Good afternoon race fans!
This weekend the NHRA headed to Gainesville, Florida for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the East Coast opener and the first race of the season for the Pro Stock Motorcycles. You may have heard the song, or at least the song title, ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ this weekend has been ‘Storm that brought rain into Florida for multiple days causing there to only be one session of qualifying and it wasn’t even a full session for PSM.’ I know, it’s super catchy, but it did have us wondering whether it would be easier to try and wrangle a gator than to make a full pull down the dragstrip.
One thing that was set to take place this weekend is the Pep Boys Top Fuel All Star Callout. The callout was announced at the end of last season, with Funny Car getting their own later in the year at Indy. The premise, the Top 8 Top Fuel drivers go head to head for a purse of $80,000. The way it works is the top 4, well top 3 really because the 4th would get whoever didn’t get called out already, got to call out their competitor it would take place during qualifying on Saturday, with those runs counting towards qualifying if they were enough to get them in, and with more than 16 cars entered, it was a big deal. With the weather causing delays and eventually cancelling qualifying, they only managed the first round of the Callout. It will be finished in Indy, so until then, I’ll keep all of my notes and do a special article for the Top Fuel and Funny Car Callouts.
I want to make a quick note, timing and scoring has been up and down all day, so you’ll be seeing an abridged version of the round by round breakdown.
Back to race day, because of the shortened qualifying, I have to note that Antron Brown, Leah Pruett and Shawn Langdon did NOT qualify for this race, something that hasn’t happened for these drivers in many years. The ones that did qualify however, have been putting on quite the show. On the left side of the ladder, No. 1 qualified Tripp Tatum started his day by taking on No. 16 Lex Joon. Lex had problems, eventually running a 6.59, while Tripp went a to b a 3.67. In the second round he took on the tough Billy Torrence. It was a really good, really close race, but with a 3.72 to a 3.74, Tripp was into the semifinals. His semifinal matchup was against most recent race winner, Mike Salinas. Mike had problems almost immediately, eventually running a 10.75 and I don’t have a time for Tripp, but it was enough for him to drive around Mike putting him and the Tripp Tatum Racing team into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 10 qualified Doug Foley started his day by taking on No. 7 Spencer Massey, yes, that Spencer Massey. Doug went a to b with a 3.76 while Spencer slowed and went 4.25. In the second round he faced the always tough Clay Millican. On paper it seemed like this was going to be a good race, however, Clay went red (-.196), giving Doug the win immediately and he ran a 3.80. Doug’s semifinal matchup was against winner of the first race, Justin Ashley. Justin had problems, eventually running a 9.64, while Doug ran a stout 3.77, putting him and the PROTECS Inc/Foley Lewis Racing team into the finals. This should be a really exciting final, and I give both teams major props for throwing it down today. Like I predicted, it was a great final. In the end, it was a 3.70 to a 3.80 that gave Tripp Tatum his first career win, and for that I congratulate him.
In the Funny Car ranks and on the left side of the ladder, No. 4 qualified Matt Hagan started his day by taking on No. 13 Dave Richards. It wasn’t a great run for either of them, but with a 5.26 to a 9.05, Matt was onto the second round where he met Terry Haddock. Terry didn’t make a run so Matt basically had a bye, which he ran a 4.02. Matt’s semifinal matchup was against Chad Green. It was a decent race, and with a 3.80 to a 4.01, Matt and the Dodge Power Brokers team were into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 6 qualified Blake Alexander started his day by taking on No. 11 JR Todd. JR had problems quickly, eventually running a 10.93 while Blake ran a solid 3.96. In the second round he faced Cruz Pedregon. It was a good race until Cruz ran into problems, and with a 3.92 to a 5.77, Blake was into the semifinals. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Ron Capps. I don’t have a time for Ron, but I do know that Blake ran a 3.93 and that was enough to put him and the Head Inc team into the finals. This race was all Matt. Blake had problems pretty quickly, eventually running a 9.56, while Matt went a to b with a 3.91, taking home not only the first Wally for TSR Nitro in Funny Car, but the first NHRA event win which is hugely exciting, so congrats to them!
In Pro Stock, on the left side of the ladder, No. 8 qualified Dallas Glenn started his day by taking on No. 9 Troy Coughlin Jr. I don’t know what Troy ran, but Dallas went 6.47. In the second round Dallas faced Aaron Stanfield. This was an incredibly close race and one that was helped by cutting a good light, Dallas (.015) Aaron (.034). In the end it was Dallas’ 6.506 that bested Aaron’s 6.504, seeing him into the semifinals. His semifinal matchup was against Rodger Brogdon. It was a decent race, but with a 6.50 to a 6.56, Dallas and the RAD Torque Systems team was into to finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 2 qualified Kyle Koretsky started his day by taking on No. 15 Fernando Cuadra. It was a good race and with a 6.48 to a 6.52, Kyle was into the second round. In the second round he faced Camrie Caruso. This was another good race and with a 6.49 to a 6.54, Kyle was onto the semifinals. His semifinal matchup was against Mason McGaha. It was a solid race and really proved that Kyle has a bracket car today because he ran another 6.49 to Mason’s 6.53, putting him and the Lucas Oil team into the finals. Usually when you see teammates in the final round you get a feeling that it’s going to be a solid race because there’s no one you want to beat more than your teammates, and this race was no exception. It was a close race and very good race and with a 6.48 to a 6.51, Dallas grabbed the win and took home the Wally.
For it being their first race of the season, the Pro Stock Motorcycles had it tough. They didn’t get a full session of qualifying, so their ladder was determined by last years final point standings. On the left side of the ladder, No. 5 qualified Karen Stoffer started her day by taking on No. 12 Jimmy Underdahl. He had problems, eventually running a 9.68 while she went down the track with a solid 6.68. In the second round she faced the always tough Eddie Krawiec. I don’t have a time for Eddie, but Karen ran the new quickest run in PSM history, 6.665 at 200.71 mph. Her semifinal matchup was against Jerry Savoie. I don’t have a time for Jerry, but Karen ran a 6.72, putting her and the Ray Skillman Auto/Big St. Charles team into the finals. On the other side of the ladder No. 6 qualified Angie Smith started her day by taking on No. 11 Chris Bostick. I don’t have a time for either. In the second round Angie faced the tough Steve Johnson. I don’t have a time for Steve, but Angie ran a 6.76. Her semifinal matchup was against Joey Gladstone. It was a decent race but with a 6.73 (at 201 mph!) to a 6.88, Angie and the Denso team were into the finals. This was a FAST final, these ladies did not come to play. Angie went 6.72 at 201.28 mph, while Karen took home the Wally with a 6.70 at 200.77 mph.
The next race will be the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 1st – 3rd in Las Vegas, Nevada.