LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29, 2023) – A championship will soon belong to Gaige Herrera after all but clinching the title in Las Vegas.
Herrera notched another win in a remarkable and historic season, this time with a final-round defeat of Vance & Hines Mission Foods teammate Eddie Krawiec, who had his heart set on claiming the 50th win of his career – a milestone he's been after since winning his 49th at the U.S. Nationals in 2021. The two came to the starting line and were right away making it interesting. Neither rider made a move to fully stage, and they revved their Suzuki engines back and forth until Herrera finally went in. Krawiec soon followed and when the tree came down, he launched first with a .050 light to Herrera's .063. At the top end, though, it was Herrera earning the blue winner's hat and trophy as he reset the track record for elapsed time with a crisp 6.755, 198.32 to defeat a 6.847, 198.70. It was Herrera's 10th win and the fourth final of the season with teammate Krawiec in the other lane.
Herrera's day began with a solo as would-be-opponent Angie Smith did not make the call. Although medically cleared to race, Smith came to the event solely to earn qualifying points as she continues to heal from a wreck in St. Louis last month. In the second round, Herrera was unchallenged as Marc Ingwersen clocked an uncharacteristic .360 reaction time, and in the semifinals, Herrera made his slowest pass of the weekend, a 6.815, that was still enough to send Jerry Savoie home. Savoie, the 2016 class champion filling in for his White Alligator Racing teammate Chase Van Sant, was 6.906.
"This race was really emotional to me. I have a lot of family and friends here, and I had a stellar bike all I day," said Herrera. "I think the semis against Jerry Savoie, I knew I had to be on it on the tree and I was .020 to his .022. I actually short-shifted 4-5, and I got worried because I could hear him there the whole time. I messed up there, but luckily Andrew Hines and Vance & Hines power saved my butt there. All day today, it was a little bit of a challenge with the headwind, riding-wise, and you could definitely feel it. But I had a very good bike all day."
Krawiec reached his fourth final of the year and 95th of his career. In the first round, he took a solo due to parts breakage that prevented Karen Stoffer from making their meeting, and in round two, he clocked a clean win over Steve Johnson, 6.864 to 6.959. The semifinals set Krawiec up against Matt Smith Racing rider Jianna Evaristo, and although his opponent got a plentiful jump at the starting line (.039 to his .089), he was able to make up the different with a 6.845 to her 6.897 that got the win by just .002.
Herrera has an almost insurmountable lead and will arrive at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals leading Krawiec by 181 points with 191 marks left to claim. All Herrera must do to win his first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship is make a single qualifying pass in Pomona.
"It was awesome being in the final against Ed," continued Herrera. "That's the third Vance & Hines final in a row, and it was a fun final. We went up there, and I had a feeling he wasn't going to stage first so I just sat there. He revved the throttle at me and I did it back. Once he did it the second time I said, 'Oh, he's definitely not going in first,' so I just rolled it in. It knocked me off my game a little, but he shook the tire and I ended up going a 6.755. It felt like a very smooth, good pass, but I didn't expect it to go faster than what I qualified with. We're happy with that, and after this weekend, once I go to Pomona and break the beams, it's a done deal – that's very exciting. It doesn't feel real. I haven't even woke up yet from the beginning of the season."
The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season comes to a close November 10-12 at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip with the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals.
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NHRA Nevada Nationals Sunday photo gallery:
Unofficial points standings following the completion of the NHRA Nevada Nationals, the 20th race of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the fifth of six events in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Photo's: NHRA | Vance & Hines | Gaige Herrera