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Gaige Herrera Breaks Tie With Dave Schultz Following Thunder Valley Nationals Victory

Gaige Herrera

Gaige Herrera Celebrates Thunder Valley Nationals Victory (Photo: NHRA Media)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – After returning from a brief hiatus in Chicago, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class continued their season with two back-to-back races at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this past weekend in Bristol for what would be their fourth race of the 2024 Mission Foods season.

Many were looking to knock off the reigning champion, Gaige Herrera who came into the event on an eight-race win streak and attempted to achieve a new record of being the only person to have won nine consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle races in a row. The only other rider to have done that is the late Dave Schultz who won eight straight races. However, on Sunday afternoon, he continued the win streak by winning his 15th career race.

While he didn’t score the No. 1 qualifier this time around with Matt Smith being the one to do so and winning the Mission 2Fast2Tasty Challenge race on Saturday, Herrera was a man on a mission and chase that illustrious ninth straight win. In the first round, he faced longtime veteran Steve Johnson, who ended his streak last year at Bristol in the final round. It would be quite the different story this time around with Herrera eliminating Johnson using a pass of 6.813 at 197.91 mph to Johnson’s 6.922 at 192.82 mph.

Onto the quarterfinals, the 2023 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion squared up against John Hall, who cut the best reaction time in the first round of .011. Hall advanced with a win over Chris Bostick who fouled. There were no mystery on who would secure the round win in this match-up, as the Vance and Hines rider had the starting line advantage and never trailed for the victory.

Herrera won over Matt Smith to help propel him in a final-round outing with Jianna Evaristo piloting one of his Smith’s bikes. Evaristo had victories over Marc Ingwersen, Chase Van Sant and rookie Richard Gadson to make it to the final. This marked the first time the two riders had faced each other in the final round.

Unfortunately, the Smith/Scrappers Racing combination entry was late on the tree with a reaction time of 0.130 to Herrera’s 0.042 light. He notched the win with an elapsed time of 6.818 seconds at 198.17 mph to Evaristo’s 6.861 at 197.94 mph.

“It was a good day, but kind of weird starting from the 5th position. We struggled a little bit here in Bristol, it’s a beautiful facility but it’s seemed to have my number,” Herrera said. “The semifinal was probably the highlight of my career so far. Matt was running well all weekend. What a day. The final against Jianna, I always love racing her, and I’m so happy for her. She’s been improving round by round and pass by pass, and to get the win over her is awesome. Not only that, to have basically two young guns in the final it’s very cool. I’m happy to go home with the Bristol win.

“To be mentioned with Dave Schultz and Bob Glidden, it’s a lot to take in. It’s obviously real, but it doesn’t feel real, what’s been accomplished in such a small time. But I’m enjoying the ride and trying to look at every little milestone that passes. As a kid, I never would have thought I would be in this position or have my name in the history. It gets emotional sometimes when I think about it.”

Gaige Herrera

Gaige Herrera Races To Thunder Valley Nationals Victory (Photo: NHRA Media)

The runner-up for Evaristo marked her first of the season following three first-round losses.

“Our team felt really good headed into this weekend after learning a lot in testing,” Jianna shared. “We knew that some of the adjustments we made were going to help us move in the right direction and qualifying in the top half of the field confirmed that for us. Going so many rounds in eliminations was a huge boost of both confidence and motivation, especially with all of the incredible fans in the stands supporting us. There is something really special about this track. While I would have loved getting that victory for my team, I’m proud of our performance. I’m working hard to step up my game so we can continue making progress.”

Jianna Evaristo

Jianna Evaristo At The Thunder Valley Nationals (Photo: Mark Rebilas)

Meanwhile, there were some great reaction times out of the riders from the class. John Hall posted a time of .011, Herrera .012, Gadson .018 and Van Sant .020 all during the first round.

Up Next: The Pro Stock Motorcycle class will head to Virginia Motorsports Park in two weeks, June 21-23.

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