Gaige Herrera’s NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle debut last year with the Gary Stoffer/Greg Underdahl team set the former Pro Street and Grudge racer on the right path to success.
Making Vance & Hines debut at this weekend’s 54th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in front of a sellout crowd at Gainesville Raceway, Gaige rode the Gen3 Hayabusa-bodied Suzuki straight as an arrow to qualify number one with a 6.685 at 203.49, breaking the track speed record.
“I honestly don’t have words for this,” said the always quiet Herrera. “Just being here with the best team in Pro Stock Motorcycle is a dream, and then to run 6.68 on back-to-back runs and then go 203. It’s been an awesome journey so far. It’s still not real to me.
“When I got that phone call from Andrew Hines in November, it took a while to sink in. Then I got my new leathers and realized I’d be riding the best bike in the class.”
Here’s Gaige’s press conference:
Meanwhile, teammate Eddie Krawiec sits 9th with a 6.803—the first bike in the order not to run a .70. He’ll face Hector Arana III in eliminations while Gaige draws Ron Tornow.
For V&H customer bikes, Saturday was somewhat less satisfying. Kelly Clontz was parked for the whole day. You may remember that her bike (and Joey Gladstone’s) reportedly suffered serious mechanical problems in Orlando testing. You could say that cost her dearly, as she dropped to 13th and now faces 6X champion Matt Smith.
Gladstone’s Cory Reed Racing Suzuki soldiered through the day but never looked sharp. After reportedly losing two motors in testing, Gladstone is said to have a motor off the V&H team hauler in his frame rails with Hines tuning.
Gladstone’s results (15th) could lead one in many directions: this motor isn’t up to snuff, they’re afraid of breaking it too, or the tuning parameters used by the previously successful Reed team are way different than what Hines is used to.
Then again, Gladstone’s bike might really come alive on raceday and squash #2 qualifier Steve Johnson, who himself sat out the final round. Johnson has only motor chose to rest on his 6.746 at 198.90 after failing to improve in Q3.
Rookie sensation Chase Van Sant took third in his first PSM race with a 6.747 at 200.80 on the Trick-Tools/White Alligator Racing Suzuki. Chase is scheduled to face Richard Gadson, but Richard’s Suzuki broke their only motor’s crank yesterday.
As mentioned, Smith faces Clontz. He sits fourth after a steady, though not spectacular, two days of qualifying on his Suzuki—likely sporting a Monster 4V head. Expect Smith to race well.
His wife Angie might not be so pleased, as her EBR sits behind teammates Jianna Evaristo (Suzuki) in fifth and Chip Ellis (EBR) sixth. Jianna will face Marc Ingwersen, Chip draws Ryan Oehler, and Angie stages alongside her former teammate John Hall—now on the B.R.A.K.E.S. WAR Suzuki.
Gonna be a great day of racing! The bikes will start at about 11:30 today.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.685, 203.49 vs. 16. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.922, 196.47; 2. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.746, 198.90 vs. 15. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.846, 195.56; 3. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.747, 200.80 vs. 14. Richard Gadson, Suzuki, 6.830, 197.31; 4. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.751, 201.76 vs. 13. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.824, 196.36; 5. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.789, 198.61 vs. 12. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.824, 198.61; 6. Chip Ellis, EBR, 6.790, 200.02 vs. 11. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.823, 198.79; 7. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.792. 196.90 vs. 10. John Hall, Suzuki, 6.819, 197.97; 8. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.797, 198.20 vs. 9. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.803, 200.98.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Malcolm Phillips Jr., 6.954, 193.02; 18. Chris Bostick, 7.066, 191.10; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.100, 187.65.
story by Tim Hailey
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