The Gatornationals is one of the more famous and therefore important meets to win in drag racing. The 2014 race in Gainesville, Florida, was as good as it can get with great racing adding spice to an always critical race on the schedule. Past Gatornationals victors Doug Kalitta, Robert Hight, Allen Johnson and Steve Johnson were all winners again in the four pro categories Sunday.
Kalitta and Kalitta Motorsports, who have come all-so-close to winning championships in the past, appear to have their Top Fuelers ready to compete for wins and titles. Qualifying fourth overall, the veteran driver Kalitta, along his crew chief Jim Oberhofer, were forced in the second round to go up against teammate David Grubnic. Kalitta prevailed with a holeshot win, which Doug used to be well known for.
For the semis, Kalitta met up with the fastest car of the meet in Steve Torrence who had a stout ground-pounding 325 plus mph run in the first round. However, Torrence smoked the tires almost at the hit allowing Doug an easy win and shot at the finals. The number two qualifier Antron Brown is what stood in front of Kalitta and his 34th NHRA event win, but Brown smoked the tires before halfway and Kalitta breezed to victory and his third Gatornationals.
In Funny Car, even though none of their cars qualified in the top four, it was all about John Force Racing, sending all three of their cars to the semis. After qualifying in the bottom half of the field, Crew Chief Mike Neff tuned Hight’s Funny Car (they look more like trucks) to a very quick 4.06 in the first round before knocking off number two qualifier Bob Tasca in round two.
In the meantime, John Force, who barely made it into Sunday eliminations when he qualified last on the bump spot, managed to knock off number one qualifier Cruz Pedregon in the first round with the fastest speed at over 317 mph. John followed that up with a win over Del Worsham before defeating his daughter Courtney Force in the semis. The other semis saw Hight get a bit lucky when Ron Capps had trouble early in the run. The final was a one-sided affair when John smoked the tires early while Hight thundered down the course to grab his second Gatornationals.
In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly was the number one qualifier, Erica Enders-Stevens had a record speed but it wasn’t enough to knock off Johnson. Still, Allen needed a holeshot win over Enders-Stevens to secure his second consecutive Gatornationals.
The season-opener for Pro Stock Motorcycle, saw longtime rider Steve Johnson needing some red lights by competitors before he could win his first event in six long years. Regardless of some early luck in the first two rounds, Johnson was able to power by his opponent in the semis and then streaking by Scotty Pollacheck in the finals to nab his second Gatornationals after winning his first one back in 2005.
Kalitta leads the point standings in Top Fuel over Brown, while John Force held onto the points lead in Funny Car over teammate Hight. Allen Johnson is currently on top of Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle is led by the affable Steve Johnson, who showed how important his Wally (trophy) was with this Tweet and picture:
The next event is in two weeks at Las Vegas (March 28-30). The bikes rejoin the schedule April 11-13 for the one-of-a-kind Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte.
Did I mention there are 1.4 million alligators in Florida? And it didn’t rain … in Florida! Las Vegas is a desert but let’s hope we keep that trend going.
Additional sources : ESPN, NHRA