Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki Regain Countdown to the Championship Lead
BREA, CA – September 25, 2023 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – Gaige Herrera won his seventh Pro Stock Motorcycle race of the season and reclaimed the NHRA Countdown to the Championship points lead onboard his Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki Gen 3 Hayabusa at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, NC, on Sunday.
- Gaige Herrera qualified No. 1, reset the track’s elapsed time record, and won for the seventh time this season.
- Eddie Krawiec qualified second and advanced to the semi-final round.
Gaige Herrera (79) regains the points lead after his seventh victory of the season.
After losing the points lead last weekend at Maple Grove, Gaige Herrera bounced back at the start of the second race in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship by claiming his 10th top qualifying spot this year with a 6.731-second/200.41 mph run on Friday evening. That performance ties Matt Hines, brother of Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki crew chief Andrew Hines, for most number-one qualifiers in a season in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Herrera advanced out of round one on Sunday against former world champion Jerry Savoie, who fouled on the starting line, with a 6.706-second/201.94 mph blast that reset his own elapsed time track record set during the April race at zMax Dragway earlier this season.
Herrera defeated Matt Smith in a crucial second-round matchup, advanced past the reigning champion and former points leader with a 6.747-second/200.71 mph victory as Smith slowed to run 7.880-seconds at 122.91 mph. In the semi-finals, Herrera defeated fellow rookie Chase Van Sant, who also fouled at the starting line, with a 6.755-second/201.10 mph pass to advance to an eighth career final-round appearance.
The performance differential of Herrera’s Gen 3 Suzuki Hayabusa was so great this weekend that three of his four opponents in the elimination rounds, including Hector Arana, Jr. who raced Herrera in the final round, were goaded into making red-light jumpstarts in desperate attempts to combat Herrera’s dominant speed advantage. Arana’s foul handed Herrera, who ran 6.726 seconds at 201.34 mph, his seventh victory of the season. The win was also a milestone, coming in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class’s 500th race in NHRA competition.
“I have an amazingly fast, consistent motorcycle, and I feel like I’m very consistent on the starting line, so my opponents know they need to push it on the tree. It gives me a lot of confidence knowing I have an awesome Hayabusa under me thanks to Andrew. I just need to cut good lights and go A to B down the dragstrip,” Herrera said. “We had a little setback last week at Maple Grove and couldn’t pinpoint the cause, but for the team to come back strong this week and qualify number one and two and get the win brings all our confidence back. I love the momentum of these back-to-back races. I feel like it makes the whole team dig deeper to keep it going.”
Eddie Krawiec (7) makes it to the semifinals but falls short of meeting
his teammate in the finals.
Eddie Krawiec qualified his Gen 3 Hayabusa in second position with a 6.766-second/200.00 mph run to complete the fourth lockout of the top two qualifying spots this season for the Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki team.
Krawiec advanced into the semi-finals with a 6.791-second/200.08 mph win in round one against Ron Tornow (no time) and a second-round 6.828-second/199.85 mph victory over Kelly Clontz (6.950-seconds/194.86 mph). However, Krawiec fell just short of meeting his teammate in the finals with a 6.855-second/199.17 mph third-round loss to Hector Arana, Jr., who ran a slightly quicker 6.815-seconds at 198.06 mph.
“I had a great motorcycle all through qualifying, but it got quite a bit hotter and sunnier today. We battled track conditions and struggled to get the 60-foot times where they needed to be, and if you don’t get that right, you can’t run the elapsed times you need to,” Krawiec said. “Overall it was a good weekend and I consider it forward progress. I gained ground on Matt Smith in the points and increased my lead over people behind me. We learned some valuable things that will apply to the next few races, so I’m happy we’re racing again next week. We’ll be ready to go and fully prepared to win. I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
Crew chief Andrew Hines blamed himself for making some setup and tuning adjustments during Saturday’s qualifying sessions that sent the performance of Herrera’s motorcycle in the wrong direction compared to Friday’s top qualifying run and praised the team’s ability to rebound.
“It was a trying weekend, but we prevailed. I messed up on Saturday and didn’t give Gaige much confidence coming into race day, so I told him we’re going to treat today like round one is the first session of qualifying. I went back to my notes and put the motorcycle’s setup back to center. I knew that if Gaige rode to his ability, and if the team performed to their ability, and if I got my mindset right as a crew chief, we could go all the way. Running 6.72 shows what these Suzuki Hayabusas are capable of with a great rider and team. We expect the same every weekend.”
With four races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, Herrera and Krawiec sit first and fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings with 2,304 and 2,200 points, respectively.
The Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki team is back in action Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at the World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, IL.
For the latest Suzuki team news, race reports, and information visit SuzukiCycles.com/Racing/Drag-Racing.
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Source: Suzuki Motor USA, LLC