Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Steve Johnson opened the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season in impressive fashion, racing to the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday at the 54th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Johnson delivered a 6.746 at 198.90 on his Steve Johnson Racing Suzuki to take the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. It was a welcome sign for Johnson, who started strong last year before struggling down the stretch. The veteran still has championship aspirations in a class filled with talent and remained focused on improvement.
“Our sport is so diverse and exciting,” Johnson said. “I would love to come out here and win a championship. I’ve seen the mistakes I’ve made, and the teams out here work so hard, so it’s not easy. We’ve got a lot of great new riders and it’s hard to ride these motorcycles perfectly. I rode pretty well today and, for me, it’s all about fundamentals and when you can concentrate on that, the motorcycle is going to have a really cool response.”
Rookie Chase Van Zant enjoyed a strong debut on Friday, going 6.747 at 200.80. Gaige Herrera, who joined the Vance & Hines team in the off-season, is a spot behind with his 6.749 at 200.59.
Qualifying continues at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.746, 198.90; 2. Chase VanSant, Suzuki, 6.747, 200.80; 3. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.749, 200.59; 4. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.776, 201.58; 5. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.789, 198.61; 6. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.792, 196.90; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.803, 200.98; 8. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.823, 198.79; 9. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.824, 196.36; 10. Chip Ellis, EBR, 6.826, 199.37; 11. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.828, 198.41; 12. Richard Gadson, Suzuki, 6.830, 197.31; 13. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.846, 195.56; 14. John Hall, Buell, 6.867, 197.86; 15. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.917, 195.39; 16. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.922, 196.47.
Not Qualified: 17. Chris Bostick, 7.066, 191.10; 18. Malcolm Phillips Jr., 7.098, 192.66; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.401, 185.89.
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