As it does each year – NHRA’s Amalie Oil Gatornationals has marked sort of an official start to the season for Eastern based drag racing fans….
The 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was held at fabled Gainesville Raceway and that produced marquee efforts by Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) who were also winners in their respective categories for the third of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel world champion, piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.703-second pass at 329.26 mph for the 83rd victory of his career and first of the season. He defeated reigning world champion Antron Brown who ran a 3.764 at 322.65 in his Matco Tools dragster. With the win, Schumacher becomes the winningest Top Fuel driver at the facility with five after previously being in a four-way tie.
“We have great, great people working together. I’m loving driving the car,” Schumacher said. “We’re in the fight every day, every race. It’s going to be a fun year, man. I’m comfortable driving the car. It’s running right down the middle. Its running extremely fast. It doesn’t have any part on the race track where I feel that I’m in danger. Its doing everything that a driver dreams about sitting in a Top Fuel car.”
Schumacher defeated Smax Smith, Clay Millican and Steve Torrence en route to the victory. Brown was able to get past Chris Karamasines, rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. and Doug Kalitta before falling to Schumacher in the finals.
Force, a sixteen-time world champion and the winningest driver in NHRA history, ran a 3.928 at 328.14 in his PEAK Chevy Camaro Funny Car for the 148th victory of his career, eighth at Gainesville and first of the season. He defeated rookie Jonnie Lindberg’s 3.971 at 314.83 in his Head Racing Toyota Camry.
“I made a lot of changes coming here. Don’t know if I’m smart or just lucky. I surround myself with great people. They’re the ones who make it happen, then the sponsors and then the cheer of the crowd. They made one mistake out here. They let me find the music. I found myself. A lot of things area about heart, and about luck. You always feel somebody up there likes ya. I believe hard work, dedication and what we went though, it’s been a draining day. I’m not accepting that I’m done. I’ve been real lucky.”
The victory marks the 2,500 Funny Car round-win for John Force Racing. Force raced past Del Worsham, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. on his way to the finals. Lindberg defeated Dave Richards in the first round and upset Robert Hight and Matt Hagan to get to the final.
In Pro Stock, Gray picked up the sixth victory of his career and first at Gainesville Raceway when he ran a 6.535 at 212.96 in his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro to defeat four-time champion Greg Anderson and his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro’s 6.560 at 213.43 in the final.
“I wasn’t supposed to win,” Gray said. “When you’re testing parts you’re just not supposed to win which is basically what we’re doing with my car. We had a lucky day today. There were some round wins when the car pulled me out of the whole and there were a couple rounds where I pulled the car out of the whole. It was a complete team effort today.”
Gray turned on win lights against Allen Johnson, Erica Enders and Chris McGaha while Anderson won against Matt Hartford, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and teammate and reigning world champion Jason Line before reaching the finals.
Three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec defeated teammate Andrew Hines for his 37th career victory, second consecutive and fifth total at Gainesville Raceway. Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.763 pass at 199.76 bettering Hines’ 6.802 at 197.10 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“This helps set the pace for the year,” Krawiec said. “Get that first win off your back, keep that momentum rolling, get the points. You know once you win one or two races you kind of solidify your spot. With the extra competitive class we have this year it definitely helps. There’s a lot of great motorcycles. My Harley-Davidson this weekend really has been really fast, we just haven’t been able to harness that power and get it sorted out. I think as the year goes on we’re going to get better.”
Krawiec rode past Mike Berry, Matt Smith and Joey Gladstone before racing Hines in the finals. Hines defeated Angelle Sampey, Scotty Pollacheck and Steve Johnson before being defeated himself.
New Pro Mod Presence
2nd generation racer Steven Whitely scored a popular victory in the NHRA’s J&A Services Pro Mod class category driving his revolutionary Cadillac-bodied car.
Steven Whitely raced to his first career NHRA event win in that class portion of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals which was presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc.. The event was the first of 12 scheduled NHRA races for this season.
Whitley in his ’14 Cadillac faced series veteran Mike Castellana in the final round. Whitely was able to post a winning time of 5.791 seconds at 253.52 mph to the trailing run of 10.192 at 87.94 of Castellana.
The Whiteley family was able to celebrate the victory in style as his mother Annie won the Top Alcohol Funny Car event on Sunday as well.
“It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s such a blessing being in the winner’s circle with my mom,” Whitely said. “I can’t express how thankful I am. Not only for J&A Service on a couple of accounts. They sponsor this series, but it’s more intimate than that, at least for me. You know, J&A Service, that’s Jim and Annie Whiteley, that’s Mom and Dad. These guys don’t understand how much more this hits me. I just let the clutch petal go. My guys make this happen. I cannot thank them enough.”
Pro Mod class racing was a ferocious affair that produced the all time quickest Pro Mod field in history – featuring a bump spot of 5.855 secs.
The race also produced a national record setting performance by Canadian Eric Latino (Port Perry ON) who drove his new Chevy Camaro to a record setting ET of 5.727 seconds during a second round loss. (DragRaceCanada will post additional details on this – coming soon.)
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Ann Marie Whiteley and David Rampy raced to victory at this weekend’s NHRA Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Whitely grabbed her fourth national event win in Top Alcohol Funny Car and Rampy added his 93rd national event win.
Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., ran 5.412 seconds, 273.22 mph to defeat Dan Pomponio, Berlin, N.J., who was unable to return to the starting line after breaking following the semifinal round. Whiteley ran the tenth quickest pass and ties John Lombardo for seventh fastest in the history of Top Alcohol Funny Car. The Colorado driver eliminated Bill Naves and Andy Bohl in rounds 1 and 2 before taking out Lombardo to advance to the final round.
It was a back and forth final round as fans in attendance were treated to a competitive Top Alcohol Dragster finale between Justin Ashley, Plainview N.Y., and Rich McPhillips, Phonexville, Pa. McPhillips started strong out of the gate, but Ashley began to chase him down and pulled past McPhillips to win his first national event Wally. Ashley made a winning pass of 5.232 seconds, 275.96 mph over McPhillips runner-up pass at 5.258 seconds, 277.20 mph.
Piedmont, Ala., racer David Rampy took the starting line against Wes Leopold, Bethel Park, Pa., in the final round of Comp Eliminator. Leopold took off too soon, fouling at the line. Rampy registered victory pass of 8.099, 118.68. The Alabama racer defeated Jenny Treadwell in semifinals to advance to the final round.
Jeffrey Parker, Kathleen, Ga., cruised to victory in the Top Sportsman Presented by Racing RVs.com final round. Barker ran 6.554, 211.59 defeating Casey Spradlin, Ranburne, Ala., who finished second at 6.789, 206.86. In the final of round of School of Automotive Machinists Factory Stock Showdown, David Barton, Robesonia, Pa., took the starting line advantage and held the lead and gaining the win. Barton registered his winning run at 8.131, 168.47. Chuck Watson, Gross Ille, Mich., runner-upped at 8.227, 167.76.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were Jacob Elrod in Super Comp; Sherman Adcock in Super Gas; Fred Allen in Super Stock; and Terry Nagel in Stock Eliminator.
To link to DragRaceCanada’s NHRA Gatornationals photo gallery click: HERE
Posted with files by NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler
Photos by Bruce Biegler