This will be my 10th consecutive year to attend the Gatornationals, and my 76th NHRA national drag racing event. Nine of us are making the trip and we are attending all three professional championship racing days from Friday to Sunday. Our attending group paid the highest prices ever for advanced 2009 Gatornationals tickets. So much for all of NHRA's marketing yap about lower ticket costs for this event. Basically, the good seats ticket holders are cross-subsidizing the "event filler" people in the general admission cheap seats. Nothing new, and hey socialism is now politically correct. However, I'm not complaining. Three days of Gatornational tickets were dramatically cheaper than the three NASCAR races we attended at Daytona International Speedway last month.
Below are several recent track photos, except the last one. The aerial photo is over a decade old before major renovations started. It shows why Gainesville Raceway is one of my favorite tracks - flat and very long. In my book, this offsets the facility being dated, although it has come a long way the last six years. It's also the reason I waited until I moved to Florida to get back into a blown alcohol dragster after attending and receiving my certification from Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School. Great track and great school (1.-Footnote). Check out the photo of the newly upgraded shutdown area sandtrap and catch-net. Construction was just completed. Now this is how they are suppose to look. Not like that joke at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown that NHRA ignored until Scott Kalitta was killed.
03.11.09 Weather: A major pressure front is moving towards north Florida, but is projected to stall out northern of Gainesville and not bring rain to the area until Mon-Wed of next week. However, some forecasts indicate a 20-30% rain chance on Sunday. Hopefully there will be no rain and thunderstorms like last year. Gainesville Raceway Fri-Sun Projection: Cloudy, fog during early mornings, low to mid-80's afternoon, low-moderate winds, mid-50's night, possibility of rain Sunday. It will be interesting to see what total attendance ends up being for the Gatornationals. Despite great weather, the attendance was down for the last NHRA race in Phoenix.
Below is part of what I wrote about our attending the 2008 Gatornationals. All corrupted NHRA related links, which happened with the NHRA's new Feb. 2009 website, have been corrected by FlA & Co. and another new link added. Unfortunately, NHRA corrupted 98% of their archive webpages' links and they still have not fixed them.
Mon. 03.17.08, FlA Says:
We had a good time at the 39th annual NHRA Gatornationals. Weather was much more problematic than the three NASCAR races we attended at Daytona International Speedway last month. The first day of qualifying was rained out, the second day was overcast, high humidity, and significant cross track winds. For Sundays eliminations the weather was great sunny, low 80s, low humidity, and low winds. The track was good but the nitro, and even some of the pro stock cars, had problems getting down the track due to the major changes in weather conditions between Saturday and Sunday. In the first round of eliminations, Tony Pedregon's brother, Cruz, experienced a major explosion and fire after his Funny Car's throttle hung wide-open at the end of his 310+ mph run - Article, Photos, Video
. Amazingly he won the race, his crew was able to rebuild the car, and Cruz ran a great second round of eliminations, but lost. Brother Tony, recovered from burn injuries resulting from a huge season opener top-end explosion and serious fire at the Winternationals, won Top Fuel Funny Car. For the first time in 18 years, two time Funny Car champion Frank The Teacher Hawley returned to competition
. Don "Big Daddy" Garlits was the Gatornationals Grand Marshal. He and Frank dedicated the track's new multi-million dollars three-story tower.
NHRA: Results Article | Detailed Results | Competition Plus Finals Coverage
Video: Honoring Eric Medlen, One Year Later - 5:36 minutes, plays direct in Windows Media Player
2008 Winners (L-R): PSM Matt Guidera ~ FC Tony Pedregon ~ TF Tony Schumacher ~ PS Jeg Coughlin
(1) On the personal racing subject, all my racing friends are very surprised that I have not learned to drive a grand national stock car because NASCAR racing has been/is a very important part of my racing life, and I've always liked the pre-COT cars. It was my No. 1 "free time" priority when I moved to Florida. But with four NASCAR drivers killed at the track in nine months culminating with the February 18, 2001 loss of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., I walked away from the sport until 2003. I attended the 2001 Daytona 500 when Dale was killed. Without question, it was the toughest racing loss Ive ever dealt with and for me, was the end of NASCAR's best racing years. However, the only Daytona 500 Ive missed attending this decade is 2002. But, attending the Daytona NASCAR races is as much for business reasons as it is personal. My/our attendance at the Talladega NASCAR races is mostly personal. By the time I got interested again in learning to drive a grand national stock car I was too busy with work, politics, and later on a deal I couldn't refuse, I joined a team and begin offshore Grand Prix superboat racing. Further, the best school and track to learn to drive is at Talladega Superspeedway, which is not convenient. But, with the recession and the National GOP out of power, I now have more time available to go to Talladega and learning to drive one of those "beast".
As to our annual February pilgrimage to attend all three 2009 races at Daytona International Speedway, I thought it was interesting that NASCAR's season started out as bad as NHRA's. I rated the Budweiser Shootout an F, Gatorade Duels: A-, and the rain ended Daytona 500: C. Will have to see how it goes when we attend the two April NASCAR races at Talladega, which is the weekend after the SBIP/APBA 19th Annual Miami Super Boat Grand Prix. - FlAttorney's FR Racing - NASCAR Section
Selected Racing News
A major upgrade was recently performed on Don Garlits website:
Museum of Drag Racing and International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. It looks great. Check it out.
03.11.09: Speedway Motorsports Reports Results
for Fourth Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2008
- - Nice to see Bruton Smith doing well including zMAX Dragway at Lowe's Motor Speedway - "The Bellagio of Dragstrips". Hope the current NHRA owners go broke and Bruton takes an ownership run at it.
03.09.09: Doug Kalitta off and running in 200903.06.09: Connie Kalitta, 71, Masters The Controls03.06.09: Drag-racing legend Connie Kalitta perseveres after son's death
03.12.09: Gatornationals: New Team Drags Away Top Talent
# # Prince from Qatar takes aim at NHRA dominance - For the first time in 18 years, Chuck Worsham won't be at the race track with his son during this weekend's AC Delco Gatornationals. He will be 2,200 miles away at a bowling tournament in Las Vegas(1). The family owned team on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series closed its doors at the end of last year when it lost its primary sponsorship, and Del Worsham decided to drive a Funny Car for Alan Johnson Al-Anabi Racing. <> (1) Love it *lol*. . . and Chuck deserves the break. He and Del are both outstanding individuals.
03.06.09 NHRA Drivers Seeing more Red:
Top Fuel's Cory McClenathan, Troy Buff and Mike Strasburg all red lighted during the opening round of the National Hot Rod Association's event in Phoenix on Feb. 22. There appears to be an explanation for the rash of reds. The NHRA has implemented a new variable timing Christmas tree, and that has made starts a little more interesting. I like it because it takes some of the guesswork out of drag racing and rewards racers for their skills. Funny Car driver Ron Capps agreed when he participated in Tuesday's NHRA's teleconference. "I think if there's any drivers complaining, then they need to go back and practice some more," said Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. "I'm saying that because I could very well red light the next race. But the fact is we did it as a group because we wanted to bring the driver back into it more." Capps said he almost red lighted in his semifinal win over Robert Hight in the opener at Pomona. "For people that don't know much about the tree, the amount of time when a flash of yellow would come down when both cars were staged, a guy could count one thousand one, one thousand two, and almost guess at the light," Capps said. "We wanted to put it back into the driver, make the driver a little more important I guess. "There were too many guys taking shots and guesses. That's not good when you come home to your kid and you explain a loss because a guy guessed at a tree." - Credit MLive
Selected 2009 Gatornationals Previews
Top Fuel: Doug Kalitta | Brandon Bernstein | Larry Dixon
Funny Car: Ron Capps | Robert Hight | Del Worsham | John Force | Mike Neff
ESPN Videos: Top Fuel Antron Brown Heads to Gainesville | Funny Car Ron Capps is Undefeated
Funny Car - 03.12.09: John Medlen to Miss Second Race:
With crew chief John Medlen still recovering from the effects of two medical procedures, including the placement of an arterial heart stent, John Force Racing's Mike Neff again will pull double duty on the Ford Drive One Mustang at this weeks 40th annual ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Runner-up at the most recent event in the NHRAs Full Throttle Series (Phoenix, Ariz.), Neff will try to take the blue-and-white Ford one step further this week. Not only will he drive, but as on-site crew chief, he also will implement the mechanical game plan he and Medlen devised in advance of the seasons third event. Medlen will keep up with the team through the event on-line simulcast. Eric Medlen's(RIP) father continues to improve and will meet with his doctors this week to get more information regarding his timetable for a return to the drag strip. FlA Says:
All our prayers are with John. The second medical procedure is new news since the last update after the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals in Phoenix.
- FlA Says:
2007 & '08 NHRA Pro Stock World Champion, and 2008 Gatornationals winner, Jeg Coughlin continues to be the guy to beat. He won in Phoenix, at the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals, and moved to second overall in the points standings, two points behind leader Jason Line(1)(2), who won at Gainesville in 2005. The other "top gun" to watch is three-time Pro Stock World Champion (2003,04,05), and two-time Gatornationals winner, Greg Anderson(1), who is third in points. Kurt Johnson is worth keeping an eye on. He is presently sixth and won at Gainesville in 2003. - (1) Summit Racing; (2) 2006 PS World Champion, Won '09 Winternationals.
Houston native, Erica Enders was DNQ for both the Winternationals and the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals. In both events her car was not even close to making the 16 car field, with a 20th(of 22 cars) at the Winternationals(only 1 round of qualifying due to rain), and a 22nd(last place) at Phoenix which had four full rounds of qualifying. Needless to state, her crew chief needs to find more horsepower in Erica's Dragstar Racing Mustang.
Pro Stock Motorcycles:
- FlA Says: Latest Angelle Sampey and Peggy Llewellyn News:
The two best women PSM drivers are still sidelined with no sponsors. This is the first time in thirteen years that Angelle, who is the winningness women in NHRA history, is not PSM racing. Angelle has not given up hope and says she has a deal working that she will know more about after the Gatornationals. I will be surprised if she doesn't return to racing this season. Angelle has been through off-season team/sponsorship problems before, which were after she won three PSM World Championships. Even after she became a NHRA superstar, Angelle had several off-season team problems where they would only pick her up for the new season if she drove for no monetary compensation. Angelle said no, stuck to her guns, and finally got a sponsorship/team deal worked out.
As to Peggy, she is doing a great job of marketing herself, I think better then Angelle, and matters look good that she will race at least part of the season. Both Angelle and Peggy are attending the full 2009 Gatornationals
to shake the sponsorship and network "trees". I'm sure Angelle will be in Antron Brown's pit. Since Peggy is a Texan, like Erica Enders, she will probably be in her pit. Hopefully, both Angelle and Peggy will tag team ESPN for some interview time. I greatly look forward to talking to both of them. If I had the time and money, I would sponsor both Angelle and Peggy as a PSM smackdown tag team, Nationally market them to the nth degree, and kick some butts at the track. A Texan(Peggy), a Cajun(Angelle), and a Texoridan(FlA, Texan, 1/2 Floridian). It would be the new "Mod Squad" of NHRA PRM racing *lol*. This is how strongly I feel about those two and I am not alone. Unfortunately, due to NHRA's incompetence, the Pro Stock Motorcycle division has serious marketing and exposure problems, which makes it difficult for many teams to attract primary sponsors on an on-going basis. And, sponsoring a PSM team is peanuts compared to a nitro team. The bottom-line, without Angelle racing many drag race fans will not have interest in PSM, including myself. However, I'll support Karen Stoffer and go to her PSM pit. I hope she really steps it up this season.
2008: Angelle and Peggy, Peggy and Karen
Here's the current Gatornationals PSM Entry List:
As shown, the two women racing are Karen Stoffer and Angie McBride. I've been following Karen for most of her career. I like her but she's not in the same league as Angelle and frankly I think Peggy is a better total-package driver. Further, Angelle and Peggy are outstanding individuals off-the-track. In fact, Peggy has a better personality than my "track girlfriend" Angelle. Nothing against Karen, but Angelle and Peggy are better crowd magnets. Karen has solid sponsorship but her husband is crew chief and sometimes I wonder if he knows what he's doing, no disrespect intended. However, without question, Karen has my 100% respect. Years back, she had a bad PSM top-end crash, when her brakes 100% failed at 185 mph, and she ended up in the shutdown sand trap and catch-net. Karen did an outstanding job rebounding from that crash. Further, Karen is doing a number of things right. She and her team have a three years primary sponsorship from GEICO that runs through the end of the 2010 NHRA season. GEICO, owned by Berkshire Hathaway(Warren Buffett), is using the sponsorship to increase both their motorcycle and cars insurance sales. GEICO has been Karen's primary sponsor since 2004. The other PSM teams would kill to have her GEICO sponsorship. I hope Karen has a fantastic 2009 season.
As to Angie McBride, the first few times I watched her race she had no business on the track. But Angie has improved dramatically and I think she could have a very good 2009 season. To be clear, I have total respect for all PSM drivers. I'll drive a dragster at 250-270 mph, but would never
try to jockey a pro stock motorcycle. Those 195+ mph quarter-mile monsters are totally out of my league, along with many other hardcore drag racers I know. I've talked to some veteran nitro drivers who confidentially said they had no interest in ever trying a PSM quarter-mile pass.
I hope a PSM breaks 200 mph, in the quarter-mile, this season. That would be a great day. And unlike the nitro divisions, NHRA national records count in the two pro stock divisions.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE RECORDS:
Gainesville Raceway: 6.911 ET by Angelle Sampey, March 2007, and
197.45 MPH by Andrew Hines, March 2005 (also current NHRA National Record)(1)
NHRA National ET Record: 6.871 ET by Angelle Sampey, June 2007, Englishtown, NJ
- - (1) Andrew is another great individual that I really like. First class all the way.
03.04.09: NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Drivers Prepare for 2009:
Its a tradition as old as the class itself. Since it became a professional category in 1987, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class has begun each season under the warm Florida sun at the historic Gainesville Raceway. The 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing season will be no exception as the 190+ mph class prepares to officially kick off the season at the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, March 12-15 in Gainesville, Florida. Typically the third stop for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock drivers, Pro Stock Motorcycle riders spend the entire three month offseason tuning, testing, and prepping for the historic and revered stop on the Full Throttle circuit.
Right now, were at the shop, working every day, said Snap-on tools Suzuki rider and 2005 Gatornationals winner, Steve Johnson. Weve got a new bike for 2009, and were trying to get it finished. Its full speed ahead to get ready for Gainesville. The scene in Johnsons shop is similar to that in every Pro Stock Motorcycle shop around the country with teams making last minute changes before the event. For many drivers, the off-season saw new life with new teams. The 2007 Full Throttle world champion, Matt Smith, was one of those riders. Smith, who had spent most of his Pro Stock Motorcycle career tuning and working on his own bikes, made the move from his family-owned team to the famed and legendary Don Schumacher Racing stable. The move also put Smith on a Suzuki; a change from the Buell-powered bikes he has run the past two years. Im excited, said Smith. Im looking forward to working with Steve (Tartaglia, crew chief) and Don (Schumacher) this year and seeing what we can do on that Suzuki. And try to win some races and win a championship.
Defending Full Throttle world champion Eddie Krawiec is also hoping to get the boost he knows hell need to defend his title. Going into Gainesville is a little bittersweet, said Krawiec. Its the first race defending the championship, but I also know I have a target on my back and theyll all be gunning for me. My main focus is to represent Screamin Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the best of my ability and to help the team maintain the consistency weve shown since the second part of last season. This is what it will take to defend the championship. - Credit CP