It was truly ugly to start with — but NHRA’s Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals was in the end very fast & very rewarding….

Despite the lowest level quality of cooperation from Mother Nature – NHRA’s traditional rich Eastern season opener manages the finish line.

The 2022 NHRA national event race at Gainesville was a “tester” for sure – for everyone involved or attending.   Because of insanely uncommon weather,  this 53rd version will be remembered as an extremely abbreviated affair – with the majority of qualifying deleted from the schedule.  In fact because of persistent heavy rain not a wheel was turned on the track during Thursday or Friday — followed then by falling temperatures which limited things to a single qualifying session Saturday afternoon for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock to set those fields. The eliminator ladders for Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod were then set without any qualifying runs – a super rarity in the sport.  That was due to racing conditions being deemed unsafe (because of very cold temps) – a decision endorsed by the class races themselves.

With the weather issues behind on Sunday – it was 3X Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan giving Tony Stewart Racing its first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory that began the headline making.  Tripp Tatum (Top Fuel), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also picked up wins within the national record setting fast event.

In his second final this season, Hagan powered his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT to a run of 3.910-seconds at 330.96 mph to beat Blake Alexander in the final round. It gives Hagan his 40th career victory and just as importantly, his first-ever win at historic Gainesville Raceway.

He reached the final round with wins against Dave Richards, Terry Haddock, and Chad Green. Hagan joined the first-year Tony Stewart Racing team in the off-season and posted a No. 1 qualifier and a runner-up for the team before the momentous win on Sunday in Gainesville.

Matt Hagan gave his new Tony Stewart Racing team it’s first victory in fuel FC racing. 

“To get this first win at the Gatornationals and Tony Stewart’s first win in a drag car, it’s pretty awesome,” Hagan said. “He wants to be here, and it says a lot for our sport. It was a good weekend for Tony, a good weekend for NHRA and I’m just very blessed and humbled to be here. I want to make sure I’m showing up on the starting line and doing my part and I just know what this team is capable of. It’s a lot of tough competition, but as a driver that’s exciting.

“It just was a big weekend for me personally because I’ve been wanting to win this race and check it off on my career box, and I think this allows me to accomplish everything I’ve ever set out to do in NHRA.”

Added Stewart: “This is pretty badass, especially at the Gatornationals. We’ve got two awesome race teams that work their butts off. I’m really proud of all these guys.”

Making his first appearance of the 2022 season, Alexander advanced to his fifth career final round, knocking off J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps.

A day after picking up his first career No. 1 qualifier, Tatum did one better, driving to his first career Top Fuel victory with a standout run of 3.700 at 330.31 in his 11,000-horsepower Tripp Tatum Racing dragster. Making just his 12th career start, Tatum delivered a truly magical weekend, beating Lex Joon, Billy Torrence, and points leader Mike Salinas to reach the final round, a day after qualifying No. 1 with a 3.674 at 331.53. He was just as good on Sunday during eliminations, streaking past Foley to earn an incredible victory.

Tripp Tatum roared to an enormous upset win in Top Fuel – his first national event score – winning from the pole qualifying position.

“This is pretty neat,” Tatum said. “My dad was at the first Gatornationals and my first career race was at the Gatornationals. This is just surreal and it’s not even close to setting in. There’s a lot of excitement now and this was a gigantic step for this team. I never really thought about winning, it’s been overwhelming and that’s all because of the Capco family. For me, I’m a lucky guy to have this opportunity to do this with the way Top Fuel is and the competition level in this class, it’s pretty awesome.”

Foley advanced to his first career final round, as the veteran knocked off Spencer Massey, Clay Millican and Justin Ashley in what was his most successful day as a Top Fuel driver.

Veteran racer Doug Foley had his best finish ever in NHRA Top Fuel racing.

In Pro Stock, Glenn, the reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year, got the best of his KB Racing teammate in the final round, going 6.486 at 210.21 in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro to knock off Kyle Koretsky. It gives Glenn his fourth career victory and first this season, also giving KB Racing its first win of the year after Elite Motorsports dominated the first two races. Gainesville, though, belonged to KB Racing, as Glenn knocked off Troy Coughlin Jr., points leader Aaron Stanfield and Rodger Brogdon to reach the final round. There, he tracked down Koretsky to pick up another major victory in his young career.

Reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year (2021) Dallas Glenn won in Pro Stock racing his RAD Torque Systems Chevy Camaro.

“The track felt great all weekend and we felt pretty good going into raceday,” Glenn said. “The car made an absolutely beautiful run in the final. The new car is working fantastic and to knock off a win really early in the season really gets me excited for the rest of the year. You get a season under your belt and then it’s a different pressure, but we ran great on raceday, and it should be a really fun season if we can continue to run like this. But this category is so tough and it’s really awesome right now.”

Kyle Koretsky – a young gun/second generation driver – went to the final round in his Lucas Oil-sponsored Camaro

Koretsky advanced to the final round for the sixth time in his career, picking up round wins against Fernando Cuadra, Camrie Caruso, and Mason McGaha. In the opening-round, four-time world champ Erica Enders made the quickest pass in Pro Stock history, going 6.450 at 213.57 in a losing effort.

Stoffer wrapped up one of the most impressive weekends in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, finishing her record-breaking weekend by going 6.700 at 200.77 on her Big St. Charles/Ray Skillman Suzuki to beat Angie Smith in the final round. It proved to be a thrilling way for the category to open its 2022 season and the weekend belonged to Stoffer, who claimed her 11th career victory. To reach the final round for the fourth straight race, dating back to last season, Stoffer made the two quickest runs in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, going 6.682 at 198.70 in the opening round to initially set the record before she topped it with an astounding 6.665 at 200.71 a round later. Stoffer added a 6.721 at 200.08 to reach the final round, with her finals performance giving Stoffer the third-quickest run in class history.

Karen Stoffer rode the two quickest runs in Pro Stock Motorcycle history – to victory.

“I knew the conditions were fantastic and out of the box, the bike was on fire,” said Stoffer, who now has three Gatornationals wins. “Gainesville is like my second home. I’ve spent a lot of time here; I feel really comfortable racing here and I’ve done well. When you look at that whole package, it means a lot and it’s definitely a dream come true to win and set a record at one of my favorite tracks. I love it here and it’s really nice to know we were able to cement something and say we were the first bike in the 6.60s.”

Smith had a strong weekend as well, advancing to her third career final round thanks to round wins against Chris Bostick, Steve Johnson, and Joey Gladstone.

Some Constant Entertainment – The 2022 Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown season kicked-off with a first-time winner. Lenny Lottig rallied his ITI Trailers & Truck Bodies 2020 Chevrolet Camaro through four rounds to his first career victory in only his second final round appearance.

“It still doesn’t even feel real. It’s an over-the-top feeling,” said Lottig, who entered race day as the No. 10 qualifier. “I couldn’t do it without having all of the team, between David Barton and the people back at the shop helping me work on the car; Dave and Jesse and the whole gang. I lean on Barton, who helps me make the decisions. We went out there and just concentrated and tried to run my own game.”

Lenny Lottig was a first time circuit winner – during the first Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown event of 2022.

In the first round, Lottig matched with Stephen Bell. Lottig would leave first to go 7.739-seconds at 175.27 mph bettering Bell’s 7.739 at 175.27 mph run. Lottig would make a single pass in the second round after his opponent, No. 2 qualifier Tripp Carter III, couldn’t make the call. Lottig would record an 8.260-second pass at 130.63 mph.

Going into the semifinals, Lottig would defeat Warren Walcher before lining up with No. 13 qualifier Anthony Troyer in the final round. Lottig would have the starting line advantage and never trail for a 7.704-second pass at 177.67 mph for the win over Troyer’s 7.731 at 177.07 mph.

En route to his runner-up finish, Troyer had to defeat two-time reigning Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Champion Aaron Stanfield. In doing so, he collected the $2,000 bounty that carried over from Stanfield’s 2021 season ending back-to-back victories.

Lottig will now have the $1,000 bounty heading to the NHRA Carolina Nationals. The ongoing battle between Chevrolet COPO Camaros, Ford Cobra Jets and Dodge Challenger Drag Paks will pick up the weekend of April 29-May 1 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

First Strike In Pro Mod – Kris Thorne picked up his first career victory in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series on Sunday, knocking off Sidnei Frigo in the final round of the season-opening race as part of this weekend’s Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Racing his Pro-Charger Camaro – Kris Thorne won his first NHRA national event in Pro Modified racing.

The event, which was presented by FTI Performance in Gainesville, was the first of 10 races during the 2022 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season.

Frigo reached the final round thanks to victories against Justin Bond, Dwayne Wolfe, and Mike Thielen.

(*Editor’s Note: For more PM class detail and photos link to our Smokies Garage Pro Mod Portal subsection report:  HERE )

Lucas Oil Lowdown

Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series level TAD class racing produced a first time winner when two young lady star racers faced off with Jasmine Salinas defeating Julie Nataas in the final round round.

Jasmine, who is daughter to Top Fuel racer Mike Salinas, recorded a winning 5.598 secs at 271.02 mph while Nataas, who had qualified #1 (low ET 5.177 secs) went up in tire smoke right at the hit.

Jasmine Salinas broke through to win for the first time in her short TAD class racing career.

Salinas’ first national event title also included round wins over Megan Smith, Tom Fox and Karen Stalba.

Canadian driver Daniel Mercier made a big impression with his all new Dan Page built injected nitro car. The Saint Michel-PQ based racer qualified #2 (5.233 secs) and set top speed for the class at 280.92 mph.

The TAFC field for racing at Gainesville saw only 6 cars entered – but that final round – scheduled between Sean Bellemeur and Matt Gill, has been deferred to the upcoming NHRA event at Concord NC in May.

The Vortech Superchargers presented Top Sportsman and Top Dragster title at Gainesville were won by Allen Firestone (TS) – his 3rd career NHRA win and Wayne Landry (T/D) his 2nd career title.

Jeff Strickland was the Stock eliminator winner in his FS/B COPO. It was the 4th time Jeff has won at the Gatornationals in his career.

Super Gas 9.90 racing produced a first time win for Kevin MacNicol in his Firebird.

Hugh Meeks won in Super Comp (8.90) – it was his 3rd career national event score in NHRA.

Peter D’Agnolo (from NY State) won in Super Stock with his SS/CS Chevy Camaro.

Florida native David Eaton won in Comp with his wicked fast A/AP. Eaton also won at Gainesville back in 2009.

Link to the LMLCMedia event photo gallery from this edition Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals event:  HERE

Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Elon Werner & Bruce Biegler
 Photos by Dave DeAngelis & Phil Hutchison