By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
Coming into the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series Pro Stock Motorcycle season, Gaige Herrera and the Vance and Hines team had some high expectations, and one of those expectations was winning.
Herrera and the team completed the perfect weekend sweep after winning his first final round against Angie Smith with a time of 6.706 at 202.15 mph over Smith’s 6.845 at 181.84 mph. Even though it was a close drag race to start, Smith’s bike began to pull over to the left and Herrera pulled away with the victory.
As Herrera jumped off his bike and celebrated his first win, the La Habra, California native was left speechless in the winner circle.
“This is a dream,” Herrera said. “Vance & Hines is such an awesome team to work with. They help so much and it shows. I’m at a loss for words. I’m just out here having fun and I can’t believe I’m holding this Wally. To make this Vance & Hines team happy, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. To win out here and to do it in front of all these fans, it’s just amazing.”
Herrera’s successful weekend began on Friday afternoon. After two rounds of qualifying. Herrera qualified second with a time of 6.749 at 200.59 mph to gain two points, thus putting him in a good position for Saturday afternoon.
Following overnight rain showers on Friday night, track temperatures were a warm 116 degrees with an air temperature of 77 degrees. During the fourth and final round, there were some riders running in the 200 mph such as Matt Smith, Chip Ellis, rookie rider Chase Van Sant, Angie Smith, and Eddie Krawiec.
However, there was one rider quicker than all of them and that was Herrera who set a blistering pace of 203.49 mph at 6.685 seconds. The run was a solo run and the rider improved on his lapse times from the sessions beforehand. With that run, Herrera earned his first career No. 1 qualifier and had a first-round match with No. 16 qualifier Ron Tornow.
In the first round, Herrera won and advanced to the quarterfinals with a pass of 6.704 at 201.52 mph over Tornow’s 7.161 at 191.51 mph. Tornow was quick to get the holeshot, but unfortunately, his bike fell behind Herrea. Herrea was able to catch up and won over well over a second.
By winning this meant, he would face his Vance and Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec, who won over veteran rider Hector Arana Jr with a 6.763 at 200.20 mph to face Herrea.
In the quarterfinals, Herrea had a reaction time of 0.023 compared to Krawiec’s 0.055. Down the drag strip, the two weren’t even close, as Herrea led easily over Krawiec and eventually secured the win by going 6.708 seconds over 6.814 to move on to the semis.
For the semi-finals action, Herrera squared up against Team Scrappers/Matt Smith Racing affiliated Jianna Evaristo’s machine. The two bikers were close in reaction times. In fact, just 0.001 separated the times as Herrea was 0.041 and Evaristo was 0.042.
Unfortunately for Evaristo, she was unable to keep up with what she had for a reaction time, and Herrera again pulled away with the win of a 6.742 at 200.29 mph which would see him face veteran Angie Smith in the finals. Angie nabbed wins over John Hall, Joey Gladstone, and rookie Chase Van Sant.
When the finals rolled around, Smith had the advantage over Herrera with a 2-0 win-loss against him and 3-2 overall in the final rounds. As the Christmas tree went green, the two riders had good solid runs, but in the end, it was Herrera who secured the win with a 6.706 at 202.15 mph over Angie’s 6.845 at 181.84 mph. The margin of victory was 47 feet after the two crossed the line.
While the victory was Herrera’s first, the runner-up was Angie’s third career runner-up finish and her second consecutive runner-up at Gainesville.
Below are the results for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
- Gaige Herrera
- Angie Smith
- Jianna Evaristo
- Chase Van Stant
- Joey Gladstone
- Eddie Krawiec
- Matt Smith
- Ryan Oehler
- Steve Johnson
- Kelly Clontz
- Hector Arana Jr
- John Hall
- Marc Ingwersen
- Ron Tornow
- Chip Ellis
- Richard Gadson
NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings
- Gaige Herrera, 128 points
- Angie Smith, -34
- Chase Van Sant, -46
- Jianna Evaristo, -54
- Matt Smith, -71
- Eddie Krawiec, -76
- Ryan Oehler, -76
- Joey Gladstone, -77
- Steve Johnson, -86
- Chip Ellis, -94
The next time race fans will see the Pro Stock Motorcycles will be at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, which is slated for April 28-30 in Concord, North Carolina.