Pro Stock Motorcycle title in sight for Gaige Herrera; Erica Enders looks to win 10th career race in Las Vegas
After a dominant season in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, NHRA rider Gaige Herrera could wrap up the world championship at this weekend’s 23rd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals, while reigning Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders looks to win for the tenth time at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Herrera, who has nine wins this season, could claim his first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series world title this weekend. He currently leads his Vance & Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec by 156 points and reigning world champion Matt Smith by 174.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Herrera said. “It would be cool to wrap it up in Vegas and I think Vegas will be good. That’s where I first rode for Vance & Hines. I want to say that’s where this whole thing started.”
If Herrera claims the championship this weekend, it will mark his first NHRA title and 14th for the Vance & Hines juggernaut. Titans of the field Matt Hines, Andrew Hines and Krawiec have all delivered the team multiple championships and have mentored Herrera throughout this season.
“It’s cool to get to race with Ed. I’ve learned a lot from him this season. He helps with every race. It’s very intimidating to race him,” Herrera said. “We flipped a coin for lanes in St. Louis. I’ve held him back three times this season from getting his 50th (career) win but he’s going to get it, I’ve got a good feeling.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2022 NHRA Nevada Nationals. This season’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. It is the 20th of 21 races during the 2023 season and the fifth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
Enders heads to Vegas with the Pro Stock points lead and with more NHRA wins at the facility than any other competitor. She has an impressive nine wins from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 2022, she won both the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in the spring as well as the NHRA Nevada Nationals in the fall, where she also clinched her fifth NHRA championship.
“To have things go well in Dallas is huge,” Enders said. “To spread the lead just a little bit going into Vegas where we’ve won nine nationals there and it’s no secret that it’s my favorite place to race because it’s just been so good to us. Coming off a win from Dallas, we’re obviously hopeful to carry that momentum into Las Vegas but then you have Pomona that’s points-and-a-half and it can throw a wrench into your spokes. You just have to put your head down and go to work.”
Following her win in Dallas, Enders became the winningest female across all of motorsports, dethroning Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Angelle Sampey. The win gave Enders 47 national event wins and nudged her into the lead. She’ll also go into Vegas with an 85-point lead over Greg Anderson, with Dallas Glenn and Matt Hartford still in contention.
“As a little kid growing up, Angelle was one of my idols. We had her t-shirts and her autographs and to come full circle, it’s pretty incredible. When we made our pro debut in 2005, I only had one national event Wally in Super Gas and the first seven seasons of my pro career went winless. So, it took us a long time to get here. I can remember it like it was yesterday, tying Shirley Muldowney at 18 when we won the U.S. Nationals in 2015 and now here we are at 47. It’s pretty crazy and to not just have it be drag racing but worldwide throughout all of motorsports is pretty substantial.
“While I want to just be viewed as a driver, it’s pretty badass and I’m super thankful for the opportunity. I never thought we’d be racing that long to get that many wins but here we are. It’s been a long journey and it’s been really fun, and it goes to show if you don’t give up, great things can happen.”
In Top Fuel, Leah Pruett enters the Vegas weekend with a slim four-point lead over Doug Kalitta. Steve Torrence is also just 13 points back. In Funny Car, Pruett’s Tony Stewart Racing teammate, Matt Hagan, jumped into the lead with a Dallas win, but he’ll look to hold off the likes of Bob Tasca III and Robert Hight as he seeks his second straight fall Vegas win.
The NHRA Nevada Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, and the Summit Racing Series ET Finals, where national champions will be crowned, including the first EV national championship in NHRA history. The weekend will also include action in the thrilling Nostalgia Funny Car class, while fans can watch a spectacular jet dragster exhibition from Team “Muy Caliente” after nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday.
It’s also the final race of the season in Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown, the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports and the new Factory X presented by Holley category. Fans can also enjoy the finale of the NHRA Summit Series, with drivers competing for a national championship.
As an added attraction, a special drag-and-drive exhibition will take place during the event, with participants in Sick The Magazine’s “Death Week” will be on display for fans interested in NHRA Street Legal Drag Racing. The cars will be paraded in front of the crowd, with fans getting to see the unique cars taking part in the drag-and-drive event.
Before the race weekend, the NHRA’s biggest stars will take over the Fremont St. Experience for the annual fan fest from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26. An autograph session takes place from 5:30-6:30, allowing fans to meet their favorite drivers as part of this great event leading into the race weekend.
On Saturday, the Las Vegas Golden Knights marching band will also perform. Race fans at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 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 NHRA Nevada Nationals event winners.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting 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. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. PT on Friday, Oct. 27, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. PT on Sunday, Oct. 29. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday with eliminations on FS1 at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, call 800-644-4444 or visit www.lvms.com. Children 12 and under are admitted free in general admissions areas with a paid adult. For more information about NHRA, visit www.nhra.com