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NHRA Championships on Horizon for Gaige Herrera, Erica Enders at In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals in Pomona

As the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series comes to a close at this weekend’s 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle championships have a chance to be decided before eliminations at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.

Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Gaige Herrera has been nearly perfect in the class this season with ten wins and 13 No. 1 qualifiers to his credit on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. He has led the points all but one event of the 2023 season.

To claim his first NHRA championship, Herrera must make a qualifying attempt at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip. With his 181-point lead of his teammate Eddie Krawiec, Herrera can clinch his first career world championship during qualifying.

“It doesn’t feel real. Like I told Andrew (Hines, crew chief), I haven’t even woken up from the beginning of the season,” Herrera laughed. “I think it started to sink in leading up to Vegas. I posted a year ago that I was looking for sponsors, to basically make it out there. I didn’t plan to do more than Indy, Reading and St. Louis last year and I was able to find some funding to come out West so that was a big deal.

“It’s hard to believe me being out here and getting a ride with Vance & Hines. I can’t thank Andrew and Eddie enough for seeing what they did for me and putting faith in me that I could ride the motorcycle to their standards.”

Herrera’s championship will give the Vance & Hines racing team its 14th championship. Herrera joins the likes of Krawiec, a four-time champion, and brothers Andrew Hines, a six-time title holder, and Matt Hines, with three championships, under the Vance & Hines umbrella.

“It really is unbelievable,” Herrera said. “Terry (Vance) and I were talking, and he said just don’t change, just keep being yourself and have fun with it. It’s awesome working with all of them: Terry, Byron (Hines), Andrew, and Eddie. It’s like a family. Everyone says it’s all business but at the end of the day, they’re almost like big brothers to me.”

In the Pro Stoc ranks, Enders is on the verge of her sixth NHRA title in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro, holding a 114-point lead over longtime rival Greg Anderson. To clinch her championship in qualifying, she needs to gain seven more points in qualifying than Anderson, who also has five titles. If Enders is able to gain that advantage in qualifying, she’ll secure the title on Saturday for Elite Motorsports. If not, she’ll need to win first round on Sunday to clinch her fourth world championship in five seasons.

“They asked me about having one hand on the trophy and I definitely don’t feel like it’s ours,” Enders said. “We have to go out there and continue to earn it. If they asked me that twelve races ago, I’d told them they were nuts if they said we were going to contend for our sixth championship this year because we were absolutely horrible.”

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Early this season, Enders suffered three first-round losses but has rebounded in the second half of the year in a major way and especially in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. She has four wins on the season, including back-to-back wins in the playoffs in Dallas and Las Vegas. Already the winningest female in NHRA history, if she is able to clinch the title, she’ll tie Warren Johnson for second most championships in the category at six, behind Bob Glidden at 10.

“Pomona is points and a half and a lot can happen, and a lot can change,” Enders said. “I just try to put that out of my mind. I know that sounds silly and cliché, but I just try to focus on what’s right in front of me. I don’t want to get the bigger picture in my mind too far ahead but at the same time, I believe that we can do it and we’re capable.”

The In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals will also crown champions in the nitro categories. Top Fuel’s Steve Torrence leads Doug Kalitta by only 15 points with Leah Pruett just behind in third at 34 points back. The Funny Car class is even tighter with Matt Hagan leading Bob Tasca III by 15 and Robert Hight by 17.

Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angie Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s event, while Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) claimed world championships. The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The weekend includes two qualifying sessions on both Friday and Saturday leading into championship Sunday, plus a weekend-long celebration of veterans. Fans can get closer to the action with a Top Eliminator Club experience, offering the best seats in the house and a premium experience.

Champions will also be crowned in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as action in the Jr. Dragster Shootout, the “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander driven by “NitroMike” and autograph sessions, including one with legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Capps.

Race fans at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners and 2023 world champs.

Fans are also invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, as the entertainment hub hosts Nitro School, meet and greets, influencer interviews and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet and can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12 and 3 p.m. PT on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 12 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on Sunday. Television coverage begins with qualifying action on FS1 at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into eliminations at 4 p.m.

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To purchase tickets to the 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, fans can visit All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. 

This story was originally published on November 9, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.