GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 11, 2023) – The fans showed up in (Florida) groves! Saturday’s crowd at the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was one of the largest ever to see a drag race in person and the stars of the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series responded with a fantastic show to help set the stage for Sunday’s eliminations.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet dragster earned the No. 1 qualifying position at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway on Saturday evening. John Force and the BlueDEF PLATINUM Chevrolet Camaro SS will start from No. 2 with Robert Hight and the Flav-R-Pac / Cornwell Tools / AAA Camaro in No. 3. Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster will start their day from No. 12.
For the 43rd time in her career, the second time at Gainesville Raceway, Force will start race day from No. 1 after her 3.699-second pass at 336.99 mph from a weather-ridden Friday held through Saturday’s two sessions. Force and her David Grubnic tuned hot rod would stay consistent in the final two qualifying runs with a 3.744 at 335.48 that also won her the first round of the Pep Boys All-Star NHRA Callout and earned the team three bonus points.
In the Pep Boys Callout semifinals, after selecting to race against Josh Hart, the Monster Energy dragster would smoke the tires almost immediately. Force would watch Hart, the eventual Callout winner, drive around her as she coasted to an 8.884.
Force would have redemption in the final qualifying session going 3.718 seconds at 336.15 mph, again the quickest of the session earning the Monster Energy team another three bonus points.
“Overall, this Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team got the No. 1. It was a bummer to lose out on the All-Star Callout. We felt good going strong going into it, we made it to the semis, but we got beat. Now the bigger focus is race day tomorrow. We put today behind us, and we start all over again going into race day and we’re at the top spot,” said Force who will race against Keith Murt in the first round of eliminations. “We were low of that last session and that’s outstanding, running in different conditions, and still being able to run low. Those runs are awesome, and we benefitted from getting that extra run for being in the Callout so it helps us out on race day.”
Reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps clinched the category’s first No. 1 qualifier award of the year on Saturday at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla. Capps launched to the top of the timing sheets when he powered his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to a blistering 3.874 second at 333.25-mph pass during the final qualifying session at the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals.
Capps, who became the first Funny Car driver in 20 years to win back-to-back championships when he was crowned the 2022 champ, is going for the ‘Capps Trick’ this year as he attempts to pick up his third consecutive Funny Car title and fourth overall (2016, 2021, 2022).
After making his debut as an NHRA team owner by securing the pole and advancing to a runner-up finish at the 2022 season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Capps and his Ron Capps Motorsports team went on to win five races en route to securing the championship hardware, and it’s clear that Capps and his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli-led team are carrying that momentum into 2023.
“Last year was a dream year and it’s almost like, how do you top that? But, we showed up here and we came from behind, and we laid down low E.T. in that last session. Now, it wasn’t by much, and we’re not going to brag about it, but what a way to start the year,” remarked Capps, of the incredible side-by-side Q4 pass where he and on-track rival Robert Hight powered to identical 3.87-second, 333-mph runs.
It’s no secret that Capps and Hight, the 2022 Funny Car runner-up, have exchanged barbs over the off-season. The two were standouts in the loaded Funny Car category and battled for the championship trophy until the bitter end, spurring the friendly rivalry between the veteran drivers. While Capps’ NAPA Supra may carry the No. 1 sticker, he knows he has a target on his back and is using the stiff competition as motivation.
“We talked during the off-season about how tough this year was going to be, how hardcore it was going to be, and how pissed off some of the drivers are that made a run for the championship but didn’t win it,” Capps explained. “When you don’t win it, you come out that next year and you’re so mad and you just want to hurry up and get the season to get started.
“I’ve been on the other side of that coin so many times, probably many more than anyone else in Funny Car, so I get it. But, it was only fitting that we were lined up next to Hight every session,” Capps joked.
In addition to his stellar Q4 pass which earned three bonus points, Capps and the NAPA team also added a point in Saturday’s first session when they clocked a 3.943 E.T., which held up to be the third-quickest of the round.
A four-time Gainesville Raceway winner, Capps will be looking to advance to his 10th final elimination round since forming Ron Capps Motorsports. He enters the weekend with 46 elimination round victories as a team owner, and will take on No. 16 qualifier Terry Haddock as his first opponent as he attempts to make a run through the Funny Car field and clinch RCM’s 50th round win. Before Sunday's elimination rounds get underway, Capps and his fellow Camping World Series title holders will be presented with their championship rings.
Troy Coughlin Jr. moved past Friday’s low qualifier Erica Enders to claim the top spot in a very competitive Pro Stock field. Coughlin and Enders each clocked matching 6.515 elapsed times, but Coughlin scored the top spot based on speed, 212.29 to 211.73. Coughlin, who previously won the Gainesville Super Gas title in 2013, has now been the low qualifier three-time in his career, including the last two events. Coughlin enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2022 with a pair of Pro Stock victories on his way to a career-best fourth-place finish. He’ll race fellow Ohio-based racer Larry Morgan in round one on Sunday morning.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far. Kudos to Elite [Motorsports] and everyone on our team,” said Coughlin. “They all work hard and we are a complete family. The guys in the engine shop never stop working. I wish everyone could come to our shop and experience it firsthand. It’s just such an honor to be a part of.
“I’d like to think we’re just getting started and we can build off of what we’ve done here in qualifying. What’s a family without the occasional fight? I’d like to see all eight elite cars win the first round and then make sure we put two of them in the final but that’s not always possible. I just hope I’m the one bringing home a Wally tomorrow.”
Enders got knocked from the top spot but she’s in a prime position to win in Gainesville for the first time in her career. Enders won ten events last season on her way to a fifth title but was knocked out in round one by Bo Butner in Gainesville. As the No. 2 seed, she’ll race new teammate Jerry Tucker in round one.
The close field stretches from Coughlin’s 6.515 to 6.575, and the top half of the field includes Mason McGaha, Aaron Stanfield, Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, Cristian Cuadra, and Bo Butner. Glenn made the biggest move of the day. The defending Gainesville winner struggled through the first three sessions, and then made a stellar run in the final session with a 6.524 to move into the top half of the field and secure three bonus qualifying points.
Gaige Herrera, in his first event as a member of the Vance & Hines team, has been particularly impressive with a string of near-record-setting runs. Herrera came into the final session as the top qualifier with a 6.688 elapsed time and then improved slightly with a 6.685 to secure the top spot. Herrera also rode the new Gen III Hayabusa body to a track record speed of 203.49 mph. Herrera is scheduled to race Ron “the Rat” Tornow in round one.
“I honestly don’t have words for this,” said Herrera. “Just being here with the best team in Pro Stock Motorcycle is a dream and then to run 6.68 on back-to-back runs and then go 203 [mph]. It’s been an awesome journey so far. It’s still not real to me. When I got that phone call from Andrew Hines [Vance & Hines crew chief] in November it took a while to sink in. Then I got my new leathers and realized I’d be riding the best bike in the class.
“On race day, I’m thinking there will be more pressure but I know I just need to cut a good light, get the bike from A to B, and hopefully turn on win lights. Testing went really well and so did qualifying. Now, I’m just trying to make them proud. Big thanks to the Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki team.”
The Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway will continue with two eliminations on Sunday slated for a 10 a.m. start. Television coverage of the event continues with a dedicated Pep Boys All-Start Callout show at 10:30 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Sunday race day action will be at noon ET on FOX Broadcasting Network.
See the recap from nhra.com:
Content: John Force Racing PR / Ron Capps Motorsports PR / nhra.com
Photo's: Racing Pro Media / NHRA
#NHRA #Gatornationals #BrittanyForce #TopFuel #RonCapps #FunnyCar #TroyCoughlinJr #ProStock #GaigeHerrera #ProStockMotorcycle #Gainesville #Florida #Sellout #Qualifying