The Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals is one of the most historic races on the annual NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, with its 44th running happening this weekend, March 14 through 17 at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida. The third race of the 2013 season, there are already some interesting stories developing in the NHRA’s top pro divisions, with some of last season’s top drivers struggling at the onset. Here are a few of the drivers to watch going into this weekend.
Top Fuel – Morgan Lucas, currently sitting fifth in points following his final-round appearance at the Arizona Nationals, was last year’s Gatornationals winner, and set both ends of the track record at the event. Seven-time Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher, sitting at the top of Top Fuel points, has two final-round appearances in two events this season, including the win over Lucas at the Arizona Nationals; he also has four previous wins in the Gatornationals, as does Larry Dixon.
Funny Car – John Force Racing is tough at Gainesville: Robert Hight won last year’s event, and team patriarch John Force has seven wins in the Gatornationals. Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps has been strong in the season’s first two races, with two final-round appearances and one win, but his teammate Jack Beckman, 2012 Funny Car champ, has been struggling: he hasn’t earned a round win yet.
Pro Stock – Vincent Nobile and Erica Enders-Stevens sit one-two in points after wins in the Winternationals and the Arizona Nationals, respectively. 2012 Pro Stock champ Allen Johnson has suffered two second-round losses so far, tying him for seventh in points with perennial favorite Greg Anderson and just 10 points back of sixth-place Jason Line, all of whom have 2-2 round records in the season’s first two events.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – The Gatornationals marks the 2013 debut of the two-wheel class, and changes in the engine rules spell uncertainty in the Harley-Davidson camp. Defending PSM champ Eddie Krawiec is the defending race winner as well, but he and his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagles teammate Andrew Hines will be working with engines and bikes that underwent a redesign during the off-season. They’ll be fighting off more Aranas this year than last, as youngest son Adam joins father Hector and brother Hector Jr. in PSM.
Sources: “2013 NHRA Driver Performance Supplement: Top Fuel,” NHRA Media
“2013 NHRA Driver Performance Supplement: Funny Car,” NHRA Media
“2013 NHRA Driver Performance Supplement: Pro Stock,” NHRA Media
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers the NHRA at Examiner.com.