By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
For the first time in a month, the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle returned for race No. 2 of their 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season schedule at the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals and saw a familiar face back in victory lane.
Gaige Herrera picked up his second consecutive No. 1 qualifier in the motorcycle class this past weekend and also secured his second career victory on the Vance and Hines 2023 Hayabusa in the final round posting a time of 6.710 at 202.00 mph. It was another dominating weekend for the Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie in his first full season.
As the rookie stole the headlines in the class, we’ll take a look at how the other riders fared throughout the finishing order in this edition of the Pro Stock Motorcycle Round-Up, the Charlotte edition.
Gaige Herrera – Won race – Outsted former champions Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, and Steve Johnson in the finals and had the best reaction time out of the quad with a 0.013 compared to the other riders. Another thing to note is this was Herrera’s first attempt at a four-wide nationals event and won. For Herrera, he still couldn’t believe it at the top end that he’s 2-0 so far in 2023.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Herrera said. “To be out here and go No. 1 back-to-back, win the race back-to-back, it’s a lot to take in. I’m enjoying the ride,” Herrera said. “There are plenty of good riders out there, so to be able to be in the final with those three and come out on top, that’s awesome. It’s going to be a tough season.
“We’re out here basically dominating, but it’s the beginning of the season, and it’s going to be a long ride. (Four-wide) is a different kind of pressure. To be up there with three other rides, you have to focus. I didn’t want to wait or get timed out, so pretty much every round I put it on the 2-step and made sure I was ready for anything that happened.”
Matt Smith – Finished 2nd and secured his 36th career runner-up finish. Despite being runner-up, he posted an E.T. of 6.780 at 199.61 mph. The runner-up finish was also Matt’s first of the season.
“Our team had a good day because someone on our team got to the finals and was runner-up in the race,” Angie Smith said about Matt’s runner-up finish. “In the grand scheme of things, we have had two races and two final rounds even though both of us were runner-ups. It was still a successful day.”
Eddie Krawiec – Finished 3rd after posting an E.T. of 6.784 at 199.37 mph following a 0.034 reaction time.
“It was a good weekend qualifying 1-2 and having both bikes in the final quad of the weekend,” Krawiec said. “I came up just a tad short of a 1-2 finish (with Herrera). We will take it and build off this for Chicago.”
“We have made big strides with my motorcycle over the last few weeks and I believe it shows. Making consistent runs and running well, each lap down the track will allow us to keep tuning on it and getting better each time out.”
Steve Johnson – Finished 4th – Despite a confusing quad round with Kelly Clontz, Joey Gladstone, Jianna Evaristo, and John Hall in which both Evaristo and Hall didn’t get a chance to run, the former event winner from last year made it to the final round and placed fourth out of the quad posting a time of 6.810 at 197.54 mph.
“Four-wide racing at a Bruton Smith is a blast,” Johnson said about his day. “It’s one of the coolest races on the Camping World tour. Our road to the final round involved luck and a bunch of effort from our entire team. Our little team has always had monster power here, however, this time we didn’t have enough power. We will get them next time.”
Kelly Clontz – Finished 5th and fell short in the quad with Herrera, Matt Smith, and Savoie. Clontz had a better time than Matt but she couldn’t keep up with him and would ultimately end up with a 6.858 at 195.39 mph. Had a scary moment when debuting motorcycle rider Marcus Hylton nearly collided with her at the shut-off area, but thankfully, Clontz saw Hylton coming and slowed in time as she watched him go in the sand traps.
“I’m so excited, oh my goodness!” Clontz said to NHRA.TV following her run and near-miss with Hylton. “I left and I got on my throttle early, and I heard Gaige got on his and I’m not going to be late because I know the timing.”
“I didn’t even feel like I had a good path and when I got down to the bottom of the track, I looked over and I’m glad bike body is okay. (Marcus) comes flying by me and I’m like, oh my goodness. Nobody told me I won my match and I thought I lost, and then when I got my ticket I found out I advanced!”
Joey Gladstone – Gladstone finished an uncharacteristic 6th at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. It’s been a strange start to the season for Gladstone who has not made a final round appearance thus far. Gladstone lost to Angie Smith in the quarterfinals in Gainesville and then was eliminated again in the quad with Eddie Krawiec, Johnson, and Hector Arana Jr. His E.T. was 6.861 at 194.18 mph. The reaction time was also the best of the quad with a 0.002 but was unable to keep up with the other riders.
Hector Arana Jr – Arana Jr’s start to the ’23 season has also not been kind to him. After returning to the bike late last year and scoring a couple of wins, he was hoping the ’23 season would kick-start a successful season. Unfortunately, following a first-round loss at Gainesville to Krawiec carried over to the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte.
Arana Jr finished 7th out of 16 bikes and was eliminated in the second round with an E.T. of 6.872 at 197.97 mph.
“I’m really happy with my riding and our Global Electronic Technology team made really good consistent runs this weekend,” Arana Jr said in a Facebook post. “Just came up short. All in all, we just need to find some more power.”
Jerry Savoie – Finished 8th after going to the second round of eliminations. Savoie went 6.956 at 191.78 mph in his quad before falling short despite cutting a 0.005 reaction time.
“This weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway was not our best result as a team (White Alligator Racing),” Savoie said in a Facebook post. “I went the deepest and came up short in E2. Next up is May 19-21 at Route 66 Raceway and we will be ready.”
Ron Tornow – Tornow placed 9th following an early elimination in Round 1. Tornow squared off against Arana Jr and Krawiec and was slated to race against Angie Smith. In this quad, Tornow was off the starting line first with a 0.012 reaction time compared to Krawiec and Arana Jr. Unfortunately, Tornow could salvage a 6.964 at 194.97 mph.
“The first qualifier at Charlotte went horribly wrong,” Tornow said. “An oil line came loose and we oiled the track from start to finish in the fourth qualifier. The transmission would not come out of the fourth gear due to a broken shift fork. We spent Saturday night pulling the transmission which Matt Smith was able to repair and changing valve springs.”
“During the valve spring change, the tool we use broke and the retainer got shot off the spring like a bullet. My right index finger was in its path. X-rays Monday morning show it was fractured with possible tendon damage. Putting my glove for the round was very painful but I got through it.”
“In my round, I knew I had to focus on getting off the starting line first. To advance, I would need to beat two of the riders. The tree came quickly after we all staged and I was off the line .012 seconds.
“I held the lead at half-track but then the more powerful bikes of (Hecetor) Arana Jr and (Eddie) Krawiec pulled past me and advanced. We made our best pass of the weekend in E1, so we are taking that as a positive and looking forward to continuing our progress in Chicago.”
Chase Van Sant – Finished 10th. Van Sant was also eliminated in the first round. He was paired up with Marc Ingwersen, Jerry Savoie, and Matt Smith. Van Sant had a clean pass but fell short of what would be the final-round finalists with an E.T. 6.982 at 193.63 mph.
“Charlotte was a tricky race for us, but I think as a team, we have a lot to be proud of,” Van Sant about his finish. “It was our first time having three bikes under the tent and it was awesome for me to have (Team Owner, Jerry) Savoie there as a mentor. We didn’t get the result that we wanted, but we know what the issue was and unfortunately, like Gainesville, it was an issue no one could have done anything about.”
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you know the potential the team has, and know how hard everyone is working and it’s an unavoidable issue that throws a wrench in our plans. It gives me confidence knowing our potential and it’s exciting to know our time is coming!”
Marcus Hylton – Hylton was making his Pro Stock Motorcycle debut at the Four-Wide Nationals and went out in style so to speak. He finished a respectable 11th, but was, unfortunately, the talking point when his bike couldn’t get slowed down following his run. He almost collided with veteran racer Clontz at the shut-down area. Thankfully, Clontz saw him coming and stopped right before Hylton went on by.
“Had a great weekend at the track,” Hylton said about his debut in a Facebook post. “First time running Pro Stock Motorcycle on the Gann Customs Machine. Accomplished a lot and learned a lot. Thanks to all of you for the support and encouragement along the way. Truly appreciate all of the love shown in the pits. See you at the next event.”
Jianna Evaristo – Finished 12th – A forgettable weekend for Evaristo and the Matt Smith Racing bike. Unfortunately, in her pairing with John Hall, she was declared a no-show after a late staging battle.
Ryan Oehler – Eliminated in Round 1 after fouling too soon. Oehler went -0.008 too soon and was done for the day early. Finished 13th.
“This was a great weekend and a very disappointing weekend for our team,” Oehler said. “We finally started running great numbers, ran the 3rd quickest time in round 1, but also turned on the red light by -.008 and went home early. We have shown everyone that we will be a contender, now we just gotta make it happen!”
Marc Ingwersen – Like Oehler, Ingwersen fouled too soon. His reaction time was -0.006 and placed 14th in the running order.
“Charlotte was a bit of a challenge for us,” Ingwersen said. “We missed Q1 and Q2 on Friday due to my son’s college graduation. On top of that, we were running a new clutch setup and had some issues in Q3, so that only left us Q4 to try and make the show.”
“My crew guys did an awesome job getting the setup right, so we could have a safe conservative run in Q4 which got us into the show for Sunday. (In) E1 (Elimination 1) we had a tough quad, and I thought I had to be very aggressive on the tree to be able to turn on the win light at the end. Unfortunately, I was a little too aggressive.”
John Hall – Hall was also caught up in the staging battle with Evaristo. In this case, Hall was disqualified and finished 15th.
Angie Smith – The fan favorite Angie Smith, unfortunately, didn’t get to make a run in the first round. Her bike broke after she went to the staging lanes and was pushed back behind the lines.
“The two-step switch malfunctioned on my bike and I had no chance of making a run,” Smith said. “I chalk it up to just bad luck on Sunday.”
Not qualifying for the event was Chris Bostick who ended up missing the cut and qualified in the 17th position out of the 16-bike field.
“The problem was the chain and the sprocket, they were locked together,” Bostick told NHRA.TV following the Q4 run. “It’s a big heavy chain to be able to hold the horsepower of these Pro Stock Motorcycles. Unfortunately, the chain and the sprocket literally broke. The chain didn’t break but the sprocket was what did us in.”
“We hadn’t made a good pass all weekend. We chased down to a gremlin that was in our ignition plate and thanks to Steve Johnson, Steve loaned us an ignition plate off of his second engine from his bike. We put the plate on ours and amazingly enough, the bike fired up, sounded good and we were excited. That should’ve been a high 80 run in the E.T.s.”
“Unfortunately for us, this bike is going to be retired and I’m looking forward to a brand new bike in Chicago that we’ll be debuting of the new Gen3 bike we picked up from the Vance and Hines team on Friday. We’re looking forward to a really good season, it just hasn’t started out great for us.”
Official NHRA Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle Results following Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals.
- Gaige Herrera
- Matt Smith
- Eddie Krawiec
- Steve Johnson
- Kelly Clontz
- Joey Gladstone
- Hector Arana Jr
- Jerry Savoie
- Ron Tornow
- Chase Van Sant
- Marcus Hylton
- Jianna Evaristo
- Ryan Oehler
- Marc Ingwersen
- John Hall
- Angie Smith
Official NHRA Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle Points Standings following the second round in the 2023 season.
- Gaige Herrera, 255 points
- Matt Smith, -102
- Eddie Krawiec, -120
- Angie Smith, -129
- Steve Johnson, -133
- Chase Van Sant, -138
- Joey Gladstone, -148
- Jianna Evaristo, -149
- Hector Arana Jr, -168
- Ryan Oehler, -170
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle class will return in action at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois later this month, May 19-21.