Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Gaige Herrera clinched his first career NHRA world championship on Saturday at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, wrapping up his dominant title run to close out qualifying at the 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals.
Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also qualified No. 1 at the 21st race of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the last of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Herrera extended his single-season class record by earning his 14th No. 1 qualifier thanks to a track-record run of 6.661-seconds at 203.80 mph on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. He will try to pick up his 11th win of the season on Sunday, which would also set a single-season record in the class, but earned the bigger prize on Saturday by picking up a world championship for the first time.
It is the finishing touch on one of the most incredible seasons in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, as Herrera dominated from start to finish. He won the first three races of the season, added another three-race winning streak during the year and then has won the last four races during the Countdown to the Championship. Add in a multitude of track records, the quickest run in class history and a sweep of the Western Swing and Herrera enjoyed a simply spectacular season.
“This is very special, it doesn’t feel real to be honest,” Herrera said. “The amount of stuff we’ve accomplished this year and then wrapping it up getting the championship and then making a run like that the last qualifier, it’s been an incredible season. I’m living the dream. Last year I was just out here trying to have a little fun and to get the opportunity to ride for the legends that I grew up watching race and looked up to, to be able to race with them and accomplish what we have, it’s very surreal.
“Wrapping up the championship here in my hometown, this is something I’ll never forget, winning the championship in my first full season. There is a lot that has been accomplished this year, but this definitely tops it all. This is something I’ll always cherish and remember. You never can take anything for granted. The bike has been flawless all year. We set a lot of records and it just goes on and on. It’s crazy.”
Eliminations for the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals begin at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.661, 203.80 vs. 16. Blaine Hale, Suzuki, 6.983, 192.17; 2. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.729, 201.28 vs. 15. Katie Justice, Suzuki, 6.972, 189.90; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.734, 201.94 vs. 14. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.952, 193.96; 4. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.751, 200.26 vs. 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.944, 166.91; 5. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.765, 197.59 vs. 12. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.929, 195.19; 6. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.776, 199.55 vs. 11. John Hall, EBR, 6.825, 198.47; 7. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.784, 197.77 vs. 10. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.810, 198.32; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.791, 199.20 vs. 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.797, 197.25.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Lance Bonham, 7.070, 186.77.