NHRA DRIVEN: Pro Stock Motorcycle
Western Swing Pro Stock Motorcycle recap: Sweeps and swoons on two wheels
The three-race Western Swing is the gateway to the home stretch of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series regular season that sets the contenders for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs and a pivotal time for teams trying to establish dominance or to get back into the fight.
It’s Gaige Herrera’s world, and we’re all just living in it. The Pro Stock Motorcycle sophomore became the ninth racer to sweep the Western Swing, the first to do it on two wheels, and the first to do it since Antron Brown in Top Fuel in 2009. Herrera’s Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki dominated with wins in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, collected 372 of 378 possible points, won two Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenges (Denver, Seattle), and won the inaugural NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout in Sonoma.
For the record, counting the Mission Challenge and Callout events, Herrera has won 19 straight rounds. In Seattle, he became the first racer to clinch a spot in the Countdown to the Championship and by Swings end had boosted his points lead over Hector Arana Jr. from 189 points to 359 and, with just the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals left on the regular schedule for the class, he’s guaranteed to go into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and has already amassed 10 important #2Fast2Tasty bonus points to add to his lead at the reset.
After semifinal finishes in Denver and Seattle helped keep him reasonably close to Herrera, the wheels came off for Hector Arana Jr. with a stunning first-round loss to Freddie Camarena in Sonoma. Arana’s Buell, as expected, qualified No. 1 and had low e.t. in the thin air in Denver, but lost in the semi’s to Angie Smith’s similar mount and lost to Herrera in a key match in Seattle. His 202-point Swing total was just fifth best among the 11 riders we tracked.
Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, trailed only his Suzuki squad sidekick in Swing points with a haul of 235 markers — thanks to a Seattle runner-up and Sonoma semifinal — was fourth among all racers in all three categories, behind only Herrera, Steve Torrence, and J.R. Todd. Although Krawiec fell shy of his long-awaited 50th career win in Seattle, he qualified No. 2 there and No. 3 in Seattle, showing some sild progress. He picked up one points position, from fourth to third, and sits just two points behind Arana.
The dynamic duo of Matt and Angie Smith followed Krawiec one spot up the points chart — from fifth to fourth and sixth to fifth, respectively — at the expense of faltering Steve Johnson. After winning Saturday’s Mission Challenge in Denver, Matt had a disappointing second-round loss followed by suspected camshaft sensor failures in the semi’s in Seattle and the final in Sonoma that otherwise could have boosted his fortunes.
Angie red-lighted in the Denver final to Herrera, lost to her husband in round two in Seattle (where she made the track’s first 200-mph PSM pass and runner-upped in the Mission Challenge), and lost to Krawiec in round two in Sonoma after scoring a runner-up in Saturday’s Callout race.
No one tumbled more spots during the Swing than class veteran Steve Johnson, who fell three spots from third to sixth after notching just one round-win over the three events. Johnson started well in Denver with a runner-up in the Mission Challenge, but things went downhill from there over the next two weekends until he picked up his lone win light in Sonoma.
Rookie Chase Van Sant logged a decent 166-point score during the Swing — sixth best in the class — with three round-wins, though his progress, like the trip down from the mountain, declined from a semifinal in Denver to a second round in Seattle and a first-round exit in Sonoma after his bike lost fire on the starting line, but he held onto his seventh spot in the standings.
Marc Ingwersen had a good time on the Swing, scoring round-wins in Denver and Sonoma, and was part of the All-Star Callout in Sonoma. His 135 points moved him from ninth to eighth place on the scorecard.
Ingwersen swapped spots with Jianna Evariso, whose highlight of the Swing may have been the motorcycle road trip she took with her family from venue to venue. There was much less fun on the track as she went 0-for-3 and accumulated just 100 points in dropping to ninth place.
Kelly Clontz climbed three spots in the standings up to 10th thanks to a round-win in Seattle, the Swing absence of Joey Gladstone and Chip Ellis, and the struggles of Ryan Oehler. If she maintains her standing through the U.S. Nationals, it will be the seventh-year rider’s first top 10 finish.
Ryan Oehler had a rough Western Swing with no round-wins and just 90 points, second worst among the 35 racers we tracked. To be fair, he had tough competition in Herrera and Krawiec at two of the three races and red-lighted to Marc Ingwersen in Seattle in the other. Still, he’s just six points behind Clontz for 10th and, as long as he competes in Indy, he’ll still be part of the Countdown under the perfect attendance rule.
CURRENT POINTS STANDINGS
|01||Gaige Herrera||924||Mission Foods Vance & Hines Suzuki|
|02||Hector Arana Jr||565||GETTRX Buell|
|03||Eddie Krawiec||563||Vance & Hines|
|04||Matt Smith||549||Denso/Stockseth Racing Suzuki|
|05||Angie Smith||506||Denso/Stockseth/Lucas Oil Buell|
|06||Steve Johnson||480||Steve Johnson Racing Suzuki|
|07||Chase Van Sant||420||Trick Tools/White Alligator Racing Suzuki|
|08||Marc Ingwersen||344||Thiel’s Wheels Buell|
|09||Jianna Evaristo||341||Scrappers Racing Suzuki|
|10||Kelly Clontz||294||Steamfitters UA Local 602|
|11||Ryan Oehler||286||El Bandido Tequila|
|12||Joey Gladstone||194||Reed Motorsports Suzuki Hayabusa|
|17||Lance Bonham||113||Constellation Motorsports EBR|
|18||Karen Stoffer||106||Ray Skillman Auto Group/Big St. Charles Motorsports Suzuki|
|20||Jerry Savoie||51||White Alligator Racing Suzuki|
|21||Fred Camarena||46||Prolong Suzuki|
|24||Malcolm Phillips Jr||10|
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 22 national events featuring the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown and Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Series. Twice a year, NHRA hosts a ‘race-within-a-race,’ during the JEGS Allstars and Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle specialty competitions. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. With over 120 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing-related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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