GAIGE HERRERA REMAINS DOMINANT WITH VICTORY IN DALLAS
Gaige Herrera’s 2023 victory tour continued in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class Sunday near Dallas.
Herrera snared the title at the Texas NHRA FallNationals – his ninth of the season out of 13 races – and third in a row.
Herrera clocked a 6.644-second elapsed time at 203.30 mph to upend his Vance & Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec’s 6.706-second lap at 202.56 mph.
“It's very meaningful. Not only that, but it’s also been a great weekend, great couple days, for the whole team,” Herrera said about his latest victory. “Me qualifying No. 1, Kelly [Clontz] qualifying as No. 2, and Ed third. Just overall, this weekend has been incredible for the whole Vance & Hines team. It just showcases what Byron [Hines] has been doing back at the shop. [Sunday], it was a good day for all of us. Not only that, to have the Vance & Hines final, two races in a row now. That's a big accomplishment for all of us. The whole team.”
This was quite the memorable weekend for Herrera aboard his Mission Foods Suzuki.
He set the Pro Stock Motorcycle world record with a 6.627-second elapsed time – bettering Karen Stoffer’s 6.665-second run from Gainesville, Fla., in 2021 – and qualified No. 1 for the 12th time this season breaking the PSM record of 11 by Matt Hines in 1998.
After analyzing the cool weather conditions that awaited the Vance & Hines team, Herrera knew it could be a banner weekend.
“When we saw that weather, we figured we'd go 64. Did we expect a 62? No,” Herrera said. “When I heard I went 204 [mph], I figured, ‘Okay, I want a 65 or so on.’ Then, they're like, ‘No, you went 62, at 204. I'm like, ‘What?’ It was a picture-perfect run. I had to do very little correction. I nailed my shift points. It was picture-perfect. To go that 64 in the final, that just backs it up that much better. I basically had a bracket bike all day. I think my worst run was a 66, which still beat the previous national record. Andrew [Hines], when he saw that weather, he's like, ‘Well, we might get the record. But, also, we're going to get weight or rules change, and this and that.’ It's just part of it. The whole parity of the classes and so on.
“It was just amazing. The kind of bike I have is like a bracket bike. I have so much confidence every time I go to the starting line because I know as long as nothing breaks, my bike should run as long as I do my job. And Ed did good. Our whole package as a team has just been incredible. I'm sure we're going to get a little bit ... I'm sure the rules are going to change coming into Vegas, but that's just part of it.”
On Sunday, Herrera defeated Blaine Hale, Chris Bostick, Hector Arana Jr. and then Krawiec. Herrera improved his season elimination-round record to 42-4.
Herrera extended his points lead to 156 points over Krawiec with two races left in the season – Las Vegas (Oct. 26-29) and Pomona, Calif., (Nov. 9-12).
“Ed [Krawiec] tunes his own bike. Andrew tunes mine,” Herrera said. “And for Ed to be able to do that, back-to-back races, that just goes to show how much he's progressed this season as far as learning. He's been doing a lot of learning. My bike, we left it alone because it's been fast. Then Ed's bike, he's always testing new stuff, like he tested new brakes this weekend during testing and so on.
“This whole weekend has been awesome. Coming to this race is fun, because just the amount of ... Wednesday, we had testing. There's just so much going on this weekend. I can't thank the whole Meyer family enough. It's pretty cool. Just the whole atmosphere. The fans, everyone. This was a fun weekend.”
If Hines wins the final two races, he will set the PSM single-season record of national event wins at 11. Matt Hines holds the record of 10 PSM wins in a season in 1998.
“I'm looking forward to Vegas. It's going to be fun,” Herrera said. It’s getting closer to my original hometown, so it's going to be fun. I have a lot of family there.”
Herrera could clinch his first PSM World Championship in Vegas, but he’s letting others crunch the numbers.
“I'm pretty sure Declan, Andrew's son, has been doing all the math,” Herrera said. “We'll see. I can't take anything for granted. It'd be cool to wrap it in Vegas, but I'd rather do it in Pomona.”
Herrera has good reason to claim world championship glory in Pomona.
“That's my hometown. I grew up 20 minutes from there, so I'm going to have so much family there,” Herrera said. “I just feel like it means a lot more to wrap it up in Pomona. But if I wrap it up in Vegas, I'll still be just as happy.”
If rules are changed in the PSM class, Herrera isn’t overly concerned how things will unfold.
“I think the only people who run the cylinder heads that we run is Chase [Van Sant], John Hall, and Kelly [Clontz]. Everyone else runs Monster,” Herrera said. “They basically split up the four valve between the Monster and the Vance & Hines [motorcycles]. I think they did that five races ago, that was when they split them up. So, it would only affect a certain amount of us.
“But John Hall ran well this weekend. I think he ran his career best. Ed ran his career best, and Kelly ran her career best. All the guys at the shop definitely figured something out, as far as power and so on. Everyone's making the same power. You can see it in the mph. It's just the E.T. down low is where we shine. I rode Kelly's bike on Wednesday, and I helped her as far as riding position, hand position, trying to make her more comfortable and then she did good this weekend. She drew a tough draw with Joey (Gladstone). As soon as we saw Q1, when he did what he did, we knew what they were playing. They kind of said what they were going to do, as far as go for No. 2. Because now Matt (Smith) feels like he can't catch me, he's got to go for No. 2 and so on. Yeah, all in all it's going to affect the Vance & Hines bikes more than anything, but I feel like we're still going to shine.”
Herrera acknowledged racing side by side against Krawiec has been almost surreal. Krawiec has four PSM world champions for Vance & Hines in 2008, 2011-12 and 2017.
“It's very cool. I've learned a lot from Ed this season,” Herrera said. “He helps me, every race. This weekend, we had a lot of crosswind. He helped me a lot with that. Because these bikes ... I come from a 7-inch-street-tire world, no wheelie bar. You get on these 10-inch slick bikes, they're different. With the wind, you can't really steer them like what I'm used to. It affected Chase [Van Sant], who hurt his knee this weekend, unfortunately. I hope he makes a good recovery and comes back soon.
“It's very intimidating racing Ed. Last race in St. Louis when we ran each other, finally we flipped a coin for lane choice. This weekend he didn't want to do it, because he didn't want to put me in the right lane because of the wind. He just felt like he'd shine in that. I've held him back three times this season now from getting his 50th. But he's going to get it. I have a feeling. He's got a very fast motorcycle and he'll get it.”
Herrera’s focus now is keeping his momentum going in what has been a magical season.
“I think Vegas is going to be good. That's where I first rode for Vance & Hines. I test-rode for them. I want to say that was where this all started. I guess it did,” he said. “It's going to be good. I have a fast motorcycle. Ed has a fast motorcycle. And yeah, we're going to high altitude. But sometimes, Vegas can be fast as well, even for the high altitude. That's a nice, very nice track. I see us qualifying good, no matter how much weight or whichever we get penalized. Right now, they're actually in the trailer tearing the motor out to then tear it down for the national record, to claim it. I have a feeling we're still going to qualify one or two and it's going to be good. I'm very excited for Vegas. That's one of my home tracks. I love that track.”