Defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence vaults into the NHRA points lead in a rather iconic way…..

Last weekend at Gainesville Raceway, NHRA drag racing was finally able to leave the confines of Indianapolis for the first time since the pandemic — with the 51st running of the rescheduled (from March) Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals.

That event limelight did shine down on Texan Steve Torrence who powering past his father, Billy, in the final round to win a coveted Gatornationals title for the first time in his career.

Ron Capps (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the seventh race of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Torrence, who has won back-to-back world titles, went 3.809-seconds at 322.11 mph in the final round in his 11,000-horsepower dragster, which paid special tribute to “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’ iconic “Swamp Rat 14.” With Garlits watching on the starting line, Torrence and his throwback look slipped past his father’s 3.810 at 320.74 to win for the third time this year and 39th time overall. Torrence, who beat Tony Schumacher, Doug Foley and Leah Pruett to reach the final round in Gainesville for the first time, also moved into first in the class by 22 points over Doug Kalitta to cap off a memorable weekend.

Driving his special tradition edition Don Garlits “Swamp Rat 14” Steve Torrence defeated his father Billy in the close TF final round.

“To come out here and have the opportunity to run the ‘Swamp Rat 14’ and have (Garlits) here with us, it’s icing on the cake for anything you want to do,” Torrence said. “We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, that’s just a testament to how hard Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana and every one of these Capco boys work. For my dad to go to the final round, both of us are doing well. We’ve just to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Living legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits cheered on Steve Torrence’s event victory!

Billy Torrence reached his second final round this season and ninth in his career with victories against Todd Paton, Shawn Langdon and Terry McMillen.

Racing at his sponsors event – Terry McMillen – did have a strong showing with a semi-final round finish.

Capps picked up his fourth career win at Gainesville with a clutch performance, running 3.937 at 323.12 in the final round in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to squeak past Tim Wilkerson’s 3.945 at 325.92. It gave Don Schumacher Racing its 10th straight Funny Car win and came in a backup car after an explosion during Capps’ semifinal victory against teammate Matt Hagan. The team, led by crew chief Rahn Tobler, got the new car ready quickly, and Capps, who also had round wins against John Smith and Alexis DeJoria, delivered his second win in 2020 and 66th in his standout career.

Ron Capps rolled to his 66th career NHRA title — the win keep the formidable DSR team undefeated in fuel FC racing this season!

“To be able to win four (Gatornationals) is pretty wild,” Capps said. “We put a spare car together that went out on its first full run and went 3.93 and won the Gatornationals. To run that well and have it be in the final round of the Gatornationals, it’s unbelievable. Rahn had it perfect and I felt pretty good about it. The best part is keeping the streak alive for Don Schumacher Racing. The guys on this team bring out on the best in me, and those semifinals were a big round. We had to make points up and we came through.”

Wilkerson reached his first final round this season and 45th in his career after beating Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Bob Tasca III. Jack Beckman maintains a four-point lead over Hagan.

Pro Stock’s Laughlin turned around his 2020 season in a major way, racing to his first victory of the year in his Havoline/Laughlin Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro with a run of 7.068 at 204.76 in the final round against Aaron Stanfield. It was Laughlin’s first final round of the season and also made up for his crushing loss in the final round at Gainesville a year ago. He beat Kenny Delco, Kyle Koretsky and No. 1 qualifier Deric Kramer to reach the championship round before cruising to his fourth career win.

Pro Stock “Young Gun” driver Alex Laughln (near lane) won in Pro Stock.

“After the first qualifier, I thought we were going to win the race this weekend,” Laughlin said. “This track has always been really good to me. I was amped (in the finals) and I just went nuts when I saw the win light come on. What a weekend. More than anything, I just needed that this year with how awful a year it’s been. We had a completely brand new crew this weekend and we were just trying to find a routine. Everything just paid off.”

Stanfield reached his first career final round in Pro Stock thanks to wins against Bo Butner, Cristian Cuadra and Jason Line. In the points race, Line jumped two points ahead of Erica Enders.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith finished off a dominant weekend with his first win of the season on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR, going 6.843 at 196.99 to beat defending world champ Andrew Hines in the final round. It also gives Smith, who was the No. 1 qualifier, his 25th career victory, continuing a stretch that also saw him win the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle at the most recent race. He knocked off Kelly Clontz, John Hall and Scotty Pollacheck to reach the final round before his wire-to-wire win against Hines. Smith moved into the points lead with his first win at Gainesville, celebrating a special weekend that also saw his dad, Rickie, win in Pro Mod.

Matt Smith was dominating while winning in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“I’ve tried since 2006 to win this race and I’ve never been able to do it,” said Smith, a three-time world champ. “I’ve watched my dad do it a couple times and it means a lot to win it. I’ve always wanted to win Gainesville and leave with the points lead, and I was able to do it. Right now, I think Team MSR has the best team out here and we have the power to win this thing. We’ve just to keep everything together, but we have the power to win races and win a championship.”

Hines reached his 98th final round with victories against Hector Arana Jr., and teammates Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey.

The Gainesville race also included the most recent scheduled event for the M/T Tires and Wheels Top Fuel Harley division and that saw now runaway points leader Randal Andras continue his dominating ways.

The Louisiana-based racer saved his best for the last when he carded a low ET of the meet 6.272 secs at 216.27 mph to defeat Chris Smith who ran 6.317 secs 229.24 mph.

Randal Andras continued his runaway season in M/T Top Fuel Harley racing – notching his 5th win of the year.

For Andras — this was his 5th win of the 2020 season campaign. After qualifying #2 (6.411 secs) he defeated Rickey House and Jay Turner in rounds one and two.

The Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals did featured the 4th race of the season for the dynamic E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series — and that eliminator featured a convincing win by wily vet Rickie Smith. (*Pro Mod event results are featured to our VP Racing Fuels Pro Mod Portal subsection …link to that post: HERE).

The event’s Lucas Oil Sportsman level for drag racing was unfortunately cut just short by some untimely rain which has deferred most of those final rounds. The only winner on Sunday came in the Top Alcohol Funny Car category when Sean Bellemeur sped to his 19th career win defeating Doug Gordon – just before the rain hit.

TAFC class racing was completed prior to the rain hitting late Sunday – California’s Sean Bellemeur was a winner — driving the Bartone Bros Camaro.

A much anticipated TAD final round was to feature the injected nitro cars driven by Julie Nataas versus Josh Hart. All the remaining class conclusions (including the Factory Stock Showdown) are presently TBA/will be run off at a later date.

Aaron Stanfield (who was r/up in Pro Stock) will also be one of the finalists for the now rain-deferred final round for the FS/XX Factory Stock Showdown.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Oct. 2-4 with the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.

Posted with files by NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler

All Photos by Luke Nieuwhof (
Link to the Drag News Gatornationals event photo gallery: HERE (Coming soon)