NHRA Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, March 18-20, 2016

Krawiec Runs the Table at The Gators

story, video and photos by NHRA, Tim Hailey, and team reports

 

3X champ Eddie Krawiec

Eddie Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.820 at 198.23 to defeat Hector Arana’s 6.920 at 196.44 on his Lucas Oil Buell in the Pro Stock Motorcycle at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. This marks Krawiec’s 32nd career win and his fourth victory at Gainesville Raceway. As the No. 1 qualifier, Krawiec outran Michael Phillips, Jerry Savoie and teammate and world champion Andrew Hines to make it to the final.

“Going out there I had a great motorcycle,” Krawiec said. “I have a great crew behind me, but the key thing for me was to not screw it up. You have the first round jitters after four months of not racing, but I knew I had a fast motorcycle. We’re all really excited, everybody back at our shop. We’re glad one of our Harley-Davidsons got the win.”

"We've been blessed to start the season by going to the finals," Arana said. "It's past my expectations because when we left the shop last week, we weren't ready. We assembled the motors at the last minute because we were waiting for parts, so to come here and go this far, it's great."

The final round was the 23rd of his career, and it was his 16th career runner-up finish. Arana left first with a .032-second reaction time, but Krawiec had the bike to beat all weekend, and he outran Arana with a pass of 6.820 seconds at 198.23 mph. Arana, meanwhile, had a run of 6.920 at 196.44 mph.

Arana's riding matched the performance of his Lucas Oil bike, as he left first on three of his four opponents, including an .011 light in the semifinals and a .018 light in the second round. "Over the off-season, I didn't even have one chance to sit on the bike and practice or look at the Tree," Arana said. "The main thing is to stay calm and hit the Tree, and that was my main focus. I didn't have the opportunity to do it once in the off-season, but I'm happy with the overall performance.

"We've got to go and work hard because I need the same thing for (son) Hector (Arana Jr.) and his bike."

While Hector Jr. struggled this weekend, his dad made progress. Arana qualified No. 2 with a stellar pass in the final qualifying session and then continued that speed throughout Sunday. He made a run of 6.820 at 196.39 mph in the first round to beat Mike Berry (6.958 at 192.58) and then took out Michael Ray with a pass of 6.879 at 196.56 mph (to Ray's 6.931 at 195.79 mph).

Both Arana and L.E. Tonglet were good on the Tree in the semi's, as Tonglet had a .017 light, but Arana's bike was a tick quicker, 6.869 at 196.44 mph to Tonglet's 6.888 at 195.00 mph.

Those runs were a far cry from Friday's qualifying sessions, where Arana didn't make the best runs. "We were calm," Arana said. "In the beginning, we were behind the eight ball because I missed the first qualifying run, so there goes one clutch tune-up. Then, when Hector wasn't in in the third round, I was all worried and I made another mistake, so I lost two runs.

"But when he got in, I was happy and forgot about everything else. From then on, it seems like everything came together and the pressure was less."

And Arana raced without pressure on Sunday, too. "I did my job here," Arana said. "I'm going to hold my head up. We just have to go to work and find more. That's the only way you're going to stay ahead of the game, keep on working."

Rickie Smith at Indy last year

Two-time world champion "Tricky" Rickie Smith outran Danny Rowe in the final round to win the NHRA J&A Services Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Gators. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, co-presented by Pro Line Racing and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc., is the first of 10 events on the season.

Smith’s late model IDG Chevrolet Camaro powered to a performance of 5.829 seconds at 249.86 mph to hold off Rowe’s Agave Underground Tequila ’68 Chevy Camaro that raced a 5.869 at 233.76. It was Smith’s ninth victory and second at Gainesville Raceway. He was runner-up here in 2014.

Smith took out Steven Whiteley, last year’s Gatornationals champ, Mike Castellana, and Chip King to meet Rowe in the finals. "Just like to say thanks to all the fans out there that pull for Chad (Rickie's 1-man crew Chad Hester) and me and the IDG team," Smith said in the Eatmyink.com Facebook Group. "So happy to still be racing—thanks I DG!"

Rowe, who qualified 15th, was looking for his fifth career victory and first at Gainesville. He defeated Robert Patrick Jr., Steve Matusek and former Pro Stock driver, Jonathan Gray in the earlier rounds. Rowe was runner-up behind Khalid alBalooshi here in 2011.

Brittany Force (photo by Richard Shute)

Brittany Force raced to her first career victory and took control of the Top Fuel point standings. Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a 3.772-second run at 318.77 mph to outlast Terry McMillen’s 3.981 at 266.90 in his Amalie Motor Oil XTERMIGATOR dragster. This was Force’s eighth career final round appearance and first ever at Gainesville Raceway. After also racing to the finals three weeks ago in Phoenix, Force became the first female Top Fuel racer to appear in back-to-back finals since Melanie Troxel in 2006. As the No. 5 qualifier, Force defeated Morgan Lucas, Tripp Tatum and Dave Connolly before beating McMillen in the final.

“It feels good to finally bring home the win,” said Force, daughter of 16-time Funny Car champion John Force. “Our car was on fire all weekend. It went down there and had great runs. This is a very proud moment for me and the John Force Racing team, the Monster Energy team. It took everyone to get us here.”

The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster was the quickest dragster in every round of eliminations. In Force’s opening round win she posted a stellar 3.739 second run at 319.45 mph over Lucas Oil backed Morgan Lucas. In the next round she got the win light with a 3.808 second run over rookie Tripp Tatum who was the 26th different Top Fuel opponent for Force. In the semi-finals Force won with an outstanding run of 3.729 seconds, quickest Top Fuel run of the day and advanced to the final by dispatching Dave Connolly.

Brittany is sixth different driver to get their first pro win with Alan Johnson after Blaine Johnson in 1995, Gary Scelzi in 1997, Bruce Sarver in 2000, Shawn Langdon in 2012 and Khalid alBalooshi, also in 2012.

This was Force’s eighth final round and she faced her sixth different opponent. McMillen joined a list that included Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, JR Todd, Richie Crampton and Leah Pritchett. She joins Hall of Famers Del Worsham (2011) and Eddie Hill (1988) along with four others as first time Top Fuel winners at the Gatornationals.

“Last weekend was incredible and we almost made it there and I was definitely very bummed but very proud of my entire team because they worked so hard to get here. Today when we came out here, and driving out to the track and I was feeling good,” said Force from the winner’s circle stage. “As a driver I had that feeling, I had it in my stomach and just felt like we were going to go all the way. We finally did and I have been chasing this for so many years and this is a proud moment to be standing here today. I have to thank my entire team, my crew chiefs Brian Husen and Alan Johnson – thank you for getting us here. I love all my guys. Thank you to my family, especially my dad, for giving me this opportunity.

“I believe Courtney was in tears, she had her sunglasses on and it was hard to tell, but she was very excited. My mom was screaming and jumping up and down and my dad actually didn’t say much for once. He was speechless and was a little emotional and I don’t even think he said anything. He gave me a hug. They were very excited for me and I was happy to have every single one of them there.”

“Took several years for (Brittany) to struggle and go through all the teams that she loved and the crew chiefs. But what Alan (Johnson) said, was that you could put me over there with that other stuff but to make me any better, put me with what I know. And that is what we did,” said John Force. “It’s early in the season, but just mentally this is great to deliver for Monster Energy, to deliver for Chevrolet, to deliver for Auto Club that’s been so loyal to us, to Mac Tools, to Peak and everybody. The only one that didn’t deliver today was me, but what I think I am looking at is that I made the right calls. A lot of it is money, and I have had to take money out of my pocket to make this program work. I invested in this Top Fuel team and in Alan Johnson and he made this team work.”

At the end of the day Force’s crew chief Brian Husen was relieved and excited to get Force’s first win out of the way. "Everyone has been working their tails off, and it is great to see it all come to fruition. Nobody is slacking on this team and it is more of a relief. I wasn't worried whether we were going to get her that first win or not. It was more a matter of when. Now we have got that out of the way and can be done with it," said Monster Energy crew chief Brian Husen.

McMillen, also appearing in his first ever final round, sped past defending world champ Antron Brown, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and Clay Millican before having engine problems in the final against Force. McMillen jumped from 10th to fifth in points.

A Top Fule highlight was 84-year-old Chris "the Golden Greek" Karamesines' round 1 win over No. 1 qualifier Richie Crampton. The round-win seemed a mere formality after Crampton peeled off the fifth-quickest pass in history during qualifying, blistering Gainesville Raceway with a track-record 3.698 at 319.37 mph, while Karamesines failed to get down the track under power. But there are no "gimmes" in this sport, and when the lights flashed Sunday morning it was Karamesines reaching the finish line well ahead of Crampton.

"I'm pretty stunned at the moment," Crampton said. "The car didn't seem to move an inch and the tires immediately lost traction. It's a huge disappointment after such an awesome qualifying effort, and I'm sick about this result. I guess losing to another Lucas Oil-sponsored car is the only silver lining. Good on 'the Greek' and that team."

Adding to his huge performance advantage, Crampton reacted to the green light a massive .111-second before Karamesines, but he was lost in tire smoke a fraction of a second later while Karamesines labored down the track with several cylinders out. Although Crampton tried to pedal and get the car going again, it was too far gone, with Karamesines crossing first with a 4.039 at 276.92 mph to his resigned 7.567 at 94.33 mph.

"When you smoke the tires that early it's almost impossible to get it under control and get moving again," Crampton said. "I tried to pedal it because I could see he was having a bit of engine trouble but it wouldn't hook back up, and when I saw his car streaking away I just said, 'Enough of this,' and saved the engine from any damage.

"Aaron (Brooks) has already made the call for us to stay and test tomorrow. This one hurts a bit, and while we're thrilled to have been top qualifier, we want to make sure we can be consistent as well. I'm very confident we'll be back at it in Las Vegas and hopefully we can make amends for letting this one slip from our grasp."

Leah Pritchett raced to victory in Phoenix three weeks ago, and with Force’s victory in Gainesville, this is the first time since 1990 that female Top Fuel racers have won back-to-back events.

Pritchett’s Phoenix win was also the first of her career, so Gainesville marks the first time there have been back-to-back first-time Top Fuel winners since 1993.



Robert Hight (photo by Gary Nastase)

John Force Racing doubled up for the first time in team history as Robert Hight pushed his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to a 4.429 at 280.95, outrunning Ron Capps’ 7.047 at 89.05 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. This is Hight’s first win in 2016 and third at Gainesville. He qualified third and beat Terry Haddock, Matt Hagan and Chad Head en route to earning his 37th career win. Hight leads the Funny Car points. “We’ve had a great race car the first two races, so we actually felt that we let a couple slip by that we actually could have won,” Hight said. “To come in here and actually get it done, and get it done with Brittany, both of us leaving with the points lead, man it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s finally paying off.”

Capps, who has three victories in five final round appearances at Gainesville, raced past John Hale, Cruz Pedregon and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman in the first three rounds. Capps is second in points.

“When you race Ron Capps, he's been doing this a long time and I think he's No. 2 in Funny Car wins, he's one of the best out here. When you go against him and win in a pedal contest, it's pretty rewarding. As a driver, its fun to win those every once in a while. You want to go out there and win low ET, but when you can win it pedaling it -- especially against Ron Capps -- it's pretty awesome,” said Hight in the Gainesville Raceway pressroom.

The first round was impressive for Hight taking out Terry Haddock 3.973 seconds to 4.206 seconds. In the second round Hight had to race Matt Hagan in a tough match-up but Hight’s Mike Neff tuned-up Funny Car was up for the challenge getting the win 3.969 to 4.192. The closest race for the now 37-time winner was the semi-final against Chad Head. Hight once again ran 3.969 seconds just in front of Head’s impressive 4.030 second pass.

"Today was a battle of attrition for a lot of teams," said Capps, who qualified No. 5 after winning the pole two weeks ago. " It was just a strange day. Sometimes you have these days in racing. It was just a strange for a lot of teams and not just ours."

The day began with Capps beating John Hale in the opening round that was a repeat of the final round a year ago. In the second round, he eliminated former world champion Cruz Pedregon to set-up a semifinal match against pole-winner and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman.

After Capps and Beckman returned to the starting line after their burnouts, Capps was unaware smoke was bellowing from the opening in Beckman's car after a bearing seized in the supercharger and it was apparent to everyone else at the track that Capps would virtually have a bye run. Beckman said, "At that point you pretty much know the only chance you have is to make the other car redlight so I changed my entire starting line routine. Ron's experienced and he didn't fall for it."

Capps lost traction and veered left. "I had trouble and it's a good thing I didn't cross the centerline and get disqualified because that would have given him the win. That was the first time our NAPA Dodge smoked the tires since testing in Phoenix before the season started."

In the final, Hight and Capps smoked the tires again but so did Hight. "I was confident that we were going to go up there against Hight and run in the (3.90-second range) and if they beat us they beat us. But we went out and pulled the tires loose pretty violently. I was trying to catch it and then Robert smoked his but was able to catch it quicker.

"All in all we ended up qualifying good again and made it to our second final round this year. It hurts now but it a couple days it will feel better because we got to the final round again. But when you get to the final you expect to win it."

Hight joins Kenny Bernstein, Gordie Bonin and Ron Capps as a three-time Gatornationals winner. This was Hight’s third win in five years at the historic track and his second with crew chief Mike Neff who also has a win at the Gatornationals as a driver. This win also extends Hight’s streak of winning at least one Funny Car national event every year of his professional career which started in 2005.

“The first five or six years I came here I don't think I won a round. It's funny; sometimes you just have a racetrack that you do well at and this is one of them now. I'm very fortunate to be driving for (crew chief) Mike Neff, and this is my second win at Gainesville with Mike Neff. This is a major race. When you look at the majors in golf, this is a major. To win a major here, the East Coast kickoff, is pretty rewarding.”

Every John Force Racing race car won in the first round for the second consecutive event. No. 9 qualifier John Force outran reigning Funny Car world champion Del Worsham in the first round. It was a close race with Force and his PEAK Anti-freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro getting to the finish line first with a time of 4.000 seconds as Worsham crossed with a time of 4.474 seconds.

In the second round John Force gave up lane choice to Jack Beckman by a slim margin but as the tree came down Force’s foot hit the pedal .162 seconds early handing the victory to Beckman with a red-light start. As Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car came off the starting line he watched as Beckman’s Funny Car went up into smoke, lost power and coasted down the right lane with a winning time of 8.061 seconds. It was Force’s 25th career red-light in 1,762 elimination rounds. His last red-light came at the 2014 Spring Nationals in Houston.

“As an owner, you can’t expect much more than this today. You look at Robert Hight and the Auto Club team and we know he knows how to drive a race car with(crew chief) Mike Neff. The whole operation, with all the changes, we expected that car to come around. Robert’s driving ability on the race track is unbelievable,” said John Force.

At the end of the day Force took in the entire team’s success and summed up a historic day for his organization.



Greg Anderson gets a holeshot win over teammate Jason Line

In Pro Stock, Anderson raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to a holeshot win against Ken Black Racing teammate and points leader Jason Line. Anderson posted a 6.590 at 210.01 and used a quicker reaction time to cross the finish line before his teammate, who powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.581 at 210.57. Anderson raced past V. Gaines, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Allen Johnson in the earlier rounds. The KB Racing duo of Anderson and Line has combined to win the first three Pro Stock events this year.

“The whole weekend was great for KB Racing,” Anderson said. “These races are not decided on paper, they’re decided on the racetrack every time. We are human and things happen different on the starting line. Somehow, I overachieved in the final and stole a victory from Jason. Good for me, but it’s still great for KB Racing. No matter had happened in the final round, it was a victory for the team. I can’t be prouder of the race team I’m on.”

Line, who won the last event in Phoenix, qualified first and had a first round bye. He then defeated Vincent Nobile and 2015 Rookie of the Year Drew Skillman in the second and third rounds respectively. Line has four victories in six final round appearances at Gainesville. This is second consecutive year Line has lost to Anderson in the final at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. "I was frustrated with myself because I didn’t do a very good job (in the final)," said Line. "We had two great hot rods. We aren’t going to trade these two Camaros for anything. We’ll go home and go back to work. You can’t stop digging. It’s fun to come to the track every week knowing you have a good chance to win.”

The Pro Mod Drag Racing Series returns April 29-May 1 at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series travels to Las Vegas, April 1-3, for the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.854, 197.39 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.901, 192.30; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.820, 196.39 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.958, 192.58; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.855, 195.31 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.132, 189.92; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.846, 195.51 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.895, 193.96; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.867, 196.85 def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, Foul - Red Light; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.852, 196.10 def. Angie Smith, 7.034, 191.16; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.780, 198.12 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.955, 194.16; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.901, 196.04 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.931, 188.99;
QUARTERFINALS -- Hines, 6.907, 196.27 def. Underdahl, 6.906, 196.70; Tonglet, 6.863, 196.73 def. Ellis, 6.871, 196.93; Arana, 6.879, 196.56 def. Ray, 6.931, 195.79; Krawiec, 6.791, 198.35 def. Savoie, 6.903, 190.35;
SEMIFINALS -- Arana, 6.869, 196.44 def. Tonglet, 6.888, 195.00; Krawiec, 6.803, 197.31 def. Hines, 6.872, 195.53;
FINAL -- Krawiec, 6.820, 198.23 def. Arana, 6.920, 196.44.

PRO MODIFIED:

ROUND ONE -- Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 5.845, 244.43 def. Pete Farber, Daytona, 9.081, 99.95; Steve Matusek, Chevy Camaro, 5.873, 247.57 def. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.822, 256.65; Bob Rahaim, Corvette, 5.835, 247.20 def. Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, 6.091, 249.95; Mike Castellana, Corvette, 5.812, 247.47 def. Mike Janis, Camaro, 6.119, 235.10; Sidnei Frigo, Corvette, 5.810, 254.04 def. Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 8.643, 85.99; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.784, 250.23 def. Steven Whiteley, Cadillac CTS-V, 5.901, 246.35; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 5.751, 258.02 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 5.913, 245.81; Danny Rowe, Corvette, 6.016, 243.41 def. Robert Patrick Jr., Mustang, 6.965, 151.15; QUARTERFINALS -- Rowe, 5.881, 246.62 def. Matusek, 5.876, 249.21; King, 5.860, 245.54 def. Frigo, 5.839, 253.61; R. Smith, 5.838, 249.03 def. Castellana, 5.907, 245.27; Gray, 5.827, 256.06 def. Rahaim, 5.913, 247.07; SEMIFINALS -- R. Smith, 5.854, 249.39 def. King, 6.968, 148.54; Rowe, 5.901, 246.17 def. Gray, 5.850, 253.23; FINAL -- R. Smith, 5.829, 249.86 def. Rowe, 5.869, 233.76.

TOP FUEL:
ROUND ONE -- Chris Karamesines, 4.039, 276.92 def. Richie Crampton, 7.583, 94.22; Clay Millican, 3.757, 324.28 def. Ike Maier, 3.920, 297.02; Terry McMillen, 3.850, 310.34 def. Antron Brown, 9.021, 75.74; Tripp Tatum, 3.866, 315.42 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.446, 213.03; Brittany Force, 3.739, 319.45 def. Morgan Lucas, 3.770, 316.75; Tony Schumacher, 4.229, 244.69 def. Shawn Langdon, 6.745, 113.40; J.R. Todd, 3.751, 324.36 def. Steve Torrence, 3.781, 324.05; Dave Connolly, 3.758, 323.27 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.575, 177.09;
QUARTERFINALS -- McMillen, 3.945, 305.49 def. Schumacher, 8.115, 87.22; Connolly, 3.839, 307.44 def. Karamesines, 4.018, 299.33; Millican, 3.911, 303.30 def. Todd, 4.155, 252.05; Force, 3.808, 311.05 def. Tatum, 3.890, 320.05;
SEMIFINALS -- McMillen, 3.828, 313.66 def. Millican, 6.537, 94.25; Force, 3.729, 323.89 def. Connolly, 3.861, 305.36;
FINAL -- Force, 3.772, 318.77 def. McMillen, 3.981, 266.90.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE -- Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.513, 198.52 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 10.459, 87.64; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.973, 324.67 def. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 4.206, 291.82; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.919, 324.90 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 12.641, 77.99; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.958, 318.99 def. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.680, 181.25; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.059, 314.02 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.101, 308.43; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.966, 316.82 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.992, 312.28; Chad Head, Camry, 3.991, 318.92 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.020, 313.73; John Force, Camaro, 4.000, 322.81 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.474, 213.06;
QUARTERFINALS -- Hight, 3.969, 324.12 def. Hagan, 4.192, 239.82; Beckman, 8.061, 74.61 def. J. Force, Foul - Red Light; Head, 3.967, 318.62 def. C. Force, 3.992, 322.81; Capps, 4.002, 314.90 def. Pedregon, 4.584, 186.20;
SEMIFINALS -- Capps, 6.151, 194.80 def. Beckman, Broke; Hight, 3.969, 323.04 def. Head, 4.030, 313.37;
FINAL -- Hight, 4.429, 280.95 def. Capps, Foul - Centerline.

PRO STOCK:
ROUND ONE -- Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.677, 208.46 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 7.205, 150.13; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.634, 208.97 def. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.639, 208.65; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.632, 209.14 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.458, 140.77; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.619, 209.79 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul - Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.581, 210.28 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.656, 208.78; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.594, 209.88 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.748, 206.20; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.562, 210.87 was unopposed; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.599, 208.75 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.701, 208.07;
QUARTERFINALS -- Skillman, 6.693, 208.42 def. Laughlin, 6.848, 206.89; Johnson, 6.675, 208.04 def. Butner, 6.637, 209.26; Anderson, 6.621, 209.75 def. Coughlin, 12.830, 91.11; Line, 6.594, 210.57 def. Nobile, 7.039, 159.42;
SEMIFINALS -- Anderson, 6.596, 209.98 def. Johnson, 6.646, 208.59; Line, 6.584, 210.41 def. Skillman, 6.640, 208.30;
FINAL -- Anderson, 6.598, 210.01 def. Line, 6.581, 210.57.

Point standings (top 10) following the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 129; 2. Hector Arana, 99; 3. Andrew Hines, 79; 4. LE Tonglet, 74; 5. Chip Ellis, 62; 6. (tie) Michael Ray, 52; Jerry Savoie, 52; Jim Underdahl, 52; 9. Angelle Sampey, 35; 10. (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 33.
Melissa Surber, 33.

Pro Modified

1. Rickie Smith, 115; 2. Danny Rowe, 91; 3. Jonathan Gray, 76; 4. Chip King, 72; 5. Sidnei Frigo, 58; 6. (tie) Mike Castellana, 54; Bob Rahaim, 54; 8. Steve Matusek, 52; 9. Robert Patrick Jr., 37; 10. (tie) Troy Coughlin, 33. Pete Farber, 33.

Top Fuel
1. Brittany Force, 251; 2. Clay Millican, 210; 3. Doug Kalitta, 205; 4. Steve Torrence, 199; 5. Terry McMillen, 178; 6. Leah Pritchett, 166; 7. J.R. Todd, 157; 8. Tony Schumacher, 155; 9. Richie Crampton, 153; 10. Antron Brown, 149.

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight, 280; 2. Ron Capps, 279; 3. John Force, 221; 4. Jack Beckman, 205; 5. Courtney Force, 201; 6. Del Worsham, 189; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 183; 8. Chad Head, 162; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 119; 10. Matt Hagan, 118.

Pro Stock

1. Jason Line, 337; 2. Greg Anderson, 331; 3. Bo Butner, 233; 4. Drew Skillman, 205; 5. Chris McGaha, 161; 6. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 160; Allen Johnson, 160; 8. Vincent Nobile, 138; 9. Alex Laughlin, 121; 10. Erica Enders, 97.

3X champ Eddie Krawiec

Eddie Krawiec improved to a 6.801 at 196.42 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to become the No. 1 qualifier at the first of 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle events in 2016—the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Krawiec has 28 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and two at Gainesville. He has won this event three times and was the event runner-up one year ago. Krawiec will face Michael Phillips in the first round of eliminations.

“You want to get back on that motorcycle,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champion. “Definitely wanted to come out here to Gainesville, blow the dust off, get the cobwebs behind me and start moving forward. The key yesterday was making a good lap off the trailer and setting the tone for the weekend. Anybody could win. Every round is important and every round you have to do your best.”

Hector Arana qualified second with a 6.821 at 197.10 on his Lucas Oil Buell and will go up against Mike Berry in Sunday’s opening round. "We've got a new member on the team (crew chief William Cavallo), so we're still learning to work together, and he's learning us, too," Arana said. "There's a lot of family, a lot of friends -- from Puerto Rico, Aruba, Miami -- and it has been overwhelming. It always seems like there's a lot happening at Gainesville: Teching the bike, teching the frames, a lot of meetings with NHRA.

"There's always a lot of pressure. It seems like you're always behind the eight ball."

Arana was solidly in the field heading into the final qualifying session, but his Q4 pass rocketed him to the top half of the field. "Now, I just wish I could've gone .79," Arana said with a laugh. "You know how it is. But I was so tired that if you would've talked to me after Q3, I was bummed out. I had no energy, but to run an .82, I'm pumped up. I'm going over the whole bike and looking over things carefully. I have the energy, and I have a big smile.

"The bike left good, and it felt good. It felt really good, but I was not expecting the .82. That came as a surprise, but it was the highlight for me."

Chip Ellis posted a 6.829 at 195.34 on his Junior Pippin Trucking Company Buell to qualify third. Ellis will battle Hector Arana Jr. in the first round.

Arana Jr. had his prayers answered in the final qualifying session with a run he called the "Hail Mary of Hail Marys," putting his Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell in the No. 14 qualifying spot.

Arana had struggled in qualifying for the season-opening Pro Stock Motorcycle race, and he was outside the top 16 heading into Q4, but he tried not to feel the pressure and instead embraced it.
"You know what? I said, 'This is no different than a final round,' " Arana said. "Hopefully, this is practice for the pressure of the finals."

Arana clipped off a solid pass of 6.917 seconds at 194.13 mph to jump into the field. He avoided missing a race since the first time he tried to make a field, here in 2011, a streak of 81 consecutive races. "All I could do is do my job and ride the bike as best I can," Arana said. "I went up there, took an extra breath to stay relaxed, and popped the clutch. I knew once the bike left and it didn't bog or spin the tire that we had a really good shot. I tucked as tight as a good, paid attention to my shift line, and crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. They said it ran a .91, so I said, 'Whew.' I've never been so happy to run a .91.

"Now we've got to go over everything and hopefully get something figured out for tomorrow. I feel great. My lights have been pretty good this weekend, and I feel relaxed and comfortable on the bike. The way I'm looking at it is I'm on the bottom of the page, but if I knock that guy out, now I'm back on top. We'll go from there."

"I was just happy when Hector qualified," Arana Sr. said. "As soon as he ran a .91, he was in, and then I saw the guys who could've knocked him out go one by one and he stayed there. He took the pressure off me, and I was so happy."

Five-time and defending world champion Andrew Hines pushed his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the fourth place qualifier and will begin eliminations against Angie Smith.

Stunningly, Angie's husband Matt did not qualify. The two-time world champion failed to qualify his Victory Gunner, ending a streak of 186 consecutive NHRA starts that dates back to 2004. "It's unbelievable to me that we had so many problems in four rounds of qualifying," said Matt, the 2007 and 2013 series champion. "We tested so well this off-season, running 6.82s at 195-plus mph all day long, and we get here and have nothing but problems.

"I'm extremely frustrated right now, to say the least. We had one of the longest qualifying streaks in the class and now that's gone. All we can do is regroup, test some more, and be ready to start fresh at the next race."

Angie, on the other hand, was excited to have made the cut. "We have a Victory Motorcycle in the field and that's very important for us," Angie said. "My bike has been very consistent, and even though it looked like we wouldn't be able to get all four runs in with the weather forecast, we got lucky and ran them all.

"I started out strong with a 6.915 (at 192.77 mph) and was very pleased with that. Last night we wanted more, but I got a little close to the wall and that hurt us. I came out this morning and was back in that same lane only this time we went straight down Broadway and posted our best run of the weekend, so we were pumped.

"I'm always happiest when we run well in both lanes during qualifying because you never know where you may have to win from on race day. When you go fast down both lanes your confidence goes up because you know you have a chance. I feel like we have a really good chance, and we're going to try and win this thing and make Matthew feel better."

Sidnei Frigo claimed the No. 1 qualifying position and first round victory Saturday during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, co-presented by the Pro Line Racing and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc., is the first of 10 events on the season.

Frigo’s second-session pass of 5.839 seconds at 240.47 mph in his late model Artivinco Racing/FuelTech Chevy Corvette held up for his first career No. 1 qualifier.

In the first round of eliminations, Frigo outran Kevin Fiscus, of Jacksonville, Fla., with a 5.810 pass at 254.04. Fiscus ran an 8.643 at 85.99 in his 2012 Ford Mustang. Frigo will face Chip King in the second round of eliminations on Sunday.

Robert Patrick Jr.’s second round pass of 5.850 at 242.58 kept him qualified at second in his Purvis Ford Mustang. Patrick Jr. fell in the first round of eliminations to No. 15 qualifier Danny Rowe, of Laguna Hills, Calif., in his Agave Tequila ’68 Chevy Camaro with a pass of 6.016 at 243.41. Rowe will matchup against Steve Matusek, from Olathe, Kan., in the second round.

Matusek, in his Agave Underground ’68 Camaro, took out eleventh place qualifier and reigning world champ Troy Coughlin with a 5.873 pass at 247.57. Coughlin ran a 5.822 at 256.65 in his late model Corvette.

Third place qualifier, Jonathan Gray in his Precision Turbo and Engine Chevy Camaro, ran a 5.751 at 258.02 in his first round win over Kenny Lang and will face Bob Rahaim in the second round.

Pro Mod Series eliminations will resume on Sunday.

Fast Jack Beckman

Jack Beckman set a national record and raced to the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car. Beckman posted a 3.879-second at 329.26 mph sprint in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to reset the elapsed time national record and become the No. 1 qualifier. His time was a Gainesville Raceway track record. He has 17 No. 1 qualifiers in his career. This is his first No. 1 at Gainesville Raceway and he will hope to secure his first win at the facility tomorrow. Beckman will open eliminations against Jeff Diehl.

Beckman began the fourth and final session with the provisional pole and was in the last pair of Funny Cars to go down the track Saturday evening. The No. 1 qualifying position is the second in three Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events for Beckman and the team led by crew chief Jimmy Prock and assistants John Medlen and Chris Cunningham. "I'm proud of the guys. That's two of four runs on this car since our (fabrication) shop front-halved the chassis," said Beckman, the 2012 NHRA Funny Car world championship. "I knew our (3.913) last night could have been quicker and we showed that tonight.

“I’m always excited to come here. This place was setting records long before I ever came out here when I was reading about it in National Dragster. Driving for (crew chief) Jimmy Prock, we can set records most places we go.”

Courtney Force qualified second in her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS with a 3.893 at 322.96. Force will open eliminations against Dave Richards.
“Our team has definitely been on a roll lately getting this car down the race track, making impressive runs and making consistent runs. We made it through the rain and got in all of our qualifying passes this weekend,” said Force.

“We ended up in the No. 2 spot and ran our career-best with a 3.89 and we did it with a hole out. I felt like I was driving that car all over the place, but I had to do whatever I could to just get it down to the other end and I’m glad that I did. It was a great run even with that problem, but it definitely gets me motivated for race day tomorrow. The fact that we can run a number like that with the car not even at 100% makes me feel great about tomorrow. I just hope we can continue to do what we have been, improve and learn from each pass and go rounds tomorrow on race day,” added Force.

The last time Force matched up with Richards was in the first round at Epping in 2014. Force came out victorious. This is Force’s best starting position at the Gatornationals. In 2014 she raced to the semi-finals as the No. 5 qualifier before losing to John Force.

Her John Force Racing teammate, Robert Hight, pushed his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS to a 3.921 at 327.43 to qualify third. Hight will face Terry Haddock in Sunday’s first round. “We screwed up the two night sessions and we were hoping to run 3.8s both nights. This Auto Club Chevrolet is plenty capable of doing that. We are running 3.92 in the heat,” said Hight at the end of the day. “It is a real handful right now. It is carrying the front end but these guys will fix that. If the conditions are good in the morning I believe we’ll run in the 3.80s. If the sun is out and it is hot this is the fastest car out here in the heat.”

In 2012 Hight raced to his first Gatornationals victory from the No. 3 position. Two years later Hight outran John Force in the final to pick up his second Gatornationals win. The 2009 Funny Car champion will be looking to join Kenny Bernstein, Gordie Bonin and Ron Capps as a three time winner with four round wins tomorrow. “I have a lot of confidence. I am ready for race day and we’ll get these problems fixed. When you win one of these events you have to earn it. It is not going to be easy racing but I feel good about racing anyone on my side of the ladder,” said Hight.

Hight will face Haddock in the first round for just the second time in his career. They previously met in the first round of the 2012 Las Vegas spring national event. Hight got the round win and went on to win that event.

Phoenix winner Tim Wilkerson will enter eliminations as the fourth qualifier and race Cruz Pedregon. Pomona winner Ron Capps is fifth and will meet John Hale in the opening round.

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton powered his Lucas Oil dragster to the fifth-quickest Top Fuel pass in NHRA history with a 3.698 at 317.42, earning his first No. 1 of 2016, fourth of his career and first ever at Gainesville Raceway. Crampton, a South Australia native, will open Sunday’s eliminations against Chris Karamesines.

“We struggled a bit yesterday and we were looking forward to the overcast conditions today because we didn’t know what (crew chief) Aaron Brooks could do when the weather was like that, with a cool track temperature,” said Crampton, the 2014 Rookie of the Year. “To do what we did in the first qualifying session today and then run a 3.6 was very cool. Hats off to Aaron Brooks and my Lucas Oil guys.”

The pass was the fifth quickest in Top Fuel history and was the first time a driver went quicker than 3.7 seconds on a track other than Brainerd International Raceway. It also was Crampton's fourth No. 1 of his young career and his first since Brainerd last year -- a race he won.

Crampton and his Morgan Lucas Racing team didn't make a full pull in either of Friday's qualifying sessions, but after rain in the Gainesville area gave way to overcast skies Saturday, Crampton figured the final sessions would be much better.

"I knew we were going to try and do it," Crampton said. "When the weather's good, (Brooks is) not going to let an opportunity to roll the dice slide by him. I knew he'd be trying and the car would be up to it; I just didn't know if the track would hold it. I was confident, but I wasn't sure we'd make it all the way down there, but by about half-track I knew it was on a heck of a run. It pulled me back in the seat so hard. I haven't made runs like that for quite some time, so it got my attention pretty good."

The car launched so well that the front end stayed off the track a little longer than usual.

"It carried the front end so far off the starting line and drove me a little to the right," Crampton said. "I had my hands full trying to get it back in the groove and keep it stuck for the 292-mph half-track speed that it was running. Just really excited for Lucas and Toyota and everyone at MLR. This is where we want to be, back to where we were last year. Hopefully we can go some rounds tomorrow."

Clay Millican raced to a 3.722 at 326.71 in his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster to qualify second. Millican was the runner-up in Gainesville in 2013. He will face Ike Maier in Sunday’s first round.

Defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown pushed his Matco Tools dragster to the No. 3 spot with a 3.729 at 318.54. The 2013 Gainesville event winner will battle Terry McMillen in the opening round of eliminations.

Brown's co-crew chief Mark Oswald was inducted into the International Drag Hall of Fame on Thursday (as was Rockingham Dragway's Steve Earwood), but Matco driver and two-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown was unable to attend because of a previous commitment to be in Los Angeles that night for the annual Toyota Motorsports Day. "It's always special to come to the Gatornationals, and this weekend especially because of Mark getting inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame," said Brown, who is qualified No. 3 with a best time of 3.729 seconds for Sunday's championship eliminations. "I was disappointed that I couldn't be there to introduce Mark at the ceremony. It was such a special deal because that's more than history, it shows you the stature of the man Mark is."

Brown, with Oswald and fellow crew chief Brian Corradi, have won two of the past four NHRA Top Fuel world championships and have been the dominant team since 2009 when they have won 36 event titles.

As a Funny Car driver for the legendary Candies & Hughes team, Oswald won the 1984 NHRA world championship. But for Brown, Oswald accomplishments away from the track are greater. "He's been a hero to me and our other crew chief Brian Corradi before we raced with him," Brown said. "Mark is a brother to us because of the way he carries himself. Mark is our rock. He's always stable and always there for you; that's Mark Oswald.

"His emotions are never high and never low. It's easy to see why he's won so much in his career. He's really helped take this Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team to a higher level with his heart, his mind and his soul."

Phoenix winner Leah Pritchett is fourth and will meet Tripp Tatum in the first round, while Phoenix runner-up Brittany Force is fifth and will race Morgan Lucas. “It feels really good knowing that I have a consistent race car. I feel really confident since we have made so many quality runs. I don’t have to worry about going up to the starting line thinking about how this Monster Energy dragster is going to run. I know it is going to go right down the track,” said Bittany, a seven-time Top Fuel finalist.



Jason Line

In Pro Stock, Jason Line raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to the No. 1 qualifier with a 6.584 at 208.84. Line, riding momentum from his recent win in Phoenix, has 42 No. 1 qualifiers in his career. After a first round bye, Line will meet the winner of Shane Gray versus Vincent Nobile in the second round.

“We made good runs,” said Line, a four-time Gatornationals winner. “We struggled a little bit with the race car but my Summit hot rod is pretty fast right now, and even I can’t screw it up. My car has been very good and that’s probably one of the reasons she’s been a little faster than everybody else’s. We fell a little bit short but still had very good runs today and I’m very happy about that.

“Right now (the motivation) is fear that (the competition) is going to catch up. Our car is running good and I’m enjoying that right now. Fear is a good motivator. I don’t want to have a year like I had last year, so I have to do a better job and right now there are a lot of good things going on.”

Line’s Ken Black Racing teammate, Bo Butner, pushed his Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro to the No. 2 qualifier with a 6.591 at 209.26. Butner will open Sunday’s eliminations against V. Gaines. “All three of the (KB Racing) cars are set up so similar that the No. 1 qualifier was going to be one of us three by a few thousandths of a second, and that’s the way it ended up," said Butner. "We’re all trading being the No. 1 qualifier, so it should be mine turn to win the race, which would be great.”

Greg Anderson, the third member of the Ken Black Racing team, qualified third with a 6.595 at 209.65 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. The defending event winner will go up against Matt Hartford Sunday morning. “I thought I did pretty good, but I looked in the other lane and I could see was the rear bumper of that blue car (Jason Line) so maybe I didn’t do that good.\," said Anderson. "The good news is that’s our team car so I know how fast I can run. We just have to turn the right screws on mine. The potential is there. Hopefully we can have a big Chevy day tomorrow.”

Eliminations at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.801, 197.71 vs. 16. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.938, 194.49; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.821, 197.10 vs. 15. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.937, 190.11; 3. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.829, 195.34 vs. 14. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.917, 194.13; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.844, 194.94 vs. 13. Angie Smith, Victory, 6.914, 192.85; 5. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.847, 195.70 vs. 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.907, 197.22; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.850, 196.04 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.901, 193.65; 7. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.853, 194.86 vs. 10. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.885, 196.47; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.862, 195.82 vs. 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.868, 196.62.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Matt Smith, 6.942, 193.71; 18. Cory Reed, 6.950, 191.40; 19. Shawn Gann, 6.965, 190.59; 20. Kalle Lyren, 6.967, 193.21; 21. Karen Stoffer, 6.968, 193.63; 22. Joe DeSantis, 6.978, 192.58; 23. Brian Pretzel, 7.017, 193.90; 24. David Hope, 7.058, 188.86; 25. Katie Sullivan, 7.136, 187.26; 26. Lance Bonham, 7.212, 187.21.

Top Fuel -- 1. Richie Crampton, 3.698 seconds, 319.37 mph vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, broke; 2. Clay Millican, 3.722, 326.71 vs. 15. Ike Maier, 3.937, 301.00; 3. Antron Brown, 3.729, 319.07 vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 3.895, 308.57; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.744, 325.69 vs. 13. Tripp Tatum, 3.862, 317.05; 5. Brittany Force, 3.745, 320.81 vs. 12. Morgan Lucas, 3.810, 315.64; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.754, 315.12 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.783, 318.84; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.757, 325.22 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, 3.779, 323.35; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.761, 324.05 vs. 9. Dave Connolly, 3.762, 325.45.

Funny Car -- 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.879, 329.26 vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 11.122, 83.59; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.893, 322.96 vs. 15. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 7.160, 195.68; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.921, 327.43 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, Solara, 6.288, 161.32; 4. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.928, 321.65 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.143, 146.42; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.929, 321.27 vs. 12. John Hale, Charger, 4.170, 290.19; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.953, 323.74 vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.041, 314.61; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 3.957, 321.04 vs. 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.016, 307.65; 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.958, 320.28 vs. 9. John Force, Camaro, 3.996, 299.20.

Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.584, 210.44 vs. Bye; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.591, 209.33 vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.724, 206.01; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.595, 209.65 vs. 14. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.685, 208.17; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.614, 209.04 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.663, 207.91; 5. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.616, 208.94 vs. 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.651, 208.17; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.627, 208.30 vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.644, 208.46; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.628, 207.91 vs. 10. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.636, 208.33; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.631, 208.17 vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.632, 208.62.

Pro Modified first round-by-round results from the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the first of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

ROUND ONE -- Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 5.845, 244.43 def. Pete Farber, Daytona, 9.081, 99.95; Steve Matusek, Chevy Camaro, 5.873, 247.57 def. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.822, 256.65; Bob Rahaim, Corvette, 5.835, 247.20 def. Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, 6.091, 249.95; Mike Castellana, Corvette, 5.812, 247.47 def. Mike Janis, Camaro, 6.119, 235.10; Sidnei Frigo, Corvette, 5.810,
254.04 def. Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 8.643, 85.99; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.784, 250.23 def. Steven Whiteley, Cadillac CTS-V, 5.901, 246.35; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 5.751, 258.02 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 5.913, 245.81; Danny Rowe, Corvette, 6.016, 243.41 def. Robert Patrick Jr., Mustang, 6.965, 151.15;

Final order after 3 rounds of qualifying in Pro Modified at the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals:

Psn---Num-Driver, Home Town, Car Type---------------Qual-ET--Qual-Spd-Top Spd

1 288 Sidnei Frigo, Ball Ground GA, '15 Corvette 5.839 240.47 252.24
2 262 Robert Patrick Jr., Fredricksburg VA, '14 Must 5.850 242.58 242.58
3 2133 Jonathan Gray, Artesia NM, '14 Camaro 5.851 255.34 255.48
4 4 Rickie Smith, King NC, '15 Camaro 5.851 248.93 248.93
5 44 Mike Castellana, Muttontown NY, '15 Corvette 5.854 246.48 246.48
6 360 Bob Rahaim, Grosse Pointe MI, '15 Corvette 5.860 245.76 245.76
7 1 Troy Coughlin, Columbus OH, '15 Corvette 5.870 255.24 255.24
8 10 Pete Farber, Baldwinville MA, '69 Daytona 5.876 247.43 247.43
9 213 Chip King, Semora NC, '69 Daytona 5.878 243.41 243.41
10 5450 Steve Matusek, Olathe KS, '68 Camaro 5.884 248.11 248.11
11 318 Michael Biehle, North Vernon IN, '67 Mustang 5.885 252.43 252.43
12 2 Mike Janis, Lancaster NY, '13 Camaro 5.915 233.80 237.80
13 5200 Steven Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, '14 CTS-V 5.922 246.57 246.57
14 5012 Kenny Lang, Grande Pointe MB, '69 Camaro 5.926 245.63 245.63
15 7 Danny Rowe, Laguna Hills CA, '15 Corvette 5.963 245.27 245.27
16 220F Kevin Fiscus, Jacksonville FL, '12 Mustang 5.982 246.44 246.44

------------ Not Qualified ------------

17 6 Bill Glidden, Whiteland IN, '10 Mustang 6.009 235.56 235.56
18 1938 Eric Latino, Port Perry ON, '69 Camaro 6.029 241.80 241.80
19 2105 Doug Winters, Pleasant Garden NC, '69 Chevelle 6.048 244.65 244.65
20 5087 Jim Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, '69 Chevelle 6.051 241.54 241.54
21 1109 Gerry Capano, Greenville DE, '63 Corvette 6.068 230.21 230.21
22 275T Ruben Tetsoshvill, West Chapel FL, '70 Camaro 6.140 223.47 223.47
23 2377 Von Smith, Oak Ridge TN, '16 Corvette 6.153 184.75 200.77
24 701 Clint Satterfield, Albuquerque NM, '68 Firebi 6.275 235.72 241.80
25 6967 Jim Bell, Edmonton AB, '69 Camaro 6.670 191.97 191.97
26 6718 Shane Molinari, Battle Ground WA, '70 Camaro 7.067 158.28 158.28
27 303 Dan Stevenson, Lisle IL, '13 Camaro 7.227 130.63 130.63
28 1262 Chuck Little, Atkinson NH, '63 Corvette 7.728 127.14 127.14

EARLIER: Krawiec Leads Day 1 at Gators

Ellis 2nd as rain threatens Day 2

Eddie Krawiec raced to the provisional Pro Stock Motorcycle lead at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Friday with a 6.808 at 197.71 aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Heavy rain on Thursday followed by a dreary forecast was complicated after a couple on-track incidents during Sportsman competition led Friday's second session beginning around 6 p.m. with a dry, tight track and temperatures in the mid-70s under a cloudy sky.

Krawiec has 27 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and one at Gainesville. He has three wins at the event. “Anytime you can come off the trailer and make a great run like [we did] it sets the pace for the season,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champion. “That’s the way I look at it; not just the event but the season because that’s what’s all in front of you.”

Chip Ellis rode his Junior Pippin Trucking Company Buell to the second qualifying position with a 6.829 at 195.34. 2015 Pro Stock Motorcycle title winner and Krawiec’s teammate, Andrew Hines, sits third and Angelle Sampey is fourth.

 

Sidnei Frigo sprinted to the qualifying lead during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Gatornationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, co-presented by the Pro Line Racing and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc., is the first of 10 events on the season.

Frigo, from Brazil, powered his late model Artivinco Racing/FuelTech Chevy Corvette to the top qualifying run of 5.839-seconds at 240.07 mph. Frigo is racing in his first full NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season. He is chasing his first career No. 1 qualifier and has raced in only three Pro Mod events. He is a former Top Fuel dragster and Top Alcohol dragster racer.

Robert Patrick Jr., of Fredericksburg, Va., sits second with a 5.850 in his Purvis Ford Mustang while Former Pro Stock racer Jonathan Gray is third with a 5.851 at 255.34 in his Precision Turbo and Engine Chevy Camaro. 2014 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world Champion Rickie Smith is fourth and Mike Castellana is fifth. Troy Coughlin, the reigning world champ is eleventh.

Dan Stevenson, 59, from Bolingbrook, Ill., was transported by ground to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital for further evaluation after car caught fire. Stevenson exited his vehicle on his own power and was checked by NHRA emergency services officials before being transported to the hospital.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Brittany Force (Top Fuel) also raced to their respective qualifying leads.

Beckman set a Gainesville Raceway Funny Car track record during Friday’s second session with a 3.913 at 323.74 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T. There were eight three-second runs in Funny Car on Friday. Beckman has 16 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and is two sessions away from securing his first at Gainesville. “It’s always tough when you show up to a race and the forecast is rain, rain, rain,” Beckman said. “It rained yesterday and the forecast didn’t look good for today. We got one run in and I thought for sure that was going to be it and we smoked the tires on that first run so I was a little bit frustrated. So to be able to get the full session in for the Florida fans and to be able to run that good for the Infinite Hero Team, that’s a perfect day for me.”

Beckman opened the 2016 season with a No. 1 qualifier at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Last year, Beckman won a career-high seven events and reset the national record four times before finishing second in points to eventual world champion Del Worsham.

Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Ron Capps, is currently second in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.929 at 319.37. Capps rode into Gainesville with momentum after winning in Phoenix. John Force Racing teammates, Courtney Force and Robert Hight, sit third and fourth respectively. Reigning world champ Worsham is sixth.

Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a 3.745-second pass at 309.56 mph to earn the qualifying lead at Gainesville Raceway. Force, who was the runner-up in Phoenix three weeks ago, has four No. 1 qualifiers in her career. She is chasing her first career victory.

“To be able to come out here and run well was great. We didn’t know what we could expect with the weather conditions. We were hoping to get one good run in and we did that first round. We really stepped it up on the second run. When I got out of the dragster at the top end and they told we what we ran I was blown away,” said Force. “It felt like an awesome run early on but at the end of the run I pulled my foot up early because I thought it was getting into trouble. I am excited and proud of this Monster Energy team. We made quite a few changes and we are starting to see that on the race track.”

In the first session Force was the third quickest Top Fuel dragster tucked in behind Steve Torrence and Tony Schumacher. The technical alliance between Torrence Racing and John Force Racing which is led by Alan Johnson continues to pay dividends for both organizations and gives Force a boost of confidence as well. On the heels of her runner-up finish in Phoenix Force is ready to take the next step of her professional career.

“I have been to quite a few finals now and the first few I was excited to be in a final. Now I don’t feel the same way. You are happy to be there but you want to bring home the win now. That is all we want. We want to bring home that win,” said Force whose previous best qualifying position was No. 7 in 2015. “I feel good about this season and I think you are seeing it with the performance at the first two races and then today. This shows you what we are capable of and what is to be expected.”

2015 Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown pushed his Matco Tools dragster to the second qualifying position through Friday with a 3.755 at 319.07. "That's what we're looking for," Brown said of his second run that greatly improved after the first session's 4.74.

"We wanted to run good that first run, but it takes a run to get adjusted with the moisture and the air conditions out here. That last run felt good, the car felt really good and strong in power. It made a nice move off the starting line and had a good 60-foot time and just felt good all the way down.

"We'll come back tomorrow and hit it strong. Whatever the track can handle we'll keep throwing at it."

Brown, who won this event in 2013, was followed by Steve Torrence, the winner of the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., in his Capco Contractors dragster. Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is fourth and Clay Millican is fifth.

Line took the qualifying lead in Pro Stock with a 6.596 at 210.01 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. The Phoenix winner has 41 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and four wins at Gainesville Raceway. He is hoping to secure his first No. 1 qualifier at the facility tomorrow.

“There’s a long ways to go and we don’t feel like we are running up to our potential and I know the other teams aren’t doing as well,” said Line, a two-time world champ. “It’s just a matter of time but for right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that we have a small advantage and it’s fun – fun to come to the race track.”

Line was followed by both of his Ken Black Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Bo Butner, currently in second and third respectively. Anderson powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a 6.613 at 209.39 while Butner posted a 6.617 at 209.33 in his Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro. Back-to-back defending world champ Erica Enders is fourth and Alex Laughlin is fifth.

Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon with the final two sessions to set the fields for Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.

 

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.808, 197.71; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.829, 195.34; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.844, 194.94; 4. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.854, 192.44; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.885, 191.57; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.892, 195.45; 7. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.899, 193.74; 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.900, 195.03; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.907, 197.22; 10. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.907, 193.38; 11. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.909, 192.60; 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.911, 192.41. Not Qualified: 13. Angie Smith, 6.915, 192.77; 14. Brian Pretzel, 6.928, 193.90; 15. Cory Reed, 6.933, 191.40; 16. Michael Phillips, 6.942, 193.71; 17. Hector Arana Jr, 6.942, 194.02; 18. Karen Stoffer, 6.950, 193.07; 19. Matt Smith, 6.962, 193.71; 20. Mike Berry, 6.968, 190.11; 21. David Hope, 6.969, 188.86; 22. Joe DeSantis, 6.995, 192.58; 23. Kalle Lyren, 7.056, 190.89; 24. Shawn Gann, 7.059, 188.70; 25. Lance Bonham, 7.209, 187.21; 26. Katie Sullivan, 11.695, 68.94.

Pro Modified -- 1. Sidnei Frigo, Chevy Corvette, 5.839, 252.24; 2. Robert Patrick Jr., Ford Mustang, 5.850, 242.58; 3. Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 5.851, 255.34; 4. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.852, 248.43; 5. Mike Castellana, Corvette, 5.854, 246.48; 6. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.876, 247.43; 7. Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.884, 248.11; 8. Bob Rahaim, Corvette, 5.885, 243.94; 9. Michael Biehle, Mustang, 5.898, 250.55; 10. Chip King, Daytona, 5.908, 242.89; 11. Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 5.909, 254.09; 12. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.915, 233.80; 13. Steven Whiteley, Cadillac CTS-V, 5.922, 246.57; 14. Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 5.982, 246.44; 15. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 6.007, 244.74; 16. Bill Glidden, Mustang, 6.009, 235.56. Not Qualified: 17. Eric Latino, 6.029, 241.80; 18. Danny Rowe, 6.041, 196.67; 19. Doug Winters, 6.048, 244.65; 20. Jim Whiteley, 6.051, 241.54; 21. Gerry Capano, 6.068, 230.21; 22. Ruben Tetsoshvill, 6.140, 223.47; 23. Von Smith, 6.153, 200.77; 24. Clint Satterfield, 6.396, 241.80; 25. Jim Bell, 7.043, 147.23; 26. Shane Molinari, 7.067, 158.28; 27. Dan Stevenson, 7.227, 130.63; 28. Chuck Little, 7.728, 127.14.

Top Fuel -- 1. Brittany Force, 3.745 seconds, 320.81 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.755, 319.07; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.757, 325.22; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.760, 314.75; 5. Clay Millican, 3.787, 324.51; 6. Dave Connolly, 3.793, 323.04; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.858, 310.13; 8. Tripp Tatum, 3.873, 313.88; 9. Ike Maier, 3.937, 301.00; 10. Terry McMillen, 4.448, 185.03; 11. J.R. Todd, 4.479, 175.39; 12. Morgan Lucas, 4.715, 157.91. Not Qualified: 13. Richie Crampton, 4.831, 150.26; 14. Shawn Langdon, 5.634, 123.18; 15. Doug Kalitta, 6.543, 106.29; 16. Chris Karamesines, 13.685, 35.86.

Funny Car -- 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.913, 323.74; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.929, 319.37; 3. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.944, 321.42; 4. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.945, 322.96; 5. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.958, 320.28; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.965, 321.12; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.978, 315.05; 8. Chad Head, Camry, 3.981, 318.47; 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.063, 262.69; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.074, 305.29; 11. John Hale, Charger, 4.170, 290.19; 12. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.505, 188.17. Not Qualified: 13. Dave Richards, 4.561, 195.68; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.980, 161.32; 15. Cruz Pedregon, 5.276, 140.49; 16. Jeff Diehl, 16.124, 77.38.

Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.596, 210.01; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.613, 209.39; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.617, 209.33; 4. Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, 6.644, 207.82; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.647, 208.36; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.652, 208.62; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.655, 206.54; 8. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.659, 207.62; 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.660, 208.01; 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.662, 206.29; 11. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.671, 205.60; 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.682, 207.78. Not Qualified: 13. V. Gaines, 6.693, 206.51; 14. Jeg Coughlin, 6.695, 206.67; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.807, 204.73.

 

EARLIER: Who'll Stop the Reign?

The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle season starts this weekend

(weather permitting) at The Gators with everyone chasing the V&H Harleys

 

 

Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines get ready to shut the visors at zMAX last year. Can anyone stop this juggernaut team?

Andrew Hines will start the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle season firmly focused on going after his third straight (fifth overall) world championship. But another major accomplishment and one of the great, noteworthy NHRA milestones remains in the form of the first 200 mph pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle. That mark appears within reach in 2016 and Hines predicts fans won’t have to wait long to see it.

“I think we'll see that sitting on a scoreboard somewhere early in this year,” Hines said in reference to the 200 mph speed. “It could be one session where you might see two, three, maybe even four motorcycles run over that 200 mph mark and it might just stack up on who goes out first that qualifying session. It could be as exciting as that, or heck, you might see maybe the last two bikes of a certain session put it up side by side. That would be pretty spectacular. We are all looking for it. I know a lot of us motorcycle guys have been trying to get it the last couple years. It’s just a matter of all the stars aligning correctly and finding that couple horsepower that we all need to push us to that next threshold.”

Hines' 3X national champion teammate Eddie Krawiec doesn't think it will be so easy. You can hear him talk about it in this video:



In addition to who will run the first 200, the other burning question for 2016 is "Who'll stop the Reign?"—Hines' and Krawiec's championship reign with the Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle team.

Last year, the WAR team became real winners. Could this be the year they become champions?

The guy with the best chance to do it last year was White Alligator Racing's Jerry Savoie. With the help of dragbike.com fan-vote Tuner of the Year Tim Kulungian, Savoie had the baddest Suzuki in the field and peaked at the right time. Brainiac Kulungian's program reached it's stride in 2015, turning Savoie and WAR into winners and an outside chance to win the championship. Could this be the year that WAR are championship contenders starting this weekend?

At the time this pic was taken in Norwalk, Chip Ellis and Junior Pippin thought that Lisa Pippin's cancer battle was all they had to worry about. But a short time later, Junior was head-first (literally) into his own dramatic cancer battle. I'm happy to say that Junior is WINNING that fierce battle.

The performance leader for much of the second half of 2015 was Chip Ellis on Junior Pippin's PiranaZ Buell. Junior's motor guru Lon Moyer has the Pippin bullets making big power. If the team can find race-winning consistency, they could give Junior the privateer championship that he relishes. "We didn't get it to the 330 as good as we would like," Ellis said about his pre-Gators testing this week at zMAX. "But we ran 6.87 at 196."

Junior was also excited to see Pippin Power customer Melissa Surber running 6.80s in testing.

Matt Smith's hoping his red towel doesn't get any air-time at this weekend's Gators

Two-time world champion Matt Smith transitioned to a Victory-bodied motorcycle a year ago, making strong progress even while having to make a number of adjustments. With a year of experience under his belt on his Victory Gunner, Smith, who finished fourth a year ago, has high expectations. "We're excited," Smith said. "We worked really hard this winter, trying to find some power. We worked with Elite Motorsports and they helped us out a lot. We made some big gains over the winter, so I think it's really going to show when we get to Gainesville.

""We had a good test session a month ago, and we'll be testing again before the race. I'm sure those tests will be just as good because we got five more bullets done since then. We should be in good shape." Smith has finished sixth or better in the final standings 10 years in a row and has been fourth or better in eight of the last nine seasons.

Smith would love to break the elusive 200-mph barrier, and Gainesville would be a good place to do it, but top-end speed isn't quite there with the current Victory configuration. "If I were the first one to do that, it would be awesome," Smith said. "I just don't know if that's going to be possible with our aero package that we have right now. We can run with most people ET-wise, but we might be giving up a couple miles per hour on the top end."

Hector Arana Jr likes his chances for PSM's first 200

The two-bike Lucas Oil team of Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana also has big hopes for 2016 after bringing on William Cavallo as the team’s new chief. Arana Jr. was introduced to Cavallo by his future father-in-law, John Nobile, and after numerous conversations, Cavallo was hired to serve as crew chief. Cavallo has raced in Pro Stock car and Pro Extreme Motorcycle in IHRA, and Arana is confident he will help the Lucas Oil Pro Stock Motorcycle team.

"We know we have really good horsepower, but we were struggling leaving the starting line," Arana said. " Sometimes we'd get it, but for whatever reason in these last two years, we've struggled with that. We figured it would be a good move to hire a guy like William."

Arana posted a win in St. Louis and finished eighth in points, while Arana Jr. picked up two victories and a fifth-place finish during a solid 2015 campaign. But with the addition of Cavallo, Arana Jr. figures the team will be even more well-rounded. Arana Jr. is also one of the favorites to reach the 200 mph mark, setting the national record a year ago with a speed of 199.88 mph in Charlotte. "The 200-mph barrier is always a possibility in Gainesville," Arana Jr. said. "But like I always say, you could be at the fastest track in the world, and if the weather's not there, it won't be. Ultimately, it'll come down to what the weather does. If it's there, we'll go for it and see what happens."

Hector Arana Sr.

Arana Sr. was born in Miami, so he'll have plenty of friends and family members in attendance. "I'm looking forward to getting back to racing, especially the first one," H1 said. "Usually the first race is the hardest: The chassis goes through tech, the body goes through tech, and it's our hometown race, so we'll have a lot of family and friends. It's going to be hectic there."

Arana and the team are working on a new motorcycle, but that's still in development. In the meantime, new engines will power "old faithful," as Arana calls his current motorcycle. "I hope the weather cooperates this weekend," Arana said. "But we will work hard and be ready for whatever happens."

Karen Stoffer posted two wins in the first five races last year, so what can she do in 2016?

Never count out former champ LE Tonglet and his savvy family team

George Bryce and Ken "Big" Johnson had Angelle Sampey's Buell running strong in 2015

Angelle Sampey is no stranger to the Gatornationals. She has ridden her way to the finals four times in her career and hoisted the Wally a total of three times in 1999, 2003, and 2006. The 3x time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle World Champion is looking forward to hitting the track for the first time of the season. “I’m very very excited,” said Sampey. “I can’t wait to get back on. I’m nervous but not a worried nervous. It’s more of an excited and anxious nervous.

"I’ve been training hard and I’ve got a brand new motorcycle. I haven’t had a brand new motorcycle in a long time and they build this bike to fit me and nobody else.” Sampey ran a stout 6.826 at 197.57 in testing at SGMP this week.

 

Rookie rider Cory Reed joins Sampey on the 6X champion Star Racing team. Albeit his first season on a Pro Stock Motorcycle, Reed took his first trip down the drag strip at the age of eight in a Jr. Dragster. “When my mom met my stepdad Jim, he got us into Jr. Dragsters and we raced them from about age eight to fourteen,” said Reed. “When I was a teenager, I started racing dirt bikes and got really deep into that and really fell in love with it. It took me away from drag racing for a little bit because I dedicated my life to it.”

“I knew my family would love to see me get back into drag racing and I felt really comfortable on a bike. Coming back to drag racing means I can see my family a lot too and that’s a plus.”

Reed attended George Bryce’s drag racing school and fell in love with being on a Pro Stock Motorcycle.“This is less stressful than riding dirt bikes. I don’t have to wake up every morning wondering if I’m going to break my leg or wind up in the hospital that day so it really makes it sweet going somewhere and being so comfortable and happy.”

Although Reed is in his rookie season after making his debut in Las Vegas in October, Sampey is already confident in her teammate’s capabilities. “I don’t see him as a rookie,” said Sampey. “He’s so talented that I don’t look at him as a rookie rider. I’m so excited to have him as my teammate; I’ve been blessed to have the best teammates in the world and Cory falls right in that bracket.”

Angie Smith is ready to get serious

Matt Smith's wife/teammate Angie is encouraged by her team's testing results. "It was actually better than expected," Smith said. "We went faster than we ran last year, so we've really improved our program."

Angie finished 13th last season as she and the team adapted to the Victory Gunner. She will make no predictions for Gainesville, starting with modest goals this weekend. "Considering there are 26 bikes entered, obviously we just want to qualify," Angie said. "We want to go some rounds on Sunday. It's going to be a really, really tough field. There are so many players out there, some heavy hitters. Our goal is to put our two bikes in the top half of the field for qualifying.

"No. 1 would be phenomenal. Matt was No. 1 last year, so it's not out of the question, but we've got to do our thing, focus on ourselves, and do what we know to do. Hopefully, our testing results will parlay into Gainesville."

Michael Ray is back, although this time around on a Matt Smith-tuned Buell....

...as is Scotty Pollacheck

Steve Johnson's ALWAYS in the mix

Hines in a familiar situation—hanging with his buddy Wally at the winner's interview

But Hines still feels his team has the upper hand for both the championship AND the 200 mph lap. “I’m feeling pretty confident about what we have done here with our Harley in the off-season,” said Hines, who earned four of his 42 career wins a year ago. “We’re going to go test and hopefully we're going to reap our benefits for all the hard work we've put in over the off-season. When we get out there, I guess the time ticket is going to tell the truth, but we'll see what happens."

Hines says he's unfazed by the NHRA dropping the time-tested back-up rule for setting records, but you can expect him—and anyone who's bike wasn't the first to ring up the number—to have second thoughts. "No, I don't have a problem with the new backup rules or anything like that," said Hines. "Our timing system has become more consistent than it used to be. The biggest thing with the motorcycles is our speed has become way more consistent and predictable than what we have had in years past, and that's mainly due to what NHRA implemented for us having to use what we call a wheel shield or a staging beam on our front wheel. So it gives us a more consistent time. I would be a little bit upset if it didn't happen in my lane. I was the first one to run sub-seven seconds over ten years ago now, 2005. It would be really nice to have that chalked up on my scoreboard with the first six-second run and the first 200. Heck, if anybody other than me does it, it better be my teammates. So we've got to keep it in the family here."



Michael Phillips is BACK and ready to upset the field

"What if Michael Phillips comes out and pops it off in his first event back in a while?" I asked.

"I don't think we're going to see that happen," said Andrew. "It takes a while to get your stuff back in order, and I'm not sure -- we've got a lot of great bikes in the class. The racing this year is going to be fantastic and just like you saw at the end of last year, it's going to be a crapshoot who is going to win on any given Sunday. Just got to focus on qualifying in the top half this year, that's going to be key."

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence will bring the confidence he gained from his win at the Winternationals in Southern California to the tradition-rich Florida race. Drivers like reigning world champion Antron Brown, four-time event winner Tony Schumacher, 2014 event winner Doug Kalitta and rising star Leah Pritchett, who won her first career race in Phoenix, will do everything in their power to knock him off the top, as will Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, Brittany Force and Clay Millican.

Nitro gurus Rob Flynn and Mike Guger at the 2011 IMIS show

I asked Pritchett about my Qatar barroom buddy Mike Guger. "Can you talk a little bit about Mike Guger's (co-crew chief) contribution to the team?"

"Absolutely!" said Pritchett, thrilled not to field yet anotehr lame question about her being a woman. "You mean besides making us laugh every single moment of every day?

"Oh, man, I first have to say, probably his perseverance and tenacity to win and to down right throw the gauntlet out every single time is very infectious. His will to win -- I mean, everyone has a will to win. Nobody should ever show up to the racetrack without ever thinking they are going to at least be close to No. 1 or hold that Wally on Sunday. But he's endured a lot of the same pressures I have. He went to six final round last year and wasn't able to put that final win light on.

"His mechanical ability is unquestionable and his tuning ability from a motor standpoint, I think that's what complements our crew chief so much is each other. Joe Barlam (crew chief) is pretty much king of clutches. That's his gamut. So he understands the clutches like -- the clutch, like nobody else. And Guger specializes in fuel system and motor and making power, so they complement each other.

Leah Pritchett and Chip Ellis, also at the 2011 IMIS show

"That's what Mike Guger brings to the table, in addition to his leadership of the team, and being able to keep a great attitude no matter what. We've already had some really down lows and highs, and we're only two races in. Being able to keep this chemistry that we have of our team is very natural. And overall what Mike Guger is bringing from-leadership standpoint and his tuning ability and his perseverance and tenacity is something that is going to be really hard to break and that's what gives me a lot of confidence in our team is because the people at the top are very strong people, and that just gives strength to everybody else that he works with."

In Funny Car, Pomona winner Ron Capps has enjoyed victory at the Gatornationals three times, including last season, and the San Diego resident hopes to do so again this year. He’ll face off against the likes of Tim Wilkerson, who won the most recent event in Phoenix, defending world champion Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Courtney Force, seven-time event winner John Force, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr., among others.

For the new-look Pro Stock class (fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter), Greg Anderson will ride into Gainesville looking to defend his 2015 Gatornationals title. Anderson defeated teammate Jason Line in the final round of the event last year and both already have victories in 2016. The Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro tandem has combined for seven victories at Gainesville Raceway, but get tough competition from reigning world champion Erica Enders, two-time Gators winners Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., and category young guns, Drew Skillman, Phoenix runner-up Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile and Phoenix top qualifier Bo Butner.

Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET). It is the first of 16 races for Pro Stock Motorcycles during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the Gatornationals always provides a meaningful backdrop for the talented riders in the two-wheel class to begin their season.

The event also will serve as the season-opening race for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and feature plenty of thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, March 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 19, at 12 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 20.

 

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