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Gaige Herrera Sweeps The Western Swing & The Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals Weekend At Sonoma Raceway

SONOMA, CA (July 30, 2023) --- Gaige Herrera had quite the weekend at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway!


Number One Qualifier - Check

All Star Callout - Check

Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals Wally - Check

Western Swing Sweep - Check



A Western Swing sweep of the three NHRA national events in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma is a rare feat that compares historically to a perfect game in baseball or a hole-in-one on the PGA tour. It’s just not something that fans can expect to see on any given year. The odds didn’t seem to matter much to second-year phenom Gaige Herrera who finished off Pro Stock Motorcycle’s first Western Swing sweep when world champion Matt Smith’s Denso Suzuki would not start in the final round. Herrera ran the table in Sonoma when he qualified No. 1 and also won Saturday’s NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Callout event. He finished the rout with a 6.775, 198.12 on his Vance & Hines Suzuki.


Herrera shared the Sonoma winner’s circle with nitro champs Justin Ashley and J.R. Todd. Ashley scored his fifth win of the season in Top Fuel while Todd, a runner-up a week ago in Seattle, hoisted his first Wally since the 2021 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Ashley powered past his buddy, three-time world champion Antron Brown while Todd managed to get by Chad Green, who was competing in his first Funny Car final.


Herrera joins a list of Western Swing sweepers that includes Joe Amato, Cory McClenathan, Larry Dixon, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, John Force, Greg Anderson, and Dan Fletcher (twice) but in reality, his performance might just be the most impressive of all of them. Herrera was the low qualifier at all three events and was rarely challenged in a side-by-side race. In Sonoma, the California native was just a thousandth quicker than Matt Smith in qualifying, but he extended that lead on race day and finished the day with a string of 6.7s in his wins over Ryan Oehler, Marc Ingwersen, and Karen Stoffer.


“I can’t put into words what the last three weeks have been like,” said Herrera. “When we got to Denver, I did not think this [sweep] was possible but our team had the momentum and drive to get it done. I was probably more worried today than I’ve been all season. I had a weird feeling in my gut, especially in the semi’s when I had to race Karen [Stoffer]. Her and [husband] Gary are the ones who gave me a chance to come out here. They taught me a lot but you never teach someone all your tricks so I was a bit nervous but it all paid off.”


““I hate that we got it that way. I waited as long as I could [for Smith’s bike to fire] but at the end of the day I got the win. I’m not a big person to show emotion, but I was yelling and screaming inside my helmet when I crossed the finish line,” Herrera said. “Everything that’s happened this season, has been amazing. I just wish my great-grandfather would have been here to see it. He started all of this with our whole family racing.”


Smith, who rolled past Lance Bonham, Steve Johnson, and Eddie Krawiec to reach the final, was obviously frustrated to not have a chance to end Herrera’s win streak and, in the process, get his first win of the season.



“I won’t know for sure until I get it back to the pits and look at it, but I’ll bet it was a crank sensor, the same thing that bit us in Seattle. We try to keep the best parts on this bike and I hate to think a $100 sensor cost us a chance to beat Gaige, but we’ll go back and see what’s wrong and fix it for the next one.”


The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season continues with the Menards NHRA Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas August 11-13.


Content: Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor | NHRA

Photo's: NHRA


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