Sunday's Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals photo blog
Sunday, March 16, 2014

News and views from the Amalie Motor Oil
NHRA Gatornationals
Last update: 5:20 p.m.
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Today's activities began with the continuation of eliminations in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the opening round of the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. Raymond Commisso was among the first-round winners in Pro Mod, defeating Eric Latino. Other Pro Mod racers advancing to round two were Steve Matusek, Steven Whiteley, Rickie Smith, Danny Rowe, Troy Coughlin, Mike Castellana, and Mike Janis.

Prior to the pre-race ceremony and driver introductions, the Darrell Gwynn Foundation held its annual Track Walk For Those Who Can't, the proceeds from which benefit the foundation's wheelchair donation program. The Track Walk was led by two of the Gwynn family's restored race cars, Jerry Gwynn's Baby Huey car and Darrell Gwynn's 1984 Top Alcohol Dragster.

Champions in the NHRA Lucas Oil and NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series were recognized during the pre-race ceremony. (Above) NHRA President Tom Compton, left, and Lucas Oil's Forrest Lucas, right, honored 2013 Top Alcohol Dragster champ Jim Whiteley, second from right, and Top Alcohol Funny Car powerhouse Frank Manzo. (Left) Compton also presented a champion's jacket and ring to last year's Pro Mod titlist Rickie Smith.

Nicole St. Pierre, of Naples, Fla., was the recipient of the custom power wheelchair presented by the Darrell Gwynn Foundation during the pre-race ceremony.

Three lucky NHRA Members were chosen for the National Dragster Backstage Pass tour, where they got to mingle with the drivers backstage during the pre-race ceremony. From left, John and Nancy Calson, Dick Eaton and Jerry Bastek, and Kathy and Bruce Winter assembled for their great fan experience.

NHRA Members can get the chance to win a similar experience at future NHRA Mello Yello events by sending an email to

[11:55 a.m.] Morgan Lucas, left, made his first round of 2014 count, winning the battle of teammates with Top Fuel rookie Richie Crampton. Lucas got the automatic nod after Crampton went red.

[11:55 a.m.] Steve Torrence (above) clocked low e.t. of the opening round, blasting to a 3.790 to defeat Khalid alBalooshi. Torrence will face J.R. Todd (right) in round two after Todd got the suprising win against No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon, who smoked the tires. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Doug Kalitta vs. David Grubnic, Tony Schumacher vs. Antron Brown, and Morgan Lucas vs. Spencer Massey.

[12:10 p.m.] After struggling through all of qualifying, John Force rebounded in a big way today, posting the event's second 4.0, a 4.075, in the first pair of Funny Cars. The run lifted Force past No. 1 qualifier and rival Cruz Pedregon, who posted a solid 4.10.

[12:10 p.m.] Another John Force Racing Car, Robert Hight, was not only best of the first round but quickest of the entire weekend, posting a 4.061 in his victory over Tony Pedregon. Hight will have lane choice against Bob Tasca III in the second round. Other round-two pairings (lane choice first): John Force vs Del Worsham, Courtney Force vs. Tim Wilkerson, and Jack Beckman vs. Ron Capps.

[12:45 p.m.] Erica Enders-Stevens continues to pace Pro Stock. The national speed record holder posted low e.t. of the first round, 6.541 in her victory against Robert Patrick. Enders-Stevens will face points leader V. Gaines in round two.

[12:45 p.m.] Though he came up on the losing end of a great race with former world champ Allen Johnson, Jonathan Gray had a solid race-day debut. The younger brother of Pro Stock veteran Shane cut a near-perfect .004 light and came up just eight-thousandths short in the 6.55 to 6.59 race with Johnson.

[12:45 p.m.] Vincent Nobile once again proved quite adept with his left foot, turning a .041 to .069 lead at the Tree into a 6.57 to 6.56 holeshot win against Chris McGaha in the Pro Stock opener. Nobile will face Jeg Coughlin Jr. in round two. Coughlin has lane choice after posting a 6.55. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Dave Connolly vs. Jason Line, Allen Johnson vs. Shane Gray, and Erica Enders-Stevens vs. V. Gaines.

[1 p.m.] John Hall had the quickest run of Pro Stock Motorcycle's opening round, wheeling his Matt Smith Racing Buell to a 6.87 against Adam Arana. Hall faces Andrew Hines, who was also in the 6.8s, in round two.

[1 p.m.] The other two riders in the Matt Smith Racing stable also advanced to round two in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Scotty Pollacheck, left, defeated Hector Arana Sr., and Matt Smith posted the second-quickest time of the first round, a 6.880, en route to victory against Jerry Savoie. Smith has lane choice against Steve Johnson in round two, and Pollacheck surrenders lane choice to Michael Ray. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): John Hall vs. Andrew Hines and Hector Arana Jr. vs. Eddie Krawiec.

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[1:25 p.m.] Antron Brown had the quickest winning run of Top Fuel's second round with a 3.810 that easily got the win against a tire-smoking Tony Schumacher. The run earns Brown lane choice in the semifinals over upset-minded Morgan Lucas, who stopped Spencer Massey in the second stanza.

[1:25 p.m.] Doug Kalitta has lane choice in the other semifinal pairing. Kalitta earned his slot in the semi's on his driving, winning against teammate David Grubnic on a holeshot. Grubnic ran low e.t. of the second round, 3.800, but it wasn't enough to get around Kalitta, whose 3.82 turned on the win light thanks to a .050 to .099 lead at the Tree. Kalitta will have lane choice over Steve Torrence, who stopped J.R. Todd.

[1:35 p.m.] Courtney Force's Traxxas entry came alive yesterday in qualifying, and her strong performance has carried into Sunday. After a 4.10 in the first round, Force ran a 4.14 in round two to defeat Tim Wilkerson. Force will face dad John in the semifinals, and he will have lane choice thanks to the 4.13 he recorded against Del Worsham.

[1:35 p.m.] The only non-John Force Racing car still in contention in Funny Car is the NAPA Dodge of Ron Capps, who clocked a 4.13 against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who struck the tires. Capps will have lane choice against Robert Hight, who got around a tire-smoking Bob Tasca III.

[1:55 p.m.] Dave Connolly (above) earned a spot in the Pro Stock semifinals on his driving, parlaying a .024 to .060 starting-line advantage into a 6.58 to 6.56 holeshot win against Jason Line in round two. Connolly will have lane choice in the semi's over Allen Johnson (right), who won a wild match with Shane Gray in the second round. Both Johnson and Gray experienced tire shake, but Johnson was able to drive through it and, despite getting a little squirrelly downtrack, turn on the win light with a 7.41. In the other semifinal match, Erica Enders-Stevens will have lane choice against Vincent Nobile after she ran low e.t. of the second round, 6.53.

[2 p.m.] Reigning NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Matt Smith's weekend came to a tough end when he went .005 red against Steve Johnson in round two. Smith's 6.86 on the run was the quickest time of the second round.

[2 p.m.] Hector Arana Jr. posted a 6.91 to trailer Eddie Krawiec in the second round of Pro Stock Motorcycle. The run earned Arana lane choice in the semifinals against Steve Johnson. The other semifinal match will pair Matt Smith Racing teammates Scotty Pollacheck and John Hall. Hall has lane choice.

[2:45 p.m.] Phoenix Top Fuel winner Antron Brown will have a chance to go back to back after he bested a tire-smoking Morgan Lucas. Brown posted a 3.84 in his semifinal victory, giving him lane choice in the final.

[2:45 p.m.] Doug Kalitta will make up the other half of the "Tool Wars" Top Fuel final after he drove his Mac Tools entry to a 3.85 victory over Steve Torrence, whose chances ended in a haze of tire smoke. This is Kalitta's 70th career final and his second this year; he was runner-up to Khalid alBalooshi at the season opener in Pomona.

[3 p.m.] The Funny Car final is an all-John Force Racing affair between John Force (right) and Robert Hight (below). Hight has lane choice in the team battle after posting a 4.16 against a tire-hazing Ron Capps. Force slowed to a 4.24 on his semifinal run, but that was more than enough to move the 16-time world champ past daughter Courtney, who smoked the tires.

[3:10 p.m.] Good friends Allen Johnson (left) and Erica Enders-Stevens (below) will go head to head for top honors in Pro Stock. Johnson defeated Dave Connolly in the semi's, and Enders-Stevens got around Vincent Nobile. Interestingly, both Johnson and Enders-Stevens ran 6.569 in the semi's. Enders-Stevens earned lane choice on the speed tiebreaker, 212.29 to 211.79.

[3:20 p.m.] The Pro Stock Motorcycle class may have a first-time winner after Scotty Pollacheck advanced to the title round. Pollacheck defeated teammate John Hall on a 6.86 to 6.84 holeshot to earn a spot in his third final. Pollacheck will have lane choice in the money round.

[3:20 p.m.] Steve Johnson makes up the other half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Johnson clocked a 6.87 to stop Hector Arana Jr.'s 6.90 in the semifinals.

[5:20 p.m.] Steve Johnson, near lane, broke a three-year win drought for the Suzuki brand in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competition when he rode to a win at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Johnson, in his 28th year in the class, rode to a 6.91 to beat Scotty Pollacheck, who slowed to a 7.09. The win was the sixth of Johnson's career and his second in Gainesville.

[5:20 p.m.] Allen Johnson debuted his new Dodge Dart, far lane, in the best way possible with a Pro Stock victory in Gainesville. The former Pro Stock world champion grabbed his second straight win when he claimed a 6.56 to 6.55 holeshot victory over his friend and rival Erica Enders-Stevens in the final round.

[5:20 p.m.] Robert Hight, far lane, got the best of his boss, John Force, in the Funny Car final with a 4.074, 314.46 to Force’s tire-smoking 6.435. Hight has won this event twice in the last three years and now has 30 career victories.

[5:20 p.m.] Doug Kalitta, far lane, collected his third win at this event when his Mac Tools dragster blasted down Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville to a 3.830, 323.74 opposite Antron Brown, who struck the tires in the opposite lane in the Top Fuel final.

[5:20 p.m.] Event winners Steve Johnson, Allen Johnson, Robert Hight, and Doug Kalitta gathered with event dignitaries for a photo in the winner's circle.

Saturday's Gainesville photo blog Friday's Gainesville photo blog