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NHRA: Gaige Herrera Roars to Win at Thunder Valley Nationals

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series

23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
Bristol Dragway
June 7-9, 2024

Gaige Herrera Roars to Win at Thunder Valley Nationals

Points leader Gaige Herrera enjoyed another record-setting day on Sunday in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning his ninth straight race and picking up his 35th straight round win after defeating Jianna Evaristo in the final round with a run of 6.818 at 198.17 on his RevZilla/Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Herrera passed the great Dave Schultz for the most consecutive wins in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, while the nine straight wins and 35 consecutive round wins ties legendary Pro Stock racer Bob Glidden for the most in NHRA history.

It didn’t come easy on Sunday, as Herrera defeated defending event winner Steve Johnson, John Hall and No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith to reach the finals. The victory in a must-see matchup against Smith came on a holeshot, as Herrera’s 6.825 held off Smith’s 6.824 in the semifinals. Herrera, who now has four wins in 2024 and 15 in his career, led wire-to-wire in the finals, avenging last year’s loss at Bristol in the final round in the process.

“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 Wins NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle

Evaristo advanced to her first final round of the season by knocking off Marc Ingwersen, Chase Van Sant and Richard Gadson.

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series returns to action with the Virginia NHRA Nationals on June 22-23 at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, VA.

Round 1

W – Hector Arana Jr / 0.048 / 6.868 / 198.17
L – Angie Smith / 0.041 / 6.896 / 195.11
Arana Jr is 19 – 7 against Smith in prior events. Smith with the starting line advantage, but Arana Jr. has the lead by the time they go by the Christmas tree and never trailed from there on for the win.

Angie Smith
Angie Smith

W – Jianna Evaristo / 0.104 / 6.871 / 196.53
L – Marc Ingwersen
Evaristo is 2 – 1 against Ingwersen in prior events. Ingwersen is a no-show to give Evaristo the freebie.

W – John Hall / 0.011 / 6.876 / 195.96
L – Chris Bostick / -0.061 / 6.923 / 192.03
This is the first time Hall and Bostick have faced each other in eliminations. Bostick goes red to give Hall the win.

W – Gaige Herrera / 0.012 / 6.813 / 197.91
L – Steve Johnson / 0.041 / 6.922 / 192.82
Herrera and Johnson have each won 1 times against the other in prior events. Herrera with a great light and the win.

W – Chase Van Sant / 0.02 / 6.878 / 195.45
L – Ron Tornow / 0.04 / 6.92 / 195.03
Van Sant with the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. He will give up lane choice to Evaristo in the next round.

W – Richard Gadson / 0.018 / 6.86 / 196.96
L – Kelly Clontz / 0.147 / 8.13 / 119.97
Gadson is 1 – 0 against Clontz in prior events. Gadson with the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. He will have lane choice over Arana Jr. in the next round. Clontz makes a quick move toward the centerline and does a great job keeping it in her lane.

W – Matt Smith / 0.048 / 6.807 / 199.61
L – Ryan Oehler / 0.045 / 7.012 / 194.24
Smith is 9 – 3 against Oehler in prior events. Oehler with a few ticks on the tree, But Smith has the difference made up by the time they go by the Christmas tree. He makes the quickest pass of race day.

Round 2

W – Jianna Evaristo / 0.075 / 7.115 / 161.19
L – Chase Van Sant / -0.024 / 6.895 / 194.63
Van Sant is 1 – 0 against Evaristo in prior events. Van Sant goes red to Evaristo the win. She is off the throttle before the finish line.

W – Richard Gadson / 0.038 / 6.876 / 195.87
L – Hector Arana Jr / 0.059 / 6.874 / 197.68
This is the first time Gadson and Arana Jr have faced each other in eliminations. Gadson with the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. He will have lane choice over Evaristo in the semifinal.

W – Gaige Herrera / 0.02 / 6.829 / 197.31
L – John Hall / 0.039 / 6.866 / 197.45
Herrera with the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win.

W – Matt Smith / 0.04 / 6.817 / 198.82
L – Earned Bye
Smith with the bye and makes the quickest pass of the round and will have lane choice of Herrera in the semifinal.


W – Jianna Evaristo / 0.067 / 6.898 / 196.5
L – Richard Gadson / 0.097 / 6.916 / 194.8
Evaristo with the starting line advantage, Gadson had the lead at the 330-foot mark. She rides back around for the win.

W – Gaige Herrera / 0.024 / 6.825 / 198.12
L – Matt Smith / 0.043 / 6.824 / 198.82
Herrera is 4 – 1 against Smith in prior events. Herrera with the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. He will have lane choice in the final over Evaristo.

Jianna Evaristo Pro Stock Motorcycle
Jianna Evaristo

Final Round

W – Gaige Herrera / 0.042 / 6.818 / 198.17
L – Jianna Evaristo / 0.13 / 6.861 / 197.94
Evaristo is 2 – 1 against Herrera in prior events, and this is the first time they have faced each other in a final round. Herrera had the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. He breaks the tie with Dave Schultz for the most consecutive wins in Motorcycle (nine). He wins his fourth Wally this season and 15th of his career.


  1. Gaige Herrera                493
  2. Matt Smith                    319
  3. Richard Gadson             266
  4. John Hall                       258
  5. Angie Smith                  239
  6. Chase Van Sant             238
  7. LE Tonglet                     233
  8. Hector Arana Jr             193
  9. Jianna Evaristo             189
  10. Steve Johnson              153

Saturday Qualifying

Matt Smith secured his second Pro Stock Motorcycle No. 1 qualifier of the season, and earned his first Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge win!

Matt Smith enjoyed an incredible day in Pro Stock Motorcycle, taking the No. 1 qualifier and his first Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win of the season with a pair of standout runs. He picked up the bonus victory over his wife, Angie, going 6.802 at 199.05 on his Denso Auto Parts Buell, knocking off points leader Gaige Herrera earlier in the day.

W – Angie Smith / 0.098 / 6.895 / 185.92
L – Chase Van Sant

W – Matt Smith / 0.035 / 6.759 / 200.05
L – Gaige Herrera / 0.018 / 6.853 / 197.33

W – Matt Smith / 0.028 / 6.802 / 199.05
L – Angie Smith / 0.111 / 6.951 / 173.7

Smith lowered the boom in Thunder Valley on that run against Herrera, improving on his No. 1 position by going 6.759 at 200.05. Both are track records and it was also the first 200-mph run at Bristol Dragway in Pro Stock Motorcycle history. He’ll get the opportunity to sweep the weekend, taking on Ryan Oehler to open eliminations.

“I didn’t think .75 was possible,” M. Smith said. “Last night’s pass when I went to the centerline, I knew we could have gone .77, I thought we could go .76, but this morning we just got all of it. We went 1.04 60-foot and the scoreboard popped up. That was pretty much a perfect pass for us. Then we come back for Q4 and we’re low of the round again. All in all, I think we have a good deal for tomorrow.

“Hats off to my whole team. I’m the privileged one that gets to ride the thing and all these guys working on it are the ones making it really good. We’ve got a really good program.”

1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.759, 200.05
2. Richard Gadson, Suzuki, 6.825, 197.74
3. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.827, 196.62
4. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.830, 197.77
5. John Hall, Beull, 6.854, 198.03
6. Jianna Evaristo, Buell, 6.865, 198.32
7. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.879, 197.57
8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.895, 196.50
9. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.896, 195.76
10. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.915, 195.25
11. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.932, 198.96
12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.936, 192.33
13. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.938, 195.25
14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.973, 476.86

Friday Qualifying

Making the quickest run of both sessions in Pro Stock Motorcycle, six-time world champion Matt Smith made a strong statement on Friday, taking the No. 1 spot with a run of 6.788 at 198.52 on his Denso Auto Parts/Matt Smith Racing Buell. Smith is attempting to pick up his second No. 1 qualifier this season and the 54th in his career, but Friday’s two stellar runs also give him a strong shot to possibly unseat Gaige Herrera and end his incredible streak.


Herrera has won eight straight races – tied for the most in PSM history – and 31 consecutive rounds, and a win would tie the defending world champion with Bob Glidden for the most consecutive wins (9) and round wins (35) in NHRA history. Smith, though, has other plans.

“I think we showed at Chicago that we’ve been testing a lot and getting our program back better,” Smith said. “It showed here again. I messed up tuning the bike on Sunday in Chicago and came here to redeem myself. My Denso bike is pretty fast, and I’m pretty happy with what we’ve done so far.

“I’m focused, head down. I’m like a hound dog, I’m a hunting dog right now, on the ground trying to find that 60-foot and make it better and better. We are getting better, and we’ll continue to try to work hard and make our bike as fast as possible.”

Chase Van Sant is currently second after going 6.827 at 196.36 and Herrera is third with a 6.830 at 197.77.

1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.788, 199.64
2. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.827, 196.36
3. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.830, 197.77
4. Richard Gadson, Suzuki, 6.840, 197.13
5. John Hall, Beull, 6.889, 197.54
6. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.896, 195.76
7. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.933, 193.57
8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.936, 192.33
9. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.938, 194.74
10. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.946, 197.57
11. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 7.027, 191.54
12. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.051, 196.50
13. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.055, 476.86
14. Jianna Evaristo, Buell, 7.572, 135.59


The National Hot Rod Association, the largest auto racing organization in the world, has come a long way since Wally Parks founded it in 1951.

Though it has grown into a global sports-entertainment business, NHRA has not lost sight of Parks’ original goal: to provide competitors a place to race. But now those places are deluxe supertracks in major U.S. markets, and the racing runs the gamut from 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters to 5-horsepower Jr. Dragsters. Drag racing’s journey through the decades has been sometimes swift, sometimes rocky, but always exciting and always worth the trip.

In the 1950s, top performance marks were 140 mph in 9 seconds. Today, they’re more than 330 mph in less than 3.7 seconds. Back then, winners earned little more than a trophy and bragging rights. Today’s racers compete for trophies and bragging rights as well as a share of more than $3 million in prize money.

In 2024, NHRA joined forces with Mission Foods to present the world’s fastest motorsports attraction as the flagship sponsor of the national touring series, the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.

Under the leadership of President Glen Cromwell, NHRA raced forward in 2020 with a number of key initiatives, including a multiyear partnership with FOX Sports to televise NHRA events from the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and the Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. FOX Sports networks aired more than 500 hours of programming throughout the year, highlighted by 22 race-day shows, including eight on FOX’s national network, in addition to primetime Friday night qualifying shows, and fans are in for more of the same this year.

NHRA has extremely loyal fans that are committed to the sport they love, and it’s easy to see why. They continue to have the best access to the behind-the-scenes action of racing. NHRA’s open-pits policy allows fans to get an up-close-and personal view of how teams rebuild engines. Drivers are often found in their pit areas, signing autographs and chatting with fans, who have the rare opportunity to get behind the wheel themselves in a variety of racing simulators in the Nitro Alley Fan Zone. Those are just a few reasons NHRA fans continue to be some of the most loyal in any sport.

For more information, log on to, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

About Mission Foods

Great food is a great motivator. It brings everyone to the table and inspires us to explore all kinds of delicious destinations. At Mission®, it drives us to seek the freshest ingredients, simple recipes, diverse flavors and wholesome products that help us discover all the places our tortillas can go. There are better-for-you destinations like with our high protein, low carb, or gluten-free tortillas. Of course, tacos and nachos are favorite stops. We are always up for those.

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