Story By: NHRA – BRISTOL, TN – In what has been an incredible start to his 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, Gaige Herrera has been perfect through three races, winning all three events in Pro Stock Motorcycle, with each race marking his NHRA debut at that facility.
He’ll look to make it four in a row this weekend at the 22nd annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, which marks another track where Herrera has never competed in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
That hasn’t bothered him thus far, as Herrera has stockpiled wins in Gainesville, Charlotte and Chicago on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki and the young standout is eager to try and keep that unblemished record intact while visiting Thunder Valley for the first time.
“It’s going to be a new experience for me, so my first pass I’m going to learn a lot,” Herrera said. “The biggest thing I’ve focused on for years is knowing exactly where I’m at on the track while I’m making a pass, so I feel like that’s going to help a lot. I’m really enjoying going to all these tracks for the first time. It’s very cool to be able to race all over and experience it, and I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend.”
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners in Bristol. It’s the fourth race of the 2023 season in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Herrera has already built a dominant lead by qualifying No. 1 at every race and winning three times.
In Chicago, he made three of quickest runs in class history, including an impressive run of 6.672-seconds in qualifying. He also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, something he’ll have a chance to do again this weekend. Herrera will race teammate Eddie Krawiec on Saturday in a semifinal rematch, while Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Jr. is the other matchup in the specialty race that offers a bonus purse and bonus points on Saturday in Bristol.
But as dominant as Herrera has been, he knows it will be difficult to hold off a loaded field that also includes defending world champ Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, Joey Gladstone and Angie Smith. Herrera, though, is focused on trying to maintain this current run for as long as he can.
“I’m just taking it race by race,” Herrera said. “I’m having the best season I could ever have starting like this. I didn’t expect to be on the top like I am, but I’m just enjoying it and I know that anything can happen. We had good success in testing and that really helped, but there’s a lot of races to go and a lot of time left in the season.”
In Pro Stock, Dallas Glenn is also on a tremendous run, posting three wins in the first six races of 2023 in the category. But one place where Glenn, the 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year, hasn’t won in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro is Bristol, something he’ll try to change this weekend.
He will face also off with rookie Jerry Tucker in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, while the other matchup features Deric Kramer and Stanfield. Others to watch in the category include reigning world champ Erica Enders, Greg Anderson, Camrie Caruso and Kyle Koretsky, but everyone is chasing Glenn at the moment, who has no plans to relinquish his points lead.
“As long as do my job, everything has kind of fallen into place this year,” Glenn said. “It’s kind of surreal almost (to be the points leader). Now I’m the one being chased, so it’s been of a different dynamic. My goal every race now is to come out of it with a lead at least one point more over second than when I entered the weekend. Bristol is another track where I’ve never won. It’s a beautiful facility and a lot of history, and it’s just a spectacular place to race.”
In Top Fuel and Funny Car, teams will have a chance for a huge weekend as the NHRA New England Nationals will be completed on Friday and Saturday in Bristol.
In nitro, following the first round of qualifying at 5 p.m. ET, the first round of eliminations from the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car takes place during the second qualifying session in Bristol at 8 p.m. ET. The second round will be during the third qualifying session at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Bristol, with the semifinals running in between qualifying sessions on Saturday. That leads into the finals of the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car during final qualifying at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Eliminations for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will run concurrent with the semifinals and finals on Saturday in Bristol in the nitro categories.
Ashley powered to his first Top Fuel win at Bristol a season ago and other top stars include leader Steve Torrence, defending world champ Brittany Force, Austin Prock, Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher.
In Funny Car, Capps has six victories at Thunder Valley, tied for the most in NHRA history at the facility. He’ll take on a loaded field that includes points leader Matt Hagan, John Force, Robert Hight, Alexis DeJoria, J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca III.
The weekend’s doubleheader race in Bristol will include extensive coverage on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), starting with NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals qualifying at 7 p.m. on Friday and the first round of eliminations of the New England Nationals at 8 p.m. ET. Final eliminations of the NHRA New England Nationals will be broadcast at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, with Sunday coverage including qualifying action from Bristol at 12 p.m. ET and eliminations from the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at 7 p.m.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Legends Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Pro Mod will have a double-race weekend, running eliminations from Epping on Friday and Saturday.
Autograph sessions will take place on Saturday at the Toyota Display with Toyota-sponsored drivers, at the Mission Foods display at 11 a.m. on Saturday with PS and PSM drivers in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, as well as a special autograph session and fanfest at the Bristol Dragway Welcome Tent in the midway immediately following final qualifying.
Race fans at Bristol Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite 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 Bristol event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Bristol. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere with displays, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will feature two rounds at 4 and 7 p.m. ET on Friday, final qualifying on Saturday at 1 and 4:30 p.m., and eliminations 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.