Privateer Profile: Kelly Smith

March 26, 2009 5:19pm

Kelly Smith is like a lot of fast guys out there right now in the fact that he’s looking for a ride for the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Nationals. The 29-year-old from Ludington, Michigan, was expected to be a frontrunner in this year’s AMA Arenacross Series but a broken leg put an end to that. One of the best starters in the sport and a former national winner, Kelly is beating the bushes looking for a way to get to this summer’s nationals. We called him up for today’s Privateer Profile.

  • Kelly Smith
Racer X: So, what’s been going on with you Kelly? You raced Arenacross again this year and not only did it not go well, it probably couldn’t have gotten any worse.
Kelly Smith: Yeah, it basically wasn’t a good season. At the opening round we struggled with the bike and then at the second round I broke my leg. I was really bummed because at the end of last year I had won six out of the last nine races and was really looking forward to this year. I planned on winning the title, I didn’t know what to expect last year coming into arenacross, but being as dominate as I was the second half of the year, I was expecting big things.  I broke my tibia, but it was a good, clean break and didn’t require surgery. I was hoping to make a few rounds, but the leg took longer to heal than I had hoped. The first few weeks hurt pretty bad, but the doctors say it healed real well and I’m ready to go.

How did you break it?
Coming through a rhythm section, the guy in front of me didn’t triple and I did and tried to dive to the inside on the turn before the catapult jump. It seemed that I caught him off guard, but instead of moving away from me, he turned right into me. Maybe he was going to square up the turn or something. We collided hard and I didn’t even crash, but I knew something was wrong for sure. It was a bummer deal. It wasn’t anything intentional for sure. I just got my leg smashed.

So what is the plan for this summer?
I’m definitely looking for something. I’ve done some poking around, but everybody is pretty tight for support. I’m going to try and get a 450 as I want to ride a 450 this summer and ride the nationals and some big money races. If anyone wants to help me, that would be great. I think there are some guys that I know that are going to do some nationals, like the Sewell brothers. Maybe I’ll put a bike in with them or something.

Maybe a lot of people don’t think of you as a big bike rider after all those years in the 250 class, but that’s really where you started to make a name for yourself. Like for example, when I was tuning you to consecutive east coast four-stroke titles….
That’s a reason I’m so motivated to do the 450 thing because I’ve never done a year on them, I’ve been a 250 lifer. I didn’t want to be, but that was where I was forced to look to make money. I had to go where the opportunities were and years ago there weren’t many 450 support teams out there, but now there is and I’d like to hook up with one of those teams or maybe go out on my own.  I’d like to show everyone what I can do on the big bike because like you said, that really was where I got my start. Winning those four-stroke titles was what KTM first hired me to do back in 1999.

Have you looked up at Canada?
Yeah, for sure. I haven’t talked to anyone yet, but I would go up there for sure. I have never done the series up there and only went to that one race when you brought me up.

  • Kelly Smith has long been known as a holeshot machine
That didn’t go so well.
No it didn’t, but I liked the way everything was run and I know a lot of the guys up there that ride it and I think I can do pretty well. I match up to those guys in speed, so I’d be interested in listening to anyone. If I can’t get anything up there, I’d be more than happy to ride down here and do the nationals. I’ve ridden all the tracks and know what I’m doing.

What’s your take on the arenacross series?
Well, I think like everything, it’s struggling a bit with the economy and they made some changes that I think weren’t that great. They also lost Tim Cotter as the announcer and I think he brought a lot to the table in the announcing part of it. We  also lost Miss Arenacross and had to get a new one. I think the continuity is a good thing and we lost some of that this year with the changes.

You still have Ryan Gauld though!
True, he’s there. Another reason that I was bummed I got hurt was because I was going to do a lot of work with the TV package and be like their go-to-guy for interviews and everything like that. Since the series lost Buddy Antunez, they haven’t had that guy and I was setting myself up to maybe step in and be that guy and promote the series. They liked the fact I was well spoken and things like that and I was happy to do it.

Remember when you won the 2000 Mt Morris national and I was your mechanic?

That was cool.
It was, for sure, and I know you didn’t have too many of those wins, so you’re welcome.

How can people get a hold of you if they have a spot open?
The best way would be by email at I will probably see you at Glen Helen one way or another!