NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Round-Up – Chicago

By Briar Starr NHRA Staff Writer

For the second time in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season, the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class competed in back-to-back races with the last race taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

So far in 2023, Gaige Herrera has won every race in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. With the class returning for the first time since 2019, many riders were looking to stop Herrera once again. He came in with tons of momentum by already having two class victories to his name and a couple of No. 1 qualifiers as well.

Needless to say, it’s hard to stop anyone with tons of momentum, especially very early on in the season. This weekend, Herrera continues to have the perfect start to the season by winning three races in three starts. 

This week, Kickin’ The Tires recaps the rider’s racers including race winner Gaige Herrera. 

Gaige Herrera – Won the race after eliminating the Matt Smith Racing bike of Chip Ellis. Despite being somewhat late on the light with a 0.041 reaction time to Ellis’s 0.029, Herrera was able to rally around him down the track and won with a pass of 6.717 at 201.25 mph for the third time this season. Also to note, Herrera won the first ever 2Fast2Tasty Challenge in Pro Stock Motorcycle on Saturday.

“It gives me a whole lot of confidence having a bike like this,” said Herrera, who made the second, third, and fourth-quickest runs in class history this weekend. “This whole Vance & Hines team has this bike on rails and it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. To get a third straight win and do it in front of these friends, it means a lot. I’m so excited about this.

“You couldn’t draw it up any better than this. We’ve got a lot of friends and family here, and it’s a special one. It’s just a dream right now for us.”

Chip Ellis – A stellar day for Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Chip Ellis and the Matt Smith Racing team. Ellis had round wins over Chris Bostick, Chase Van Sant, and eventually, Hector Arana Jr in the semi-finals. It was the first time since Charlotte of 2016 that Ellis made the finals where he faced Matt Smith. Unfortunately, like that day back in 2016, Ellis was once again runner-up with an E.T. of 6.791 at 200.26 mph. Even with the loss, this was an impressive outing for Ellis and the company. 

“What a weekend!” Ellis said in a Facebook post. “We finished runner-up in Chicago this weekend aboard the MSR/Denso Buell. I can’t thank Matt and Angie Smith enough for the opportunity they gave me this weekend. Angie made sure the engine was running great and swapped valve springs for me on Saturday night. She is such an important part of this team. Matt did an amazing job tuning the motorcycle and more importantly, he helped me keep my focus.”

“He (Matt Smith) has an amazing team surrounding him. Nate Kendrick is the man that makes sure all four bikes under the tent have everything they need. The rest of the crew consists of Tommy McDonald and Ferris Webb. These guys helped get the bike turned around every run quickly and efficiently. Lisa Michler from Denso, thank you for all your support for what you do for this team. Thank you again to everyone on this team for an awesome weekend of racing. Can’t wait to get back out there. Now time to get back to work.”

Eddie Krawiec – Finished 3rd after coming short in the semis. Krawiec faced his Vance and Hines teammate Gaige Herrera in E3. Krawiec cut the faster reaction time of 0.008 to Herrera’s 0.016. It looked as though Herrera’s winning streak was going to come to an end during this round with Krawiec being faster. However, Krawiec was caught by his teammate at the sixty-foot mark and ultimately ended with a run of 6.776 at 200.71 mph. 

“With both elapsed time and 60 ft times varying only 1-2 hundredths in the last 5 runs, I think we now have got a consistent motorcycle under me,” Krawiec said. “We can now start making changes to help improve the overall package to run faster.”

“Making it to the semi-finals was a good day for my points position. If I lose to anyone I would want it to be my teammate allowing one of our bikes to move on. Qualifying on opposite sides is now our focus. The longer we can avoid running into each other the better it will be for both of us.”

Hector Arana Jr – Placed fourth in the running order. Arana Jr could only muster a semi-final appearance this past weekend and fell to the eventual final-round appearance of Chip Ellis. Arana Jr had a little trouble with his bike going down the track as the bike was bogging. While Arana Jr quickly grabbed a hold of the bike and began charging back toward Ellis, it was too little too late, and fell with a 6.825 at 201.22 mph. 

“Great weekend overall,” Arana Jr said in a Facebook post. “We almost had a weekend with every pass in the ’70s and we had every pass over 200 mph. This is a big statement and shows that we’re at home working hard to make more power and catch up! This is just the beginning!” 

Joey Gladstone – Gladstone earns a top-five finish after being eliminated by Krawiec. Gladstone posted a time of 6.781 at 197.54 mph. Gladstone did a have-round victory over Ryan Oehler in Round 1 after Oehler fouled too soon -0.150 on the starting line. 

Matt Smith – Smith finished 6th following a quarterfinal loss to Hector Arana Jr. Smith left first off the line, however, Arana Jr powered around him and Smith lost by 12 feet with a time of 6.842 at 198.61 mph.

“I had a fast bike, but I struggled with the tune-up on Sunday,” Matt Smith said. “We are proud that Chip Ellis went to the finals on our MSR BUELL!”

Chase Van Sant – Faced longtime Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Steve Johnson in Round 1 and was successful with a holeshot victory, then fell in E2 to eventual runner-up Chip Ellis after fouling too soon. Finished 7th in the running order. Van Sant also participated in the first-ever Pro Stock Motorcycle 2Fast2Tasty Challenge coming up short against Herrera in the finals. 

“Chicago was a pretty decent rebound for the team and I after Charlotte,” Van Sant said. “We had a minor issue with the clutch in Q1 that caused us to be a little behind where we wanted to be throughout qualifying, but it was promising knowing we were headed in the right direction. It was a really cool deal to be involved in the first final round of the Mission Food 2 Fast 2 Tasty Challenge and get some redemption on Angie (Smith).”

“The first round against Steve (Johnson) was a really fun and tight race, and it was good for me to build some confidence winning on a hole shot and having to ride for it a little bit. Unfortunately, in the second round, I think the clutch got a little warm right after the burnout, and when I got on the 2-step against Chip (Ellis), the bike started pulling forward and staged me a lot deeper than I wanted to be and went -.020 red.

“Definitely a frustrating round knowing we had the performance to progress, but I know we have a lot more in the tank and I’ll keep learning every chance I get to throw a leg over the bike. I’m looking forward to Bristol, I’ve never been to that facility but it looks amazing and I can’t wait for another chance to go some rounds.”

Marc Ingwersen – A better outing this time around for Ingwersen and his motorcycle, who placed 8th at the end of the day. Ingwersen was the No.9 qualifier and won his first-round match with Angie Smith with a near-perfect reaction time of 0.002. Unfortunately, Ingwersen had a tough opponent in the quarterfinals with Gaige Herrera and was eliminated early despite having the early holeshot. 

Steve Johnson – Uncharacteristic-like day for Steve Johnson who was eliminated in E1 by Van Sant following a holeshot win by his opponent. Johnson’s run was 6.800 at 198.85 mph. However, it was the reaction time and speed of Van Sant of 0.004 at 200.23 mph to win over Johnson. 

“The fun, work, and frustration of racing can be just like any other career,” Johnson said. “So when your A game isn’t enough it’s time to work a little bit smarter.”

Kelly Clontz – Eliminated early by Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith. Clontz qualified 11th and was very slow off the line with a 0.102 reaction time and Smith already had a big lead over Clontz when all was said and done. Finished 10th. 

“The Steam Filters UALocal 602 team remains positive after an early exit round 1,” Clontz said in a Facebook post. “They’ll regroup and prepare for Bristol.” 

Angie Smith – Speaking of uncharacteristic-like days, Sunday was one to forget for former race winner Angie Smith. Entering her first-round race with Ingwersen, she was 1-0 and had an impressive 14-3 win-loss record in Round 1 last year in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Smith was out early after Ingwersen eliminated her by a holeshot. 

“We are disappointed with our performance from Chicago,” Angie Smith said. “We struggled getting my bike to 60ft. We will study the data and get things ready for Bristol.”

Ryan Oehler – Oehler’s day was over at the start line by going red quickly out of the gate and placed 12th. 

“We were on our way, the bike was finally going straight,” Oehler said in a Facebook post. “We turned on the red light again, which ended our day short. However, the bike was trying to drag me through the beams on the two-step and there wasn’t a lot we could really do there.” 

“The most important thing is we don’t have to worry about the bike going to the right and fearing for our life in front of all the great fans like we yesterday (Saturday Qualifying) here at Route 66 Nationals. We’re moving on to Bristol and we’ll put on a lot better show there.” 

Jianna Evaristo – She finished 13th after she was eliminated by Eddie Krawiec. Evaristo and the Matt Smith Racing bike were faster with a reaction time of 0.016 compared to Krawiec’s 0.052. Sadly, Krawiec chased her motorcycle down the track and won by 23 feet, ending Evaristo’s day early. 

“If racing has taught me anything, it’s that your largest fears carry your greatest growth,” Evaristo said in a Facebook post. 

“This past weekend, I returned to the track where I had my first crash back in 2019. I’ll be the first to admit that when announced we would be returning to Chicago this year, a massive wave of fear overcame me. Even though I lost in the first round, I left Chicago extremely proud. Looking back on this weekend, I am proud of the progress I have made since my journey began in 2019.” 

“I can’t thank my team Matt and Angie Smith, Cookie and Nate of Team Scrappers for their continued support and dedication towards helping me become a better rider. I would not have been able to get through this weekend without them.” 

“And lastly, I like to thank my family for their words of encouragement and support this weekend. And thank you Jasmine Salinas for filling in for Monica Salinas with her pre-run hugs.” 

John Hall – An early foul left him 14th. Hall was -0.014 too soon and went red right away. 

Chris Bostick – Like Hall and Oehler, Bostick was done at the staging lanes, going red -0.013 too soon and finished 15th. 

Ron Tornow – Was unable to place a time and ended up last on the running order. However, there was more to the story as to why Tornow couldn’t race against Herrera in E1.  

“My Chicago weekend is one I would like to forget,” Tornow said. “It started with a broken cell phone screen while loading the trailer, then a bad batch of diesel fuel on the way (to the track) that nearly stranded us on the highway. I limped the rig there at 30 MPH for the last several miles. In qualifying I made driving mistakes in every round that nearly got us bumped out of the show.”

“In round one on Sunday, I got lined up too far back, and in my attempt to hurry up and get to the pre-stage and stage beams, I just rushed myself and got out of my normal routine. I didn’t want to hold Gaige (Herrera) up, and in my haste, I left as soon as Gaige lit the stage bulb. The bad luck continued after we left the track. The antenna on the motorhome didn’t get lowered completely and when we went under the low overpass that is near the track, it got destroyed. I’m hoping for a much better outcome at Bristol in a few weeks.” 

Official NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Results following Route 66 Nationals 

  1. Gaige Herrera 
  2. Chip Ellis 
  3. Eddie Krawiec
  4. Hector Arana Jr 
  5. Joey Gladstone 
  6. Matt Smith 
  7. Chase Van Sant
  8. Marc Ingwersen 
  9. Steve Johnson 
  10. Kelly Clontz
  11. Angie Smith
  12. Ryan Oehler 
  13. Jianna Evaristo 
  14. John Hall 
  15. Chris Bostick 
  16. Ron Tornow 

Official NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle following Chicago 

  1. Gaige Herrera, 382 points
  2. Eddie Krawiec, -169
  3. Matt Smith, -175
  4. Chase Van Sant, -212
  5. Hector Arana Jr, -218
  6. Joey Gladstone, -220 
  7. Angie Smith, -223
  8. Steve Johnson, -233
  9. Jianna Evaristo, -245
  10. Chip Ellis, -247 

The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class will take a few weeks off before returning to the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, June 9-11 with a scheduled telecast for Sunday, June 11 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. 

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