Gaige Herrera set new track records for elapsed time and top speed on his Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki Gen 3 Hayabusa Pro Stock Motorcycle at Maple Grove Raceway en route to his ninth top qualifying performance this season at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Mohnton, Pennsylvania.
The bad news for the standout rider is he lost the points lead, but he’s focused on correcting that in Charlotte.
Herrera entered Maple Grove, the first of six races in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, as the championship leader after points for the top ten riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class were reset with the conclusion of the regular season at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis earlier this month.
Continuing to show the dominant, class-leading performance of his Gen 3 Suzuki Hayabusa, Herrera jumped to the top of the qualifying leaderboard with some of the quickest elapsed times in class history, posting a 6.672-second/202.94 mph run on Saturday to claim his ninth number-one starting position this season. It was the quickest elapsed time ever for a Pro Stock Motorcycle at Maple Grove and just 0.007-second slower than the current 6.665-second class record set in Gainesville last season. Herrera also set a new track top speed record with a 203.00 mph run during an earlier qualifying attempt.
After making a 6.695-second/202.24 mph pass in a first-round bye run, Herrera advanced to a second-round matchup against Jianna Evaristo. However, his race weekend came to an early end as Herrera spun the rear tire on the starting line. With the resulting lost traction, Herrera’s 7.069-second/194.07 mph pass wasn’t enough to match Evaristo’s 6.894-second/196.44 mph run.
“We made a good pass in the first round, so going into the second round I had a lot of confidence, but it just blew the tire off. Maybe there was something on the track, or the tire was a little too hot, we don’t really know. It was one of those things that happen,” Herrera said. “It’s disappointing, but I’m amped up and ready to redeem myself next week in Charlotte.”
Eddie Krawiec entered the Countdown in fourth position. Still chasing his 50th career win, the four-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion became only the second rider in class history to win 500 elimination rounds during the U.S. Nationals. Krawiec qualified seventh with a 6.777-second/200.32 mph run.
Krawiec defeated Kelly Clontz (7.046-second/186.74 mph) in round one with a 6.743-second/201.04 mph run, his quickest of the weekend. Facing No. 2 qualifier Chip Ellis in the second round, Krawiec made another consistent run but his 6.771-second/200.83 mph pass came up just short of Ellis’s 6.738-second/201.46 mph run.
“It was a good race. I was just on the wrong side of it. I wouldn’t change anything on that run, and it would have beaten any other bike that round except Chip’s,” Krawiec said. “We have two great motorcycles here for the Countdown. We just need to have a little more race-day luck. The good news is that in five days I’ll be back on the motorcycle and ready to go.”
Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki crew chief Andrew Hines was uncertain as to the cause of Herrera’s traction loss but remains optimistic about the team’s prospects for the remaining races in the Countdown to the Championship.
“It was a complete fluke. The data graph shows the motorcycle reacted the way we expected for about the first two feet, then it looked like it was on ice, Hines said. “We’re unsure what the cause was, but I’m not too worried for the future races because our Hayabusas are the leaders in the class. This is our one bad race for the Countdown. Our focus is to go win the next five.”
Matt Smith’s Gen 3 Hayabusa carded the Top Eliminator win over Chip Ellis with a 6.807-second/198.50 mph pass. Suzuki congratulates Smith for the win and his lead in the Countdown to the Championship. With five rounds remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, Herrera and Krawiec currently sit second and fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings with 2,183 and 2,116 points, respectively.
The Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki team is back in action September 22-24 at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, NC.