Like Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson, Gaige Herrera moved from California to Indiana to further his racing career. In Herrera’s case, NHDRO Pro Street was still a thing at the time and his nitrous Suzuki Hayabusa was a series regular.
The Pro Street center of the universe moved East, and Herrera still logs big miles pursuing his no-bar passion. But here in the Midwest, he’s had to settle for being the star rider of the Vance & Hines NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Suzuki and dominating a season as few if any have before.
Back in action for the first time in a month on Friday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park,, PSM continued to belong to Gaige. The points leader blistered the track record on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki with an impressive run of 6.746 at 198.96 to take the provisional No. 1 position by a mile at the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals.
The last time the class was in action, Herrera was sweeping the Western Swing and he didn’t let up on Friday. If that run holds, Herrera would pick up his eighth No. 1 qualifier in nine races—an incredible success rate in what has been a dominant season.
“I was definitely anxious to get back on the motorcycle, especially after three weeks in a row on the Western Swing and then basically having a month off,” Herrera said. “That 6.74 was a perfect run for us, for the team. The guys at the shop have put in countless hours, and that pass right there showed it.
“But I have all the confidence in the world, and I’m very comfortable on the bike and with the whole team. Everything has been going smooth as can be. We’re here at Indy, this is where I made my debut last year, so it’s kind of got a special feeling to me. It’s been good. It’s Indy, it’s Friday, and there’s a long weekend ahead.”
Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, is currently second with a 6.807 at 198.79 and Hector Arana Jr. is third after going 6.873 at 198.76.
Pro Stock Motorcycle order — 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.746, 198.96; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.807, 198.79; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.873, 198.76; 4. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.881, 197.16; 5. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.882, 199.79; 6. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.884, 197.68; 7. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.917, 195.70; 8. Ron Tornow, Buell, 6.934, 195.68; 9. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 6.999, 195.42; 10. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.003, 196.39; 11. John Hall, Suzuki, 7.048, 194.97; 12. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 7.068, 189.55; 13. Bud Yoder II, Buell, 7.123, 192.06; 14. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 7.226, 187.29; 15. Wesley Wells, Suzuki, 7.226, 185.10; 16. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.680, 135.97. Not Qualified: 17. Angie Smith, 9.531, 94.99.
Four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), and Matt Hartford (Pro Stock Car) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 15th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Torrence went 3.708-seconds at 329.42 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster, going to the top spot on the final run of the night. If that holds, Torrence would earn his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 36th in his career. He is aiming for his second win in three years at the world’s biggest drag race and third overall at The Big Go.
“This is a huge confidence builder,” Torrence said. “You have to come to Indy and be ready to endure it, and today is the longest day. Everybody likes to see these things at night and fire coming out of them. It’s just exciting and it adds a different element to it. We all say we’re riding on fire-breathing dragons, but until the nighttime, you don’t get to see it.
“It gives us an opportunity to work on the tune-up, work on the raceday setup, and adjust from there. When you go out on Q1 and make a good run, you’re comfortable. It gives us that luxury. And it is The Big Go. You want to be the quickest every time. You want to win the race, but there is some prestige to being No. 1, even if it is for the day.”
Defending world champion Brittany Force is currently second after going 3.709 at 333.25 and Doug Kalitta took the third spot on Friday with a run of 3.717 at 328.54.
Top Fuel order — 1. Steve Torrence, 3.708 seconds, 329.42 mph; 2. Brittany Force, 3.709, 333.25; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.717, 328.54; 4. Mike Salinas, 3.721, 335.32; 5. Leah Pruett, 3.730, 331.69; 6. Justin Ashley, 3.733, 331.69; 7. T.J. Zizzo, 3.736, 330.07; 8. Josh Hart, 3.744, 323.89; 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.750, 321.73; 10. Austin Prock, 3.781, 326.08; 11. Doug Foley, 3.803, 316.75; 12. Will Smith, 3.822, 312.78; 13. Lex Joon, 3.902, 313.07; 14. Antron Brown, 4.399, 182.08; 15. Tony Schumacher, 5.118, 138.88; 16. Dan Mercier, 5.719, 109.19. Not Qualified: 17. Spencer Massey, 6.059, 104.55; 18. Clay Millican, 6.860, 87.05; 19. Buddy Hull, 11.798, 61.62.
Tasca’s strong summer in Funny Car continued on Friday, powering to the top in the loaded category with a run of 3.864 at 324.90 in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. If that holds, Tasca would earn his fifth No. 1 qualifier in what has been a strong season for the veteran. Currently fourth in points, Tasca has a chance to move into third with a strong weekend that will also include a spot in Sunday’s Pep Boys NHRA All-Star Funny Car Callout.
“I give all the credit to the guys, we worked really hard on Monday at Brainerd testing some things we felt we needed to make a change, and you saw some of that tonight,” Tasca said. “It felt so good, it sounded good, it was smooth, and I came back to the guys and I said, ‘When you pull it up on the computer, you’re going to smile.’
“Sometimes you get all of it and it’s sketchy, but I felt it like it was planted all the way down the racetrack. Tomorrow is a new ballgame. I think you’re going to have to step up to hold onto it, but the good news is that we’ve got a package that we can definitely step up for tomorrow night.
Robert Hight is currently second with a 3.886 at 327.43 and Alexis DeJoria’s 3.888 at 331.77 puts her third.
Funny Car order — 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.864, 324.90; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.886, 327.43; 3. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota GR Supra, 3.888, 331.77; 4. Ron Capps, GR Supra, 3.917, 328.22; 5. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.928, 316.60; 6. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.931, 304.25; 7. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.934, 327.66; 8. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 3.966, 324.12; 9. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 3.977, 321.88; 10. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.072, 274.11; 11. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.079, 310.41; 12. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.121, 308.35; 13. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.203, 291.70; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.282, 216.20; 15. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.729, 169.72; 16. John Force, Camaro, 4.862, 217.84. Not Qualified: 17. Paul Lee, 6.170, 107.36.
Looking to regain momentum heading into the Countdown to the Championship, Pro Stock Car’s Matt Hartford made a strong first impression on Friday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park with a run of 6.569 at 209.23 in his Total Seal Chevrolet Camaro. It puts Hartford in line for his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season as the veteran bids to win for the first time at the U.S. Nationals.
“It’s running pretty good right now,” Hartford said. “I’ve struggled the last few races driving, but we’re going to make up for it at Indy. It’s up to me to drive well because we know we’ve got power.”
Troy Coughlin Jr. is currently second with a run of 6.570 at 208.30 and Aaron Stanfield currently has the third spot after going 6.586 at 208.39.
Pro Stock Car order — 1. Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.569, 209.23; 2. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.570, 208.30; 3. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.586, 208.39; 4. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.588, 208.68; 5. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.590, 209.01; 6. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.599, 208.33; 7. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.603, 208.42; 8. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.604, 207.56; 9. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.605, 208.97; 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.676, 207.37; 11. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.794, 205.10; 12. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.979, 205.47; 13. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.660, 141.37; 14. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 11.036, 105.50; 15. Bo Butner, Camaro, 11.268, 130.27; 16. Eric Latino, Camaro, 13.548, 63.73.
Qualifying continues at 2:15 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
photos by Tim Hailey, story by Hailey and NHRA