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Racing legend Rickie Smith signs sponsorship deal with Strutmasters

Rickie Smith knew it was time for a change. The 11-time series champion felt it after the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, NC. Then, at the PRI show in December, he announced a big change.

Smith announced that would become his new major sponsor heading into the 2020 season. Along with the announcement, he showed off his brand new Camaro, built by Jerry Bickel.


The story of Rickie Smith and Strutmasters


Until this point, Strutmasters founder and owner Chip Lofton has been known as “the champion of drag racing’s little guy”. However, he landed a racing legend in Smith.

Lofton is completely aware of the magnitude of this signing. In an interview with CompetitionPlus, he explained that his status as a lifetime racing fan was a big motivator.

“Growing up in the Carolinas and being a Pro Stock fan and a Pro Mod fan, I never thought I could reach this place where I could sponsor him,” said Lofton. “He lives to race and races to live. He’s been one of those guys that have figured out a way to do it.”

Not one to miss an opportunity, Lofton called his fellow Tar Heel and made a plan for him to visit his strut-building facility in Roxboro, about two hours away.

In addition to being the location of Strutmasters’ headquarters, Roxboro is a town with a serious racing history. It’s the place where “Trickie Rickie” cut his teeth as a Modified racer and later became a legend in the Mountain Motor class.


Two racing fans working together


But it was Lofton’s love of racing and cars that convinced Smith to get on board.

“He’s just a down to earth person,” said Smith of Lofton. “I had no idea what I was getting into as far as knowing what he’d done and what he loved when I first met. It wasn’t hard to see his love for the sport. It was like hitting three home runs in one game to find a sponsor who loves racing as I do.”

Following a visit to the Strutmasters Museum, where Lofton keeps his personal collection of classic automobiles, Smith and Lofton reached an agreement.

“You always want to be involved with somebody who really likes racing, and I didn’t have to talk him into loving racing,” Smith said. “That’s a 200% start right off the bat when the people that you are dealing with love racing. It just makes everything go a lot smoother.”

After spending a day together, the two were left wondering why they hadn’t done this sooner.

“Rickie came and talked to me,” said Lofton. “I just thought it legitimizes my other teams as well, to have somebody successful like that part of our team. Rickie gets television time because he’s a character.”


Strutmasters and Smith a winning combination


As his career starts to draw down, Smith is happy with the decision to partner with Strutmasters, and not just because of Lofton’s credentials as a drag racing die-hard.

“I’ve had some really good sponsors, but I feel excited about this deal with Chip,” said Smtih. “He owns the company and doesn’t have to call anybody or go get a board meeting or whatever to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do this.”

“He’s got the power to make the moves,” said Smith of Lofton. “And that’s the way he likes to deal with things. In automobile racing, you’ve got to make that move at that time. If you wait too long, people pass you up. Chip can make the moves when he wants to make them.”

Smith’s long-held reputation as a bona-fide winner was also a major part of the equation, admitted Lofton.

“It doesn’t hurt that on any given Sunday; he can bring the Wally home.”

Dan Fletcher signs with Strutmasters, brings his 20+ year career to NC

After 20-plus years of racing, Dan Fletcher is as happy as ever to still be doing what he loves for a living.

While most of his peers have since retired or stopped racing, Fletcher is gearing up for another season behind the wheel. Fletcher credits Chip Lofton, owner of suspension manufacturer Strutmasters and “the champion of drag racing’s little guy,” with bringing him back for the 2020 season.

“Chip Lofton at Strutmasters has been kind enough to step up and back my Super Stock program, as the major sponsor,” Fletcher said. “And an associate on all the other cars.”


Dan Fletcher on the search for sponsorship


In an interview with CompetitionPlus, Fletcher highlighted how tiring the grind of looking for sponsors can be.

“I’ve been very, very blessed in my whole career since 1997. I’ve had actual real corporate sponsors, from Valvoline to Summit to K&N to Peak, and now Strutmasters,” Fletcher said. “I’m getting older, and I’m a little bit tired, and sometimes it’s hard to press on.”

With his Super Stocker now backed by, Fletcher has plans to compete in 16 national events. His Chevelle with race in big money bracket races. Fletcher is also open to sponsorships for his Nova and ‘69 Camaro Stocker.


The move to drag racing country


In addition to his new sponsorship, Fletcher also moved his home and base of his operations to the drag racing hotbed of North Carolina. The move brings him closer to his main sponsor and to the racing community in general.

With the Super Stocker sponsored by, Fletcher confirmed he’s got irons in the fire for his dragster to race 16 national events, and the Chevelle to race the big money bracket races. His Nova and ’69 Camaro Stocker are open for sponsorship as well.


The changing landscape of drag racing


In an interview, Fletcher reflected on how much the world of racing has changed since he began his career in 1997. He feels that drag racing is much more competitive than it has ever been.

“It’s not even close. It’s brutal out there right now,” Fletcher explained. “You look down Drag Race Central and in Stock and Super Stock at how well people drive. There’s no easy mark anywhere.”

“Let’s put it this way,” he continued. “If I was 29 years old or 30 years old and going to quit Xerox to go drag racing at this point 22 years later from when I walked out of Xerox, 0% chance [I’d do it ]. Less than zero. There’s no way you can even feasibly even think about doing that.”

Fletcher explained how much modern technology and the internet has had an effect on his sport.

“Don’t take it the wrong way, but I was decidedly better than most of my competition back then,” he said. “Now I’m not. Everyone’s good. Everyone drives. Websites like Luke’s [Bogacki] website teaches people driving strategies at the finish line. Everyone’s cars are good. No one’s cars are junk. Everyone’s cars repeat. I feel like the only way that I can be better than my opponents is to work harder.”


Fletcher looking ahead to the 2020 season


Last year was the first time in 25 years that Fletcher didn’t win a national event. With his new backing from Strutmasters and a renewed sense of purpose, he feels that 2020 will be different.t.

“I just put in more time,” said Fletcher. “And I don’t even want to say it a lot because then people started doing that too. But I spent an inordinate amount of time studying the live timing and all my opponent’s numbers and trying to just do all my homework on them. And I just try and do every little bit of extra work a man can do to give himself an edge. And it’s just, it’s tough dude. It’s really, really tough.”

More than a lowering kit | Why an air suspension is right for your Harley

Motorcycle lowering kits have become a hot-ticket item over the past few years. And it’s no surprise. Everyone loves a dropped-down motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles especially can’t be beat when it comes to that awesome lowrider look.

However, lowering your Harley usually means some painful and permanent modifications to the bike. But there is an alternative.

Motorcycle air suspensions allow you a greater deal of control when it comes to the ride height of your Harley. They also do so much more than that.


Lowering your bike is definitely part of the appeal


Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: a good motorcycle air suspension does a fantastic job of lowering your bike. If that’s the only reason you’re considering installing one, that’s a good enough reason as any.

A well-built motorcycle air suspension like the EZ Rider system will allow you to drop your bike down on command. They also allow you to control how much you want to lower your motorcycle.

For anyone that’s ever driven a lowrider bike, you can probably imagine some situations where that would come in handy.

If you haven’t, understand that a lowrider bike is going to scrape. As fun as it can be to cruise around dropped down, you put some of your components at risk doing so.

Other lowering solutions, like removing a seat linkage, permanently alter your bike. An air suspension gives you the flexibility to decide when and where to lower your bike.


Increased comfort


Many of you have experience with an air suspension in a car. These active suspensions do an excellent job of dampening dips and bumps in the road.

The result is a smooth, easy ride that doesn’t wear you out over long distances.

Motorcycle air suspensions are the same. Compressed air allows for greater dampening control versus metal springs.

EZ Rider motorcycle air suspensions also allow you to adjust the firmness of your ride. Different riders have different preferences. This adjustable air suspension allows you to adjust the ride to your own personal comfort preferences.


Better performance


If you’re the type to put a lot of miles on your Harley-Davidson, you know that road conditions are forever changing. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to adapt to those changes?

The EZ Rider motorcycle air suspension allows you to do just that. As mentioned earlier, you can adjust both the ride height and the stiffness of the suspension.

Whereas a lowering kit leaves you unprepared for some kinds of riding, this kit allows you to prepare your bike for changes in the road.

Hitting a long straightaway? Soften that suspension up and enjoy a smooth cruise. Approaching some hairpins on a mountain road? Tighten up for more responsive handling and braking.

The ability to adjust your Harley’s relationship to the road means you get to focus more on driving and taking in the scenery. It will also save some of your other components some wear and tear as it lightens the load.


So many benefits


If you want to lower your Harley-Davidson, you do have options. But as you can clearly see, some of those options are better than others.

An EZ Rider motorcycle air suspension gives you the ability to adjust both the ride height and the stiffness of your suspension.

With that ability comes the ability to greatly improve the style, performance and comfort of your Harley-Davidson. Compare that to other lowering solutions that leave your bike poorly suited for many riding situations.

The best part is that an air suspension doesn’t cost that much more than other lowering options.

For as little as $199 you can purchase this reliable, robust basic air ride kit from Strutmasters. The fully adjustable Ultimate kit, which allows you to adjust everything with the flip of a switch, is available for as little as $599.

Whether you’re looking to add style, performance, or comfort to your Harley, Strutmasters has what you need.

Order online now or call one of our Suspension Experts at (866) 664-0252 to make sure you get the best possible solution for your Harley-Davidson.

Strutmasters offers air ride solutions for the Dyna Glide, Softail, V-Rod, Sportster and many other Harley-Davidson models. To learn about even more benefits of EZ Rider Motorcycle Air Suspension, click here.

Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals – TV Schedule

Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals – Lucas Oil Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana


Round Date Time Channel
NHRA QUALIFYING Sunday, September 1 2:00pm – 4:00pm ET FS1
NHRA SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, September 1 4:00pm – 6:00pm ET FS1
FINALS Monday, September 2 11:00am – 1:00pm ET FS1
FINALS Monday, September 2 1:00pm – 4:00pm ET FOX

This is the best way to fix your Cadillac XTS suspension problems

If your Cadillac XTS is having suspension issues, you are not alone. While overall the XTS is an excellent vehicle, air suspension failure is a noted issue with higher mileage vehicles.

That’s not Cadillac’s fault. Degrading and eventually failing is, unfortunately, part of the natural life cycle of an air suspension.


Is my Cadillac XTS air suspension failing?


You’ll notice the symptoms first. One day, you might notice that the car tends to “crouch” forward when coming to a stop. The rear end lifts up while the front end nose dives to the ground.

Another common symptom is one corner or an entire side of your Cadillac XTS sagging down. Most often, this is in the rear. However, sometimes it might occur on one side or just on a single corner.

Often, these symptoms will appear before you see a suspension warning light.

If you suspect that your XTS is suffering air suspension issues, you can perform a quick “bounce test.”

To do this, walk around to each corner of your Cadillac and push down. That corner should spring back up and stay in place once you let go. If it bounces or doesn’t come back up, you likely have some serious air suspension issues.


How to solve Cadillac XTS air suspension issues


The instinct is to take the car into the mechanic. Your mechanic will likely offer to replace the broken component with an OEM part.

While this might seem like a good idea, it’s important to take the nature of air suspensions into account.

Air suspension systems are made up of a complex network of moving parts, electronically controlled components, and pieces made out of flexible materials. All of these are prone to error and wearing down over time.

What’s more, most of these components wear out at more or less the same rate. Replacing one air spring, air line or even the compressor might not seem like a big deal now, you are almost guaranteed to have to replace other components in the future.

Once air suspension problems begin, they will just continue. Over time, you could spend thousands of dollars just on keeping your suspension working.


An alternative for your XTS


It doesn’t have to cost that much, though.

While you could spend thousands replacing your components with OEM or third-party air suspension parts, you can fix it for good for just under $600.

At this point in your car’s lifetime, you have a decision to make. You can keep that same air suspension running by taking it to the mechanic every few months. It will cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars over time.

Alternatively, you could get rid of that faulty air suspension and replace it with something much more durable and reliable. This kit from Strutmasters will allow you to remove your air suspension and install a completely new suspension.

These coilover suspensions use good old reliable mechanical force rather than air, computers and rubber to hold your car up. In addition to being very robust, it has been tuned and rated specifically for your XTS.

Strutmasters’ patented Glide-Ride Technology ensures that you’ll enjoy a smooth ride for years to come.

Above all, what you get from installing a Strutmasters conversion kit is peace of mind. The Lifetime Limited Warranty guarantees that as long your XTS is on the road, your suspension is guaranteed in most circumstances. No more trips to the mechanic for your suspension.

Spend the money once and do it right! Order from our website or enjoy full service by calling our Suspension Experts at (866) 360-7558. They’ll make sure you get exactly what you need to enjoy driving your Cadillac XTS again!

Donnie Allison hooked his Harley up with an EZ Rider Air Suspension

Donnie Allison of stock car racing's famed "Alabama Gang" gives a thumbs up with CEO Chip Lofton. Allison was getting a tour of the facility while having an EZ Rider air suspension system installed on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Donnie Allison of stock racing’s famed “Alabama Gang” was on hand to tour the facility in North Carolina on July 18th. He was in town to have a complete EZ Rider motorcycle air suspension system installed on his personal Harley Davidson motorcycle.

“I am retired from driving race cars, but I still really enjoy getting on my motorcycle,” the 79-year-old Allison said. He is a Miami native who resided most of his career in Hueytown, AL.

“I have heard a lot of good things about the EZ Rider air system from a friend of mine that had it installed,” Allison said. “I really look forward to a more comfortable ride and the ability to raise and lower the bike. That should make it much easier to get on and off.”

Donnie Allison and his amazing career

Allison was a 10-time winner in the premier NASCAR Cup Series. He was also the sport’s “Rookie of the Year” award winner in 1967. He and his brother Bobby Allison were anchor members of the “Alabama Gang.” The brothers got this name from their domination of stock car racing in the South for part of three decades. The Allison Brothers frequently teamed up with lifelong family friend Red Farmer. In later years they joined up with Neil Bonnett.

Donnie Allison was the 1970 Rookie of the Year award winner in the Indianapolis 500. That year he finished fourth driving a Greer Eagle 67 Offenhauser for Ansted-Thompson Racing. Allison is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. designs and assembles the EZ Rider air suspension systems right here in the USA. The family-owned company has been handling luxury vehicle suspension conversions for more than 20 years.

An EZ Rider motorcycle air suspension is offered for most major brands of bikes and can be found on the Motorcycle page of Installation is available by appointment at the Strutmasters facility in Roxboro, NC. However, the product comes with detailed instructions and can be installed by consumers with proper tools.

WATCH: Audrey Worm talks about her experience in Bristol

Audrey Worm talks about her race at Bristol to Top Fuel driver Audrey Worm continued her rise to prominence in Bristol. Though she drew a tough first-round matchup in former world champion Antron Brown, she put down a good clean run at one of the season’s biggest events.

Worm explained that even though she didn’t win her round, the competition brought out the best in her.

“I definitely had to be on my A game with Antron,” said Worm. “He is killer on the light and all I kept telling myself was, ‘Just don’t red light but try to tree him.’ It was actually my personal best light. It was a 96 and normally they’re about 180 so I was happy with that. We had a good run.”
Worm has seen her profile rise quickly recently.

Audrey Worm star on the rise

She won her first round win at the 2019 NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Soon after, she laid down a three-second pass at the Virginia Nationals in Richmond. Soon after, she picked up support from Strutmasters, wearing the logo for the first time in Bristol.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Worm’s camp, however, is that she plans on taking over ownership of the team by the start of the 2020 season. She would be one of just a few women to own a professional racing outfit.

Watch her talk about her Bristol performance here:

Jeep Cherokee air suspension issues? Here’s how to end them for good.

Jeep Cherokee suspension issues can be corrected with a genuine Strutmasters kit

The Jeep Cherokee is an American classic. The Cherokee was the SUV before SUVs were cool (or even a marketing term).

Over the years, Jeep has added a few comforts to the rugged utility vehicle. Upgraded interior packages, stereo components, electronics and most notably, Jeep’s Quadralift air suspension have been added to the Cherokee over time.

When new, this air suspension provides a smooth, comfortable ride for the driver and passengers. However, most owners find that as the car gets up in miles, they start to notice suspension issues.

It is important to recognize that these issues are VERY common. First, let’s explore some of the most common symptoms of a broken Jeep Cherokee suspension.

Jeep Cherokee air suspension common issues

Active suspension issues can present themselves in many ways. While many of these are common problems for Jeep owners, they are really problems with air suspension as a whole. They are not necessarily specific to Jeep Quadralift.

One of the main problems owners notice is that the rear of the Cherokee sags. This makes the Jeep look like it’s leaning back. This happens because the rear suspension is unable to keep the rear end at the correct height.

Another common issue is the dreaded “nose dive.” This occurs when the front suspension wears out. The force of the car coming to a stop makes the car lurch forward and the front end dives towards the ground. This is not only uncomfortable, it is dangerous. At this point, your Cherokee is taking much longer to stop than it should.

Another issue one might notice is the car not coming to a full stop quickly enough. Some owners will also face a noisy compressor. Others might find that their Jeep Cherokee doesn’t maintain its ride height at all.

These are all issues you might notice with your Jeep Cherokee, even before the suspension warning appears.

If you are unsure of whether your suspension is doing alright, try to give it the “bounce test.”

Walk around to each corner of your Jeep Cherokee. Push down on the corner and let go. If the corner pops back up and stays, the suspension on that particular wheel is doing just fine. However, if it bounces up and down after you release it, it likely has a problem.

So your Jeep Cherokee has suspension issues, how to fix them?

At this point, you should be pretty aware of whether or not you are experiencing Jeep Cherokee Quadralift suspension problems. If you believe that your suspension is worn out or broken, it’s time to take it in to the shop to have it looked at.

Depending on where you go, you’ll get different solutions to fix your active suspension. Most, if not all of them, will be very expensive.

The dealership will likely recommend that you replace any worn out parts with parts from the manufacturer. If money is no object, this is a good way to keep your active suspension in tact.

However, please know that air suspensions are interdependent and that they are all but guaranteed to wear out. That means that over time, you will be replacing most of the components at some point.

Going for one replacement air spring might not seem like a huge expense. However, as they wear out at the same rate, the other three will need replacement soon.

This creates a problem with using third-party air suspension parts too. While you may save a little on the part itself, the problem remains. You will eventually need to fix everything.

Another option for your Jeep Cherokee

While this might sound like the end of the line, you do have another option.

You could get rid of your Jeep Cherokee air suspension issues completely by simply getting rid of your air suspension altogether!

Your Cherokee does still need a suspension, so you will need to replace it with something. Fortunately, Strutmasters has engineered the perfect kit to convert your Jeep Cherokee to reliable, sturdy coilover struts.

Rather than use air and a bunch of electronic components to keep your SUV off of the ground, these kits use good-old mechanical resistance. No electronics. No moving parts.

With Strutmasters’ patented Glide-Ride Technology, you’ll find that this new suspension compares quite well to your old air suspension. And with much fewer problems.

The simplicity of these kits helps out in more ways than one. Not only are there fewer components to fail, they are pretty simple to install at home. In fact, you probably already have all the tools you need to do it yourself!

With a high-quality, dependable jack and some basic hand tools, you can install this kit in about one hour per wheel. That’s basically an afternoon weekend.

Even if you don’t feel comfortable installing it yourself, the easy installation means you pay less in labor costs.

Finally, each kit comes with its own Limited Lifetime Warranty. That means as long as you have your Jeep Cherokee on the road, Strutmasters guarantees the suspension under most circumstances. So once you install your new struts, you won’t have to worry again as long as you drive your Cherokee!

Ready to convert and save!?

When you’re ready to end those Jeep Cherokee suspension problems for good, simply order online or call one of our Suspension Experts at (866) 360-7558 to get a perfect match for your vehicle!

Strutmasters racing well represented at Thunder Valley in Bristol owner and founder Chip Lofton checks Audrey Worm's car before a race. was well represented during the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals June 14-16 at one of the most scenic stops on the NHRA trail — historic Bristol Dragway nestled in the mountains of eastern Tennessee countryside. newest driver Audrey Worm

Audrey Worm of  Grantville PA qualified 13th in the Top Fuel Dragster from the shops of Leverich Family Racing.  This left her with a first-round match up with fourth-fastest qualifier Antron Brown, a former NHRA champion with 50 Top Fuel victories.

Worm had a solid reaction time of .096 seconds at the start, but Brown got the advantage with a .064-second RT and won with a pass at 3.863 seconds and 318.24 miles an hour.  Worm averted a skirmish with the wall on the bumpy Bristol track and pulled out a 4.082-second run.  She hit a top speed of 271.79 miles an hour before shutting it down early in the 1000-foot race.

“We found some things after that run and I know we can go a lot faster,” said Worm during an autograph session with throngs of fans in attendance.  “We are encouraged that our time would have been good enough to win in several of the other first round matchups, but you have to give Antron and his team credit.  Proud of all our team.  They did an awesome job.  We are knocking on the door of winning some rounds.”

Mike Salinas of San Jose, CA topped reigning series champion Steve Torrence of Longview, TX in the Top Fuel event finals at Bristol.  Salinas hit 325.69 miles an hour, completing the final pass in 3.836 seconds.

Johnny Pluchino makes his 1/4 mile debut

Second generation driver Johnny Pluchino made his quarter-mile debut in the Ford Mustang in an exhibition of Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars at Bristol.  The Mountain Motor cars are hence named for their massive engines – ranging from 818 to 840 inches of cubic displacement.  The regular NHRA Pro Stock Class features engines at 500 cid.

Pluchino qualified third in a stellar field at Bristol with a quarter-mile pass at 6.364 seconds, just over 220 miles an hour.   The New York native had a mechanical issue just seconds prior to his first elimination run that prevented him from showing his hand.

“We were so disappointed for all the folks at,” said Pluchino.  “We were extremely happy with how consistent the car was in qualifying.  We ran 220 miles an hour both times we completed a run.  As it turned out, that would have been fast enough to be in the hunt for a victory here today.”

The 2018 PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 World Champion added:  “We learned a ton of things this weekend.  Once we get it all put together, we are confident we can be a factor at this level.”

Virginia driver Todd Hoerner prevailed in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock event at Bristol with a pass at 6.425 seconds at 219.36 miles an hour.

The “Nitro Granny” shows support for her Strutmasters family

The Nitro Granny, Janette Thornley of Statesville, was in attendance at Bristol, but did not participate in the Top Fuel Harley event for the fastest motorcycles that race in NHRA.

“Just here learning and gathering as many details as we can,” said Thornley, who is seeking to become the first female rider in the Top Fuel Harley class with backing from  “We’re going to continue chasing wins on our Pro Fuel bike and test some with the Top Fuel bike.  The Top Fuel bikes are 25 to 30 miles an hour faster, but I look forward to the challenge.”

Til Tharpe of East Bend, NC, prevailed at Bristol in the Top Fuel Harley class with a run at 6.426 seconds and 218.90 miles an hour.