Well, we have wrapped up the Gatornats a couple of days ago, and it’s time to take a look back at what we saw over the weekend in Gainesville, and boy that was a lot. From the Sarge & GOAT taking wins, to the #16 qualifier in Pro Mod breaking the world record.
Let’s start out with the fact that we were already to the third race of the NHRA season, and this was the first race that we saw full nitro fields. This is encouraging to say the least. There were 16 in Top Fuel and 16 in Funny car. Along with full fields in Pro Stock, Pro Stock Bike, and Pro Mod. It’s always much better for the fans to see side by side racing versus a bunch of solo stuff.
By the time we wrapped up the event, we saw some of the winningest drivers in NHRA history taking home that coveted win. Tony Schumacher, The Sarge, was able to wrap up the win, and his 83rd Wally when he took out Antron Brown in the finals a 3.70 to a 3.76. Very close race, but Tony took the win and looks like he is going to be one to continue to watch this season.
When we moved over to Funny Car, things got mighty interesting. This was the first race for Alcohol superstar Jonnie Lindburg, and he was driving he Head Inc car. Jonnie managed to get around J.R. Todd, Robert Hight, and Matt Hagan, before facing off against the 16X World Champion John Force. Yep, you read that right, Jonnie went through all those drivers and made it to the final round in his first fuel funny car outing. In the finals, it was John’s race all the way from light to light, when he was first out and dropped a 3.92 to Jonnie’s 3.97. This marks the 148th Wally for John. Only two more from another milestone of 150 Wallys.
In Pro Stock, for the first time in what feels like forever, we didn’t see one of the Summit Racing machines take home the Wally. This time it was Shane Gray, who is running a limited schedule and they are using his car as a test bed for things to use on his son Tanner’s car. There was a Summit car in the finals with Shane though. This time it was Greg Anderson. They left the tree at almost the exact same time, but Greg only squeezed out a 6.56 while Shane’s winning ET was a 6.53. This was the 6th time in Shane’s career that he took home the Wally.
Pro Stock Motorcycle was on the property for the first time in the 2017 season. There was a large contingency of bikes here, but Eddie Krawiec proved why he is a former World Champion as well. Eddie went through Mike Berry, Matt Smith, and Joey Gladstone, before facing off against his Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines. Andrew had a great tree, but Eddie was able to ride around him and run a 6.76 to Andrew’s slower 6.80. On a side note, Eddie was a just a tick away from reaching the 200 MPH mark, which is the one big accomplishment left on the pro side.
We already touched on Pro Mod a little in previous articles, but let’s take a moment to reflect on this class. We saw a newcomer come in and show that he is beyond a force to be reckoned with. Stevie Jackson qualified #1 with a 5.78, but that was little consolation to Eric Latino, who dropped the hammer to a 5.77, and Stevie had mechanical issues. Round two saw Eric break the World Record next pass and still managed to lose to Troy Coughlin, even though Troy ran a 5.75 to Eric’s 5.72. None of this mattered though, because when it came to the finals it was going to be the J&A Service backed Cadillac of Steven Whiteley vs. East Coast strong man Mike Castellana.
All in all, it was one hell of a weekend in Gainesville. Amazing racing, major upsets, rookies doing unthought of things. You couldn’t ask for much more when it comes to a weekend of racing.