself. It is a family affair. My family and friends come to my races. I enjoy putting a smile on the spectators’ faces as they root me on. When my infant twin boys are older, I hope to pass my legacy onto them and get them into racing.”
The racing circuit requires a lot of traveling because there are few local races. Smith said he’s driven up to 14 hours to get to a race. He’s his own transporter, using his vehicle and 24-foot trailer to get his bike from one place to another.
For the most part, Smith funds his racing expenses. He owns his bike. He does have sponsors, including Innovative Performance, Vance and Hines, and FuelTech. Now that he’s a champion, he’s also actively seeking sponsors to help him defend his title in 2019.
Smith’s bike is custom made by Innovative Performance Racing. It is maintained by Innovative Performance Racing, and partners mechanic/tuner Shane Smith, Eddie Kraewic at Vance and Hines, and Robinson Transmissions.
Smith is married and has five children; his oldest is 25 and he has twin newborns.
“Racing is extremely expensive, and my family has made a lot of sacrifices so that I can pursue my dream,” he said. “They forgo family vacations and other luxuries we would be able to afford if I didn’t race. My family is very supportive of me racing. They come to races whenever they can. Whenever they are not physically able to attend, they always watch the live feed from home.”
As he reflects on 2018, he said he vividly remembers the entire race season — every race, the good and the bad.
“I remember how good it felt to accomplish my goal and win the championship. The day I knew I had clenched the championship, I had actually lost the race due to a mistake and I thought that mistake had actually cost me the championship,” Smith said. “I ended up still winning, but I remember how upset and disappointed I was, and how a few seconds later when I found out, I had clinched the championship, how great if felt. I will never forget that feeling.”
To follow Smith’s career, follow him on Facebook by searching for “Ronnie Promod Smith.”