Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals
By NHRA Communications
WHAT: 34th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, the third of
23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003
NHRA POWERade championships.
Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.
WHERE: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on
11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville. Traveling south on I-75 take
exit 78 and turn left onto US 441 S. Go approximately 12 miles and turn
left on County Road 121. In approximately .3 miles turn right onto CR 231.
In approximately .3 miles turn right onto 156th Ave. In 3.8 miles take
right fork onto CR 225, then travel 2.7 miles to the track. Traveling
north on I-75 take exit 74, Williston Rd, turn left to Waldo Rd. and go
north. Turn left at NE 53rd Ave. and make the immediate right onto CR 225,
and go 3.5 miles to the track.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 13-16.
PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $2 million.
SCHEDULE: THURSDAY, March 13 -- Gates open at 7 a.m. Sportsman qualifying
and time trials begin at 8 a.m.
FRIDAY March 14 -- Gates open at 7 a.m. Sportsman qualifying, time trials
and eliminations begin at 7:30 a.m.
PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 15 -- Gates open at 7 a.m. Sportsman eliminations begin at
PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 16 -- Gates open at 7 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.
TELEVISION: Sunday, March 16, ESPN will televise two hours of qualifying
highlights at 3 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 16, ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes of final eliminations at
9 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE: Friday, March 14, 8-8:30 p.m. (ET) - Galaxy 11KU / Transponder
13 (uplink freq.: 14260, vertical; downlink freq: 11960, horizontal)
Saturday, March 15, 8-8:30 p.m. (ET) -Telstar 4KU / T 10B (uplink freq.:
14284, vertical; downlink freq: 11984, horizontal)
Sunday, March 16, 9-9:30 p.m. (ET) - Galaxy 11KU / 13 (uplink freq.:
14260, vertical; downlink freq: 11960, horizontal)
WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; Darrell
Alderman, Pro Stock, and Craig Treble, Pro Stock Bike.
REWIND: Larry Dixon continued his dominance of the Top Fuel category,
advancing to the final round for the third straight event, picking up his
second victory of the season. His 18th career win tied him with Shirley
Muldowney on the all-time Top Fuel win list. The eventual POWERade
champion also completed his first career grand slam (No. 1 qualifier, low
E.T., top speed and event winner). Two NHRA legends competed at the Mac
Tools Gatornationals with Muldowney advancing to the second round before
falling to Dixon, and Florida native Don Garlits returning to action on
the drag strip but failing to qualify for eliminations. Tony Pedregon
visited the winner's circle at Gainesville for the first time in his
career, defeating first-time Funny Car finalist Gary Scelzi for the win.
Points leader John Force lost in the first round at the Gatornationals for
only the sixth time in his storied career and remained stuck on 99 career
victories. Three-time Pro Stock champion Darrell Alderman earned a victory
for the first time in nearly five years, defeating Jeg Coughlin in the
final. Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden ended his brief comeback in the
category he once dominated, resigning his position as driver for the team
owned by Steve Schmidt. Craig Treble kicked off the Pro Stock Bike season
with a win in what would prove to be a career-best season for him,
defeating Angelle Savoie in the final of the two-wheel category. The
Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson made it's Pro Stock Bike
debut but failed to qualify for eliminations.
EXPECT: As the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its cross-country
venture to the East Coast for the first time in 2003, its crop of young
stars hope to continue riding a hot streak toward reaching the ultimate
goal of being crowned an NHRA POWERade champion. Larry Dixon, who earned
nearly $200,000 at the season-opening Winternationals, hopes to become the
first Top Fuel competitor to win at Gainesville Raceway for the third
consecutive season. Brandon Bernstein, a leading candidate for the 2003
Auto Club Road to the Future award, hopes to win his second straight event
in his rookie campaign. Tony Pedregon dominated eliminations at Pomona
Raceway with four runs in the 4.7-second, 320-mph range and he will be
aiming for a repeat performance in Gator Country. Pedregon's boss, 12-time
NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, hopes to best the Funny Car category
for the eighth time in Florida in an effort to rebound from a lackluster
start to the season. In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin is hoping to take home the
Gatornationals crown for the second time in three years and avoid a slow
start for the second consecutive season. Warren Johnson, the winningest
Pro Stock driver in NHRA history, hopes to find the winner's circle at
Gainesville Raceway for a record 10th time. The Pro Stock Bike category
will make its 2003 debut at Gainesville. Craig Treble won four events last
season and is poised to repeat in Gainesville and begin a charge towards
his first NHRA POWERade championship. However, the hot story in the Pro
Stock Bike category will be the two-bike team of three-time champion
Angelle Savoie and Antron Brown. The duo has combined for 38 career PSB
STANDINGS: Top Fuel -- 1. Larry Dixon, 210; 2. Brandon Bernstein, 152; 3.
Clay Millican, 132; 4. Tony Schumacher, 130; 5. Cory McClenathan, 124; 6.
Doug Kalitta, 116; 7. John Smith, 106; 8. Melanie Troxel, 103; 9. Darrell
Russell, 88; 10. Doug Herbert, 85.
(as of 2/26/03)
Funny Car-- 1. Ron Capps, 184; 2. Tony Pedregon, 174; 3. Gary Densham,
132; 4. Whit Bazemore, 131; 5. Johnny Gray, 128; 6. Frank Pedregon, 105;
7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 104; 8. Bob Gilbertson, 102; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 91;
10. John Force, 89.
Pro Stock-- 1. Greg Anderson, 188; 2. Warren Johnson, 154; 3. Allen
Johnson, 127; 4. Troy Coughlin, 125; 5. Bruce Allen, 110; 6. (tie) Jeg
Coughlin, Kurt Johnson, and Darrell Alderman, 107; 9. Mark Pawuk, 87; 10.
Ron Krisher, 85.
FAST FACTS: Defending Funny car champion John Force can tie Pro Stock
driver Warren Johnson for the longest career qualifying streak with 303
consecutive NHRA events by qualifying for the 16-car field at the Mac
tools Gatornationals. Force has not posted a DNQ since the season finale
of 1987 at Pomona, Calif...Force teammate Tony Pedregon has the dubious
distinction of having won more races than any other Funny Car driver who
has not yet won a series title. He is fourth on the all-time win list
behind Force (106), Don Prudhomme (35), Kenny Bernstein (30) and his
brother Cruz (22)....Larry Dixon is trying to become the first Top Fuel
driver to win three consecutive Gatornationals title in NHRA history.
Shirley Muldowney, Don Garlits, Eddie Hill and Darrell Gwynn all won the
historic race back-to-back, but never three times in a row... Force has
won the Gatornationals a record seven times in Funny Car ... The Mac Tools
Gatornationals is the first of 15 events for Pro Stock Bike competitors in
the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
QUOTABLE: Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster,
who defeated Larry Dixon in the final round at the Checker Schuck's Kragen
NHRA Nationals outside of Phoenix to win in his second professional start
- "We know we have a car that can perform. My dad (Kenny), the team
and I have every expectation to be right in the middle of the Top Fuel
battle. This team is the same team that won the 2001 championship. It's
the same team I've worked elbow-to-elbow with the past couple of years.
Personally, I'm very comfortable and relaxed in the car and haven't really
experienced any butterflies. We're just trying to stay focused and do our
job in the cockpit. Dad's there to help us accelerate through the learning
curve, so we don't look at our goal this year any differently as we have
through the years Dad was driving. It's all about going rounds."
Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T, on how he will
benefit by the hiring of three-time Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi to drive
a third Funny Car for Schumacher racing - "I'm going to help Gary win
his first race in Funny Car and he's going to help me win my first
Mark Pawuk, driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am, who suffered
through a tough 2002 season, recording an 0-12 record in eliminations and
posting 11 DNQs. Pawuk hired 10-time Pro Stock champion Bob Glidden as a
consultant on the Ohio-based team - "It's nice to have Bob around and
everyone is having fun. In the past I have been a little hard on myself,
so I have decided to keep it light around here this year, keep a positive
attitude and just do the best we can."
Richard Hartman, team-owner of the Colhart Motorsports Top Fuel dragster
that will be driven by Josh Starcher, an 18-year-old high school senior
who will be making his NHRA debut at the Gatornationals - "As a team,
all of the guys are looking forward to running (at Gainesville). Josh has
nearly 70 runs under his belt and Gainesville is a great track to kick off
our NHRA schedule. We'll look to be competitive right out of the box. We
have a lot of decisions to make over the next few weeks in regards to our
schedule. Josh still has to graduate from high school in June and we're
still searching for the right sponsorship program."
IDEAS: Passing the Budweiser Torch - Last season Kenny Bernstein ended a
driving career that saw him etch his name into the NHRA record books
numerous times. The first driver to eclipse the 300-mph barrier and the
only driver to ever win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car,
Bernstein handed the keys to the famed Budweiser dragster to his son
Brandon for the 2003 season. After earning the Division 7 Top Alcohol
Dragster crown in 2001, the younger Bernstein spent the entire 2002 season
as a crewmember on his father's team, learning the intricacies of a
nitromethane powered dragster. All eyes will be on the 30-year-old as he
tries to fill the legendary shadow left by his father.
The next Force? - Who will it be? Will there be another? Maybe not, but
someone will be the driver to eventually dethrone the king. Force, winner
of 12 NHRA POWERade championships and the last 10 in a row, didn't clinch
the 2002 crown until the semifinals of the last race of the year. His
teammate, Tony Pedregon presented him with quite a challenge. Tony's
brother Cruz, is the only other driver other than Force to win a Funny Car
title since 1990. Del Worsham, who finished No. 3 in last season's
standings, joins T. Pedregon as one of the young drivers aiming for the
top. The 32-year-old racing veteran has 11 career wins and is a favorite
to knock off Force. Whit Bazemore is another candidate to replace Force as
the Funny Car champ. The outspoken Indianapolis resident won back-to-back
races (Bristol, Tenn., and Atlanta) which placed him among the top three,
before a slump took him out of contention.
World's Fastest Couple -- Rhonda Hartman-Smith and her husband John Smith,
who also serves as his wife's assistant crew chief, compete against each
other in separate dragsters to create an unlikely rivalry in Top Fuel. The
couple travels with their young daughter Megan to each NHRA national
event. Rhonda's father, Virgil, is the team owner and also works on both
cars, making each race weekend a family affair.
Multi-Car Teams - Funny Car champ John Force unveiled the first three-car
team in 2001 and since then, all teams have been searching for strength in
numbers. Don Schumacher unveiled a four-car team for 2003, including three
Funny Cars and one Top Fuel dragster. Don Prudhomme fields a three-car
operation, including two Funny Cars and one dragster and Chuck Worsham
fields a two-car Funny Car team. In Pro Stock, the Coughlin family fields
two Chevy Cavaliers, while Mopar has a four-car team.
Scelzi Could Join Distinguished List - Gary Scelzi, a three-time NHRA Top
Fuel champion, is seeking his first Funny Car victory at the Mac Tools
Gatornationals. With a victory, the 25-time TF winner could join an elite
list of drivers who have earned national event victories in both nitro
categories. With a win, Scelzi would become the 13th member of that
exclusive club, joining Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head, Mark
Oswald, Frank Hawley, Ed McCulloch, Gene Snow, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson
Jr., Mike Dunn, Tom McEwen and Scott Kalitta. During his career, Scelzi
has amassed a 228-92 career record in eliminations, ranking him in the top
10 among active drivers for highest winning percentage (.713).
Additionally, with that much sought after victory, Scelzi would become the
only driver in NHRA history to earn victories in the four quickest
categories -- Alcohol Funny Car, Alcohol Dragster, Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Scelzi has three national event victories each in Alcohol Funny Car and
Youngster makes TF debut at Gators - Josh Starcher, an 18-year-old from
Fairmont, W.V., will make his NHRA debut in Top Fuel competition at the
Mac Tools Gatornationals. The high school senior is a two-time Division 1
Jr. dragster champion (1996, '98) and hopes to continue that success in
the pro ranks. Team co-owner and crew chief Richard Hartman is the brother
of Top Fuel driver Rhonda Hartman-Smith, and is searching for a major
sponsor so the Charlotte-based team can race the full schedule.
Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated
to making the sport safe for the competitors and keeping the action on the
track moving for the fans. Spend the day or a few hours with this crew and
watch as they take care of preparing the race track for competition,
responding to crashes and cleaning up oil and debris on the racing
Regarding Weather -- In drag racing weather plays a vital role as crew
chiefs examine data and tune their race cars for maximum performance. Most
teams have sophisticated weather stations on board their team transporters
so they can access up-to-the-minute weather information as well as
THE TRACK: Gainesville Raceway opened in 1969 and showcased the first
Gatornationals in 1970. Long considered one of the fastest tracks on the
NHRA circuit, it was from this legendary launch point that drivers clocked
the first 260-, 270- and 300-mph Top Fuel runs into the record books. It
also was from this starting line, during the 2000 Mac Tools
Gatornationals, that eight of 10 national records were set in the
RECORDS: Top Fuel-4.510 seconds by Mike Dunn, March 1999; 326.79 mph by
Dunn, March 2001
Funny Car-- 4.779 seconds by Tony Pedregon, March 1999; 324.05 mph by John
Force, March 1999
Pro Stock-6.821 seconds by Ron Krisher, March 2002; 203.37 mph by Krisher,
Pro Stock Bike - 7.156 seconds by Matt Hines, March 2002; 193.85 mph by
Hines, March 2002
RECORDS: Top Fuel-- 4.477 seconds (June 2001, Joliet, Ill.), 332.18 mph
(Oct. 2001, Reading, Pa.) by Kenny Bernstein
Funny Car-- 4.731 seconds (Oct. 2001, Reading, Pa.) by John Force; 326.87
mph (Feb. 2002, Pomona, Calif.) by Gary Densham
Pro Stock-- 6.750 seconds (Oct. 2001, Reading, Pa.) by Jeg Coughlin;
204.91 mph (Feb 2003, Pomona, Calif.) by Warren Johnson
Pro Stock Bike - 7.049 seconds (May 2002, Englishtown, N.J.) by Angelle
194.10 mph (May 2002, Englishtown, N.J.) by Matt Hines
TICKETS: For tickets call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or call Ticketmaster at
(904) 353-3309. Tickets also available at nhra.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $12; Junior (6-12
years), free. Friday: Adult, $29; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday:
Adult, $47; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 years-under), admitted free
with paying adult in general admission and pit access areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $39; Junior (6-12
years), $20; Child (5 years-under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $57; Junior
(6-12 years), $22; Child (5 years and under), $12. Sunday: Adult, $55-$62;
Junior (6-12 years), $20-$24; Child (5 years and under), $10-$14. Call
NHRA for four-day passes and Top Eliminator Club tickets.
INTERNET: The latest NHRA press releases, interview transcripts and
quality images of race cars and driver headshots can be obtained at
NHRA DRIVERS ANXIOUSLY AWAIT MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - When you ask an NHRA racer what he or she thinks about
Gainesville Raceway, they usually come up with similar answers: Smooth
track, orange groves and sunshine. While they are answering, you might
want to sneak a peak at their hands. See those fingers crossed?
Gainesville has the potential to be one of the best performance tracks on
If the weather is good, the racing can be great. If...
"The track is one of the finest on the circuit," two-time Pro
Stock champion Jeg Coughlin said. "Given the close to sea level
conditions we have and the amount of power the Pro Stock cars can make, we
can see some outstanding performances if the weather cooperates and it
doesn't get too hot. Both lanes are typically in real good shape and the
fans are great. It's one of the best events on the schedule."
Coughlin will be aiming to improve on his 2002 runner-up finish at the
historic drag strip when the NHRA makes its way back to Gainesville
Raceway for the 34th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 13-16. The
race is the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag
Coughlin won the race in 2001 and is looking forward to repeating the
Sunshine State victory.
"We definitely enjoy racing in Gainesville," Coughlin said.
"Over the years we have seen some real good performance numbers there
which just makes it more exciting. The weather can be crisp and cool and
there is always a lot of good energy at Gainesville."
The Pro Stock Bike category will make the first of 15 appearances on the
national event racing schedule in Gainesville. Veteran racers know what
the Gainesville track can produce, but that doesn't mean rookies can't get
equally as excited.
Pro Stock Bike rider Andrew Hines made his professional racing debut at
the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver last year. He qualified for the
last seven events of the season, earning him a Rookie of the Year
nomination. He isn't a rookie anymore, but he still hasn't gone down the
Gainesville Raceway track. And he certainly hasn't done it on a
Harley-Davidson, the bike he is slated to ride come March.
"I've only been there three times, so I don't know too much about the
track," said Hines, the younger brother of three-time Pro Stock Bike
champ Matt Hines. "But I do know that Gainesville could be one of the
fastest tracks we race on. I made my career-best runs in Sonoma last year
and I think if I had been more experienced in Sonoma, I would have gone
even faster. It would be nice to reset those performance numbers in
Gainesville on a Harley. From what I hear about that track, it can be
Pro Stock's Kurt Johnson has 10 years of racing experience and 23 national
event victories, but has yet to drive his ACDelco Chevy Cavalier to a
victory at Gainesville.
"Gainesville has always been a great place for us to race,"
Johnson said. "Coming from Minnesota back in 1976 I remember crossing
that state line and seeing all of the sunshine and orange trees and it has
since been one of my favorite places to race. It is a nice, flat race
track with a great capacity crowd. It is such a great place to race and it
is one that I have never won before so I am going to be putting my best
efforts toward winning it this year."
SAVOIE HEADS TO GATORNATIONALS WITH COMPETITIVE GOALS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Angelle Savoie is a three-time NHRA Pro Stock Bike
champion. Those titles increase expectations at the start of each NHRA
POWERade season. This year the winningest female in NHRA history wants two
things to happen at the Mac Tools Gatornationals.
First, she wants to be competitive. She wants to be a thorn in another
racer's side. That's nothing new.
Second, she wants to avoid looking like a rookie on the starting line
during the first of 15 national event races for the two-wheel category.
That's something entirely new.
"I am going to be with a new team with a new motorcycle underneath
me. There are going to be a lot of changes all at once," Savoie said.
"There are going to be a lot of new faces on the starting line and
because everything is going to be new, I am sure I will be full of
butterflies before the first race. I will be so proud once we get through
that first race. We just need to learn how to jell and how to communicate
with each other, especially on the starting line.
"That is my biggest fear right now. We just need to get comfortable
with each other and get into the groove of having a new team out there. I
am anxious for that to happen."
Savoie and the rest of the two-wheel category will join the Top Fuel,
Funny Car and Pro Stock ranks for the first time this year when everyone
meets at Gainesville Raceway for the 34th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals,
March 13-16. The race is the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Savoie and longtime crew chief George Bryce earned 22 national event wins
and three category championships together before parting ways during the
off season. When the announcement of the team breakup was made, it looked
as though Savoie would not be competing in 2003.
Shortly after that announcement, however, Savoie and fellow racer Antron
Brown decided to join forces and create a two-bike team. They will field
two Team 23 Suzukis this season, although the name will likely change when
new sponsorship is secured. Savoie suffered through a similar off season
before the 2002 season as well. She didn't get a primary sponsor until May
last year but says this season is different.
"I am really optimistic this season because of all of the changes I
am going through," Savoie said. "A little change is good
sometimes. We have so many things in the works as far as sponsors go,
which is different. Last year we didn't have anything in the works. This
year we have several meetings lined up and we have people asking a lot of
Racing down the quarter-mile strip starts March 14, but racing to get the
team together will continue into the early part of the season.
"I called George (Bryce) just to talk to him a few days ago and he
was in the dyno room working on one of the engines," Savoie said.
"We are still trying to get our dyno room built. Everybody is going
to be a step ahead of us. We can't dyno anything right now, we are just
trying to get two engines put together so Antron and I can go racing at
Gainesville. This entire team is working to put everything together at the
last minute but I already know that we are headed in the right
Savoie said the excitement of the new team has made her even more anxious
to get to the track. During the off season, the Team 23 organization opted
to start building their own engines instead of buying them from Vance
& Hines Motorsports. Crew chief Mark Peiser is leading the way on the
"I am going to want to win every race and I am thrilled that we are
doing this on our own," Savoie said. "This team is going to be
able to grow together and be competitive every weekend. That is one of the
most important goals. I want to at least be competitive out there. I don't
want to get up to the starting line and have someone underestimate us just
because I am not with Star Racing anymore or that this team doesn't buy
engines from Vance & Hines. We are doing what Star and Vance &
Hines did 20 years ago. We are trying to keep this category from being the
Star Racing versus Vance & Hines show. We have to start
With so many victories to her credit, Savoie said she doesn't have to
prove anything. She believes the team is going to win, but she has to be
"This is crazy because it feels like I am going to my first race
ever," Savoie said. "I am pumped up about the season all over
again. This is exactly how I felt during my first season. Except this time
I know I don't have to prove anything. If we don't win a race this season,
so be it. But I really think both Antron and I will be very competitive.
"I have already decided my success on the track is not going to
affect how much fun I have this year. I could let the track performance
beat me up pretty bad, but I am not going to let that happen. I have a lot
of faith in Mark and Antron and I am smart enough to know that it will
take a little bit of time to make it all happen. Everything looks great
and I am very excited for this season to start. I plan on having a lot of
fun this season."
MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
on March 14 and 15. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 16.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 34th annual Mac Tools
Gatornationals. Call (800) 884-6472, or call Ticketmaster for ticket
ON TV: ESPN will televise two hours of qualifying coverage of the Mac
Tools Gatornationals at 3 a.m. (ET) on March 16. ESPN2 will televise 150
minutes of final eliminations coverage at 9 p.m. (ET) on March 16.
ON THE WEB: NHRA media department press releases and photos are available
on the Internet at www.nhra.com.