By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
Taking a glance back at the previous race at Bristol, veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Steve Johnson knocked off the winning Vance and Hines Gaige Herrera after Herrera fouled too soon in the finals. Johnson easily coasted to victory in his brand-new Gen 3 Hayabusa body and a new wrap on the bike, which cost him over $30,000.
Shortly thereafter, before heading into the off-week, a rule change made by the NHRA officials created parity in the motorcycle class after Herrera’s hot start early in the season. The official rule change was that five extra pounds were added to any rider racing a Suzuki bike. Previously, the 4-Valve V&H head was 635, however, officials upped it to 640 pounds.
It left a lot of questions heading into the Norwalk Nationals, whether or not Herrera would continue his winning ways, as he had done so in the first few races this season or will the rule change do what it’s supposed to do, which is create different winners in the class.
The weekend at Norwalk started with qualifying on Saturday after rainy conditions on Friday forced cancelations of the first and second rounds, leaving just two rounds for Saturday including the 2Fast2Tasty Mission Challenge taking place during qualifying.
The new rule change on Saturday did not appear to affect Herrera, as he would win his fifth consecutive No. 1 qualifier with a time of 6.785 seconds. And despite him obtaining another No. 1 qualifier, many hungry riders were looking to knock off Herrera and obtain their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon.
Kickin’ The Tires takes a look back at the Pro Stock Motorcycle class and details how each rider did from the Norwalk Nationals in this week’s Pro Stock Motorcycle Round-Up, the Norwalk Edition.
Hector Arana Jr – Arana Jr became the second different winner this season after eliminating Bristol winner Steve Johnson in the final round. Arana Jr went 6.821 at 199.82 mph over Johnson’s 6.943 at 176.63 mph. Arana Jr earned his 18th career victory and the first of the 2023 season on Sunday. He also had round wins over Wesley Wells, and Angie and Matt Smith before his final round win.
“We made one little mistake in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, and we were able to learn from our mistake and come out today with a really fast, consistent bike,” Arana Jr. said. “That gives you all the confidence in the world as a rider, knowing you have a good bike beneath you and that when you let the clutch out, it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do and go right down the track.
“We definitely have momentum. We’ve had a fast bike, and we’ve been qualifying really well and running well. We had a good bike in Bristol, we just had a couple of little gremlins we needed to get through, but I’d rather have those earlier in the season than later.”
Steve Johnson – Johnson made his second straight final-round appearance and the final round marked the 32nd final round of his career. He had victories over Chase Van Sant, Eddie Krawiec, and Matt Smith Racing’s Jianna Evaristo that helped him to the finals before falling short. The runner-up finish was the 20th of his career and the first of the season.
“We made it to the finals, but came up short on bringing home the Wally today,” Johnson said in a Facebook post. “It was a great weekend with our racing family and the best fans in the world though.”
Matt Smith – A strong showing for the defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, who placed third in the running order. Even though the North Carolina native has yet to win a race this season, it’s only a matter of time before Smith breaks through and starts challenging for more victories. Smith’s day ended in the semi-finals in what was a close race to Arana Jr.
Smith lost by eight feet and posted a time of 6.839 at 200.11 mph to Arana Jr’s 6.820 at 199.64 mph. The former champ won races over Chris Bostick and Marc Ingwersen before being eliminated by Arana Jr.
“Matt had a fast Denso Suzuki all weekend,” Angie Smith said about Matt’s day. “He ran great against Hector but Hector was unstoppable. We are back at the shop working on getting everything ready to go for our three-race swing starting in Denver.”
Jianna Evaristo – A great day for Evaristo and her Matt Smith Racing bike. Evaristo finished fourth following round wins over Ryan Oehler and Herrera in E2. Unfortunately, her momentum and run were cut short by her own doing as she went red -0.014 too soon.
“This is all definitely still a learning experience,” said Evaristo, following her semi-final race. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable on the bike, which is why I feel like I saw the light. I really feel like I was ready. I felt good about it and I swore I saw the light. The moment I went, I was like, ‘Well, shoot.’ But it was good.
“The run was good. I saw the bike drifting towards the wall, but the bike definitely had the ability to be able to win that round and now I know that I also have that ability and had that ability to win that round. All I can do is learn from today. I’m getting way more comfortable and that’s something that is a really big positive out of today.”
Eddie Krawiec – Krawiec finished 5th after a round win over John Hall in E1. The Vance and Hines rider was then eliminated by Johnson in the quarterfinals. Despite Krawiec being faster in both E.T. and mph speed of 6.793 at 199.67 mph to Johnson’s 6.848 at 195.90 mph, it was the holeshot of 0.020 from Johnson who would end up getting the victory. Krawiec’s holeshot was a tad slower with a 0.082.
“Unfortunately, I had an early exit due to a bad reaction time,” Krawiec said. “Being .080 is not acceptable with the close competition and it cost me a round win and possibly even the race win. I feel my Suzuki Hayabusa was fast and 100% capable of winning the race. I have a great motorcycle under me and have to work on the reaction side of things to get it as a solid package.”
Angie Smith – Angie finished 6th after having an impressive Saturday with her first 2Fast2Tasty Mission Challenge victory. She lined up against Ron Tornow in E1 and won with a pass of 6.881 at 198.20 mph over Tornow’s 6.994 at 192.96 mph. However, she was eliminated in E2 by eventual winner Arana Jr by slowing to a 6.927 at 196.56 mph.
“I was super excited to win the (Mission) 2Fast2Tasty challenge,” Angie Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to make some extra cash and more importantly score some bonus points after the Countdown starts. I didn’t run well on Sunday. I was disappointed but you know what they say. That’s racing!”
Marc Ingwersen – Finished 7th and was eliminated by Matt Smith in E2 after Ingwersen fouled too soon with a reaction time of -0.026.
Gaige Herrera – Despite having a bye run in E1, Herrera’s first opponent of the day was Evaristo in E2. He ultimately lost to Evaristo after Herrera posted a speed of 189.76 mph at 6.988 to Evaristo’s 6.897 at 196.02 mph. Finished eighth in the final results.
Ryan Oehler – An unfortunate first-round exit to Oehler with a loss to Evaristo even though it was the quickest pass of the weekend. Oehler would finish 11th.
“We made three passes and went quicker every single pass,” Oehler said in a Facebook post. “Our quickest pass was in round one and we flat-out got outran. We’ll move out west and see if we can put some more power to the ground and get this bike through some rounds.”
Chase Van Sant – The rookie rider lost to Steve Johnson in E1 with a pass of 6.968 at 195.56 mph. Despite being quicker off the starting line first (0.013), Johnson eventually made up the difference later down the strip and eliminated Van Sant.
“Norwalk was a bit of a rough one for us,” Van Sant said. “We had some high hopes with combinations we were running and unfortunately they didn’t pan out how we thought they would. I know Tim (Kulungian, Crew Chief) and the WAR (White Alligator Racing) team are giving it everything they’ve got and I’m trying to learn and do everything I can, so I believe we’ll get the little mid-season slump we’re in kicked in no time.
“Good things take time, and we’re doing a lot of learning and progressing and it’s going to come around for us. I think as a team if we stay patient and keep pushing, you’ll see us back in the top 5 in no time.”
Ron Tornow – Qualified 11th after two rounds of qualifying Saturday afternoon. Had a tough first opponent of Angie Smith and was out early with an 11th-place finish.
“Losing the two qualifying sessions on Friday hurt us,” Tornow said. “We had a good run in the first session on Saturday, which put us in the 8th position. We should have improved on that run in the second session, but the vibration of the front wheel in Q2, when I went on the two-step, started the timers too soon, and my timeslip only showed a 7.33, so we dropped to 11th and got paired with Angie (Smith). She cut a great light and ran a tenth quicker than I did, so that ended our weekend.
“We will be taking a break from the tour while they go west. We don’t have a sponsor or the budget to go that far, so we’ll rejoin the tour on Labor Day weekend at the U.S. Nationals in Indy.”
John Hall – Hall ended up 12th following an E1 loss to Krawiec.
Kelly Clontz – Finished 13th in the running order and was eliminated by Ingwersen in E1.
Wesley Wells – Wells made a rare appearance this past weekend by racing in the category and even though he was first off the starting line with a 0.052 to Arana Jr’s 0.052, Wells fell short at the 150 feet and had to settle for a 14th place finish.
Chris Bostick – Placed last in the running order after shutting his bike off early by the 1,000 feet mark.
“We had a brand new engine and fuel injection on the motorcycle for the first time and were only planning on making a run to about 1,000 feet,” Bostick said. “I did shut the bike off early and unfortunately, once we returned to the pit, we found that the thrust washer on the crankshaft had let go. Not knowing exactly why it happened on such a new crankshaft, we decided not to put the other engine in the bike until we figure it out.”
The low E.T. of the event was secured by Gaige Herrera with 6.777 seconds, while the top mph speed for the class was done by Eddie Krawiec with a speed of 200.98 mph.
Official NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Results following Norwalk
- Hector Arana Jr
- Steve Johnson
- Matt Smith
- Jianna Evaristo
- Eddie Kraweic
- Angie Smith
- Marc Ingwersen
- Gaige Herrera
- Ryan Oehler
- Chase Van Sant
- Ron Tornow
- John Hall
- Kelly Clontz
- Wesley Wells
- Chris Bostick
Official NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Points Standings
- Gaige Herrera, 552 points
- Hector Arana Jr, -189
- Steve Johnson, -194
- Eddie Krawiec, -228
- Matt Smith, -231
- Angie Smith, -261
- Chase Van Sant, -298
- Jianna Evaristo, -311
- Marc Ingwresen, -347
- Ryan Oehler, -356
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will take two weeks off before beginning their Western Swing at the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, July 14-16.