Did the Herrera/V&H Combination Peak Too Soon?

Did they peak too soon? The chink in the Gaige Herrera/Vance & Hines armor widened at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park—AKA Norwalk.

At the previous NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle race at Bristol Dragway, the generally unflappable Herrera made an unforced error when he redlit by -.011 against Steve Johnson in the final. It happened again against eventual Mission Challenge winner Angie Smith on Saturday at Norwalk.

Then the V&H Suzuki let Herrera down when it bogged to a 1.15 60 foot time in E2 and could only post a 6.98 at 189 that came up short against Jianna Evaristo. “Mechanical failure from when I cut the clutch,” reported Herrera. “Surprised it ran as far as it did.”

And so suddenly, a class that seemed doomed to domination is now opening up, despite the fact that the Herrera/V&H combination still holds the performance advantage. Maybe the weight added (15 pounds since May) only to bikes with the V&H 4-valve head has put that advantage (only enjoyed by the one bike) in a smaller tuning window. Did V&H, as Kent Stotz once said to me about a Pro Street team, “Stick their dick out too far?”

One competitor, noting that Terry Vance was present at Norwalk, thought the team took a dive to reduce the weight penalties they—and especially their customers—are dealing with. Myself, I doubt that, but you never know.

Matt Smith

At 640 pounds, Herrera’s number one qualifying advantage over number two Matt Smith (Monster 4V head Suzuki at 630 pounds) was down to 2/100ths at Norwalk.

Gaige’s teammate Eddie Krawiec qualified fourth behind S&S V-Twin (635 pounds) racer—and eventual Norwalk winner—Hector Arana III. Kelly Clontz led V&H 4V customers in tenth, while V&H 4V/White Alligator Racing riders Chase Van Sant and John Hall failed to breach the 7.0s, qualifying ahead of only Wes Wells and Chris Bostick. When was the last time the WAR team—if ever—failed to break into the 6’s anywhere other than Denver?

The other V&H 4V customer—Cory Reed Racing with rider Joey Gladstone—didn’t go to Norwalk. With a very disappointing start to their season and Reed’s family’s recent purchase into KB/Titan Racing, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to make some elementary guesses about where the Reed engine program is heading. Will they stick with the V&H 4V head and accept the weight penalty that NHRA has strapped on the brand or go with the Monster that Matt Smith says makes more power? How about racing a full 70 pounds less with a 2V at 570?!

Steve Johnson with the TL body at Route 66.

Johnson—who like Smith wears a Monster 4V head on his homebuilt Suzuki—followed up that Bristol win with a runner-up to Arana at Norwalk as he continues to get comfortable in his second race with the radically different Gen3 ‘Busa body.

“The Suzuki Hayabusa Gen 3 body is the newest, coolest thing in Pro Stock Motorcycle racing,” Johnson said at Bristol. “t’s totally different. The feel and how the motorcycle rides down the track, it’s totally different.” And I’m told Johnson wasn’t too keen on that difference yet.

Hector Arana III and Angie Smith at Route 66

Arana III (AKA Arana Jr.) put together a consistent Sunday in Norwalk and ended it with his first PSM victory of the season, going 6.821 at 199.82 on his GETTRX Suzuki against Johnson in the final. It’s Arana Jr.’s first victory at Summit Motorsports Park and the 18th in his career.

After qualifying third with a 6.814, Arana Jr. stayed in that range throughout eliminations, beating Wells, avenging his Challenge loss to Angie, and beating Matt in the semis with runs of 6.826, 6.801 and 6.820.

“We made one little mistake in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, and we were able to learn from our mistake and come out today with a really fast, consistent bike,” Arana Jr. said. “That gives you all the confidence in the world as a rider, knowing you have a good bike beneath you and that when you let the clutch out, it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do and go right down the track.”

That consistency followed through in the final round with an impressive performance against Johnson, helping send Arana Jr. to second in points.

“We definitely have momentum,” said Arana. “We’ve had a fast bike, and we’ve been qualifying really well and running well. We had a good bike in Bristol, we just had a couple little gremlins we needed to get through, but I’d rather have those earlier in the season than later.”

Johnson earned his second straight final round appearance and 32nd of his career with victories over Van Sant, Krawiec and Evaristo.

Herrera maintained the points with Johnson in third.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE results:

ROUND ONE — Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.903, 196.39 def. Ryan Oehler, 6.923, 195.85; Angie Smith, 6.881, 198.20 def. Ron Tornow, 6.994, 192.96; Marc Ingwersen, 6.956, 195.65 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.056, 193.88; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.802, 197.59 def. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.968, 195.56; Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.777, 199.88 was unopposed; Hector Arana Jr, 6.826, 199.46 def. Wesley Wells, Suzuki, 7.267, 186.18; Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.836, 200.17 def. Chris Bostick, Broke – No Show; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.791, 200.98 def. John Hall, Buell, 7.039, 194.38;

QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.835, 198.26 def. Ingwersen, Foul – Red Light; Arana Jr, 6.801, 199.52 def. A. Smith, 6.927, 196.56; Johnson, 6.848, 195.90 def. Krawiec, 6.793, 199.67; Evaristo, 6.897, 196.02 def. Herrera, 6.988, 189.76;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.897, 194.44 def. Evaristo, Foul – Red Light; Arana Jr, 6.820, 199.64 def. M. Smith, 6.839, 200.11;

FINAL — Arana Jr, 6.821, 199.82 def. Johnson, 6.943, 176.63.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points

1. Gaige Herrera, 552; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 363; 3. Steve Johnson, 358; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 328; 5. Matt Smith, 321; 6. Angie Smith, 291; 7. Chase Van Sant, 254; 8. Jianna Evaristo, 241; 9. Marc Ingwersen, 205; 10. Ryan Oehler, 196.

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