NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Gaige Herrera simply dominated the field in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. After winning a record-breaking 11 races, Herrera claimed his first world championship at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, finishing off one of the most incredible seasons in NHRA history.
Herrera, rider of the Mission Foods Vance & Hines Suzuki, locked up his championship during qualifying at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals in Pomona. He banked 14 of 15 No. 1 qualifier positions throughout the season, which set the all-time mark for a single season in the category.
Herrera then ended the season just like he started it – with a victory and adding another single-season PSM record in a simply spectacular year. In fact, it could be considered one of the best in NHRA history, posting an unbelievable win-loss record of 50-4, winning a remarkable 93 percent of his matchups in 2023.
“It doesn’t feel real honestly,” Herrera said. “All the stuff we’ve accomplished this year and wrapping it up and getting the championship has just made for an incredible season. I just have to give all the credit to the guys back at the shop. None of this has been possible without them. It’s not just my championship, it’s everyone on this team. They all deserve this. I can’t put this season into words.”
Herrera’s title gave the Vance & Hines team its 14th overall NHRA world championship. He joins the likes of teammate and four-time champ Eddie Krawiec, and brothers Andrew Hines with six titles, and Matt Hines with three.
“Last year I was out here just trying to have a little bit of fun,” Herrera said. “Then I got a call to ride for these legends. I grew up watching these guys race. Now racing next to them and accomplish what we have this season is very surreal.”
Herrera’s reign of terror in the class kicked off at the season opener at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, where he won his race of the season and his first race under the Vance & Hines umbrella. He collected two more back-to-back wins at the Charlotte 4-Wide race and the return of the Chicago event before losing his first round of the season against Steve Johnson when he went red in Bristol in the finals.
He returned to the winner’s circle in Denver at the first stop of the NHRA Western Swing. Herrera then became the first Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in NHRA history to complete the Western Swing Sweep of consecutive race wins in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma. To add to it, Herrera also picked up four wins in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge and won the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout in Sonoma.
Matt Smith opened the Countdown to the Championship with a victory at Maple Grove Raceway, momentarily bumping Herrera to second in points for the first time all year. But it was only a small hiccup for Herrera, as he cruised to wins at the final five events of the year in Charlotte, St. Louis, Dallas, Las Vegas and Pomona.
In Dallas, Herrera also made the quickest run in class history, going 6.627-seconds, capping off a run that saw him make nine of the 10 quickest runs in Pro Stock Motorcycle history in 2023. He defeated teammate Krawiec in the final round at each of those final four events, completing a year that may be hard to top for any PSM rider.
“I think it’s only the beginning,” Herrera said. “It’s a big deal for me to ride for this team. What I love to do is race and it’s worked out well for all of us. We were focused on the here and now, and we just kept the ball rolling all season long. It really hasn’t set in yet. The way I look at it, it was a perfect season. I’m going to cherish this whole season and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series begins March 7-10 with the 55th annual NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway. For more information about NHRA, including the 2024 schedule, please visit www.NHRA.com.