When the NHRA returns to zMAX Dragway for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle, April 19-21, fans will be treated to a four-wide assault from all four of the sport’s top categories, including Pro Stock Motorcycles, which haven’t raced four-wide since 2010.
Pro Stock Motorcycles, which in recent years have only raced at "the Bellagio of dragstrips’ " traditional two-wide fall event, will take to the track with Pro Stock, Funny Car, and Top Fuel dragsters for the greatest spectacle in drag racing.
Matt Smith, who won the Four-Wide event in 2010, called it a great accomplishment for his team, which is based in nearby Winston-Salem, N.C.
“To be able to be the only one that’s won that race to date is a great accomplish for me and my team,” said Smith. “I really adapted to the four-wide thing right away. A lot of people struggled with, but I adapted to it right away.”
What does Smith think of his chances to repeat as champion?
“I think we have as good a shot as anybody to win that event again,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one person you’re running against or if it’s 30 people. You have to focus on your own deal. If you have all the right stuff and you do all the right things, then you should turn that last win light on.”
In order to repeat, Smith will have to beat a loaded field of Pro Stock Motorcycle talent, including Hector Arana Jr., who won the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville. The win, Arana said, gives him a lot of confidence heading into the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
“Any time you get a win, it brings confidence. It's a big motivator. It's going to really help morale inside our team and in the shop,” said Arana. “Drag racing is all mental, and when you get a win, it helps mentally. I'm going to try to use that to my advantage and hopefully keep doing well and keep that No. 1 spot all year.”
Smith, near lane, defeated a trio of other bikes to win the 2010 event.
Arana said he knows keeping the No. 1 position will be a big challenge when the Pro Stock Motorcycles line up four-wide, but he doesn’t expect the format change to alter his approach to racing.
“I don't think I'm going to approach it any differently,” he said. “I'm going to go up there and do my thing and do like I always do before I even pre-stage. I'll pay attention to the lights and make sure everybody pre-stages and stages. I'll be staying focused on the yellow bulb, and as soon as it drops, I'm ready to go.”
Andrew Hines is the defending champion at zMAX Dragway, having won the NHRA Nationals there last September. Hines said he hopes to build on his recent success at zMAX, a track where he has struggled in the past.
“My confidence is definitely higher having won the race last fall there,” Hines said. “The racetrack was kind of a nemesis for me when we first started going there. I had a lot of red-lights; I couldn’t get my bike to leave the starting line well. Going to the final a couple of years ago and ultimately winning last year have done a lot of good for my feelings going into that racetrack, whether it’s the beginning of the year or the end of the year.”
Eddie Krawiec said the return to four-wide racing is sure to ramp up the drama for competitors who are used to the traditional two-wide format.
“As a driver, the one thing you need to take into consideration for Charlotte is you're now out of your element,” said Krawiec, who won the fall event at zMAX in 2011. “You’re not going to have just two lanes. Now you’ve got to worry about four lanes. You’ve got to worry about three other people staging, pre-staging, going through your whole starting-line routine. You can be caught off guard very easy. You have to really be on your game at all times.”
To purchase tickets to the 4th annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, April 19-21, visit www.4widedrags.com or call 800-455-FANS (3267). Fans who buy three East Grandstand tickets to any day will receive a fourth ticket free. Every ticket is a pit pass, so fans can walk through the pits and see their favorite drivers and teams as they prepare to take to the track.