In most cultures, when grandpa speaks, it would be wise to heed his advice. That's the most critical lesson Gaige Herrera admits he learned in life.

"Like my grandfather [Phillip Herrera]always says, "Once you're at the top, there's only one way you can go, and that's down," Herrera added. 

While it looked like Herrera's momentum of his incredible 2024 season, all it took was race day at the NHRA Thunder Valley to bring him back to dominance and put him in the drag racing history books. 

Herrera stopped Jianna Evaristo in the finals to keep his undefeated record alive in 2024. He also extended his consecutive win streak to nine, enabling him to pass legendary rider Dave Schultz for the most consecutive national event victories. Schultz's record dates back to 1991. Ironically, Herrera's streak began in Bristol last season when he lost to Steve Johnson. 

It looked as if it would end in Bristol again when a lackluster qualifying placed him fourth in the field heading into race day. 

"It's a beautiful facility," Herrera said. "I love coming here, but it seemed to always have my number. But round by round, I was very consistent with the light. I think my worst light was a .024, so I'm happy with that. The bike was very consistent. We ran from 6.82 to 6.81 all day, so we're happy with that."

Nothing made him happier than the semi-finals when he took out No. 1 qualifier and quickly-ascending rival Matt Smith in the semi-finals. He beat the multi-time NHRA series champion on a holeshot. 

"That semifinal, that was probably the highlight for my career so far," Herrera said. "Matt has been running well all week, and he qualified with a 6.75, and I got .02 on him on the starting line for a holeshot win.
I was super hyped about that. I was basically done for the day."



Herrera said in jest that Smith could have qualifying dominance, and he'll be content keeping it on race day.

"That's how it's been going so far, and I'm happy with it," Herrera said. 
"Qualifying to me is just practice runs and to get a tune-up for Sunday. At the end of the day, Sunday is what counts. I'm not going to lie; coming into Sunday today, I thought I was done by the semi-finals.
[Raceday] puts me in a different mindset as far as not starting at the top and then not being the fastest bike. It made me dig down, push hard, and focus on what needed to be done. I felt like I did my job, and Andrew [Hines] did his job. I'm happy to come home with the win here from Bristol. It wasn't nice to me last year, and I can't wait to come back next year."

Winning and records have appeared to come effortlessly for Herrera, and he'll admit the Bristol win, where he had to fight and claw his way to the top of the hill, was something he probably needed. 

"I feel like as any type of competitor, not only drag racing, you always got to have weekends like this," Herrera said. "I think me coming from the bracket racing and grudge racing side of things, I've always been taught, "You got to learn to lose before you can win." 

While some might argue that Herrera hasn't learned how to lose since he began straddling the Vance & Hines bike, he is adamant he learned how to fight back to domination. 

"[Up until this point] it definitely got to the point I felt like I didn't have to push it as hard as I needed to on the tree and all that," Herrera admitted. "I still do my job riding the bike, but on the tree [in the past], I could be relaxed, whereas this weekend, I couldn't be that way. It helps you not take things for granted for sure. Lights fire under me for sure."