Before a rain shower interrupted Friday’s action, the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was off to a rousing start with a packed house at Gainesville Raceway and plenty of memorable runs by NHRA Camping World Series pros as the 2023 season got underway. Reigning world champion Brittany Force and Bob Tasca III set the early pace in Top Fuel and Funny Car while five-time world champ Erica Enders and Steve Johnson claimed the provisional poles in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Force, who rarely qualifies outside of the top three in any field, wheeled her Monster Energy dragster to a 3.699, 336.99 to claim the top spot. The top half of the field is in the 3.7s including Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, and Clay Millican, who each ran 3.72. In addition to the final two rounds of Top Fuel qualifying, Saturday’s action will also feature the Pep Boys Allstar Top Fuel Callout where the top eight racers in the class will compete for a big cash bonus. Force called out Millican and appears to have her hands full with the Parts Plus team.
Tasca, and his Ford Motorcraft/Quick Lane team underwent a lot of changes during the off-season and so far, they seem to be working as he drove to a 3.888 to lead Friday qualifying. Tasca edged 16-time champ John Force, who was also in the 3.8s with a 3.898 in his Peak Camaro. The first ten drivers in the class are in the threes and with two more runs today, the number is certain to grow.
Pro Stock teams got two runs and at this point, the field looks remarkably similar to last year as five-time world champ Erica Enders is in the top spot with a 6.538 run in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Camaro. Enders leads rookie of the year Camrie Caruso, who drove to a best of 6.551 while Bo Butner, Greg Anderson, and Aaron Stanfield are also in the Top 5 heading into Saturday.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle field features several newcomers but the guy at the top is a veteran as Steve Johnson rode his Suzuki to a 6.746 to lead the competitive field. Chase Van Sant and Gaige Herrera, riders with a combined six races of experience in NHRA competition, are seeded No. 2 and No. 3 with runs of 6.747 and 6.749. Herrera, in his first race as a member of the Vance & Hines team, also became the latest rider to crack the 200-mph mark with a 200.80 mph run. Reigning world champ Matt Smith sits fourth while perhaps the biggest surprise of the session came from No. 5 qualifier Jianna Evaristo, who logged a career best 6.789 on her Scrappers Suzuki.
In addition to the Camping World NHRA Series pros, the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals features the FuelTech Pro Mod Series presented by Type A Motorsports, the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown, and a full slate of Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series action.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX TV, FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
2022 EVENT WINNERS
Tripp Tatum, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Dallas Glenn, Pro Stock; Karen Stoffer, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
3.674 seconds by Tripp Tatum, March 2022; 337.75 mph by Brittany Force, March 2022
3.828 seconds by Robert Hight, March 2017; 336.23 mph by Ron Capps, March 2022.
6.450 seconds by Erica Enders, March 2022; 214.69 mph by Erica Enders, March 2014
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
6.665 seconds by Karen Stoffer, March 2022; 201.76 by Matt Smith, March 2019.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 11 at noon and 3 p.m. PT. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 12. (NOTE: Daylight Savings Time begins at 2 a.m. on March 12).
SATURDAY, March 11, FS1 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying at 11 a.m. (ET).
SUNDAY, March 12, FS1 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 9 a.m. (ET) and 90 minutes of the Pep Boys All Star Callout at 10:30 a.m. Three hours of final eliminations coverage will be on FOX TV at Noon on Sunday, March 12.