GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19, 2017) The first East Coast race on the NHRA Mello Yello tour came to the Sunshine State and was filled with great weather, fast cars and excitement. The key ingredients in any successful race weekend.
The winningest Top Fuel driver in history, Tony Schumacher, picked up his 83rd career victory. Schumacher took out his fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Antron Brown in the final. Schumacher, who qualified on pole, went 3.703 seconds at 329.26 mph in the final round. Reigning World Champion put up a 3.764 second effort at 322.65 mph but came up short at the stripe. “Everything went right today,” said Schumacher. “That final round with Antron was an absolute battle. He has had my number here for a while. I know he’s won more than I have and that pushes me to be better. Going against him makes me step up. Going against their team makes my U.S. Army guys step up. And to go out and win the Gatornationals for the fifth time is special. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be put on a list with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Joe Amato. Those guys are legends. And throw in Larry Dixon, who is just a tough competitor that I battled with for so long and had a true rivalry with for a long time. To do something that no one else has done is a huge accomplishment. My U.S. Army team went out there today and made history.” Schumacher leaves Gainesville second in the points, right behind his DSR teammate, Leah Pritchett.
If there’s any one thing that we learned this weekend, it’s that you should never count out the rookie. Two-time Top Alcohol Funny Car World Champion, Jonnie Lindberg was the runner-up in his very first race in the Fuel Funny Car category. He took out J.R. Todd, Robert Hight, and Matt Hagan on his way to the final. Lindberg lost to the winningest Funny Car driver in history, John Force. This is Force’s 148th career win. Force ran a 3.928 second lap at 328.14 mph. While Lindberg made a 3.971 second pass at 314.83 mph. “I made a lot of changes coming here. Don’t know if I’m smart or just lucky. I surround myself with great people. They’re the ones who make it happen, then the sponsors and then the cheer of the crowd. They made one mistake out here. They let me find the music. I found myself. A lot of things area about heart, and about luck. You always feel somebody up there likes ya. I believe hard work, dedication and what we went though, it’s been a draining day. I’m not accepting that I’m done. I’ve been real lucky,” said Force. He will go into the next event second in the point standings.
Shane Gray took out KB Racing heavyweight, Greg Anderson in the final round of competition. Gray threw down a 6.535 second pass at 212.96 mph over Anderson’s 6.560 second run at 213.43 mph. This is Gray’s first win of the season and it also marks the first final round of Pro Stock that hasn’t been won by a KB Racing Chevy Camaro since the NHRA Toyota Nationals in October of 2016. Coincidentally, that race was also won by Shane Gray. “I wasn’t supposed to win,” said Gray. “When you’re testing parts you’re just not supposed to win which is basically what we’re doing with my car. We had a lucky day today. There were some round wins when the car pulled me out of the whole and there were a couple rounds where I pulled the car out of the whole. It was a complete team effort today.” Shane Gray currently sits third in the Pro Stock points.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
It was an all Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson final found. Both team riders, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines rode their way to a final round appearances at the season-opener for the bikes. But it was Krawiec who got to hoist the Wally in the winners circle. His 6.763 second pass at 199.76 mph was enough to get past his teammate, Andrew’s, 6.802 second lap at 197.10 mph. “This helps set the pace for the year,” Krawiec explained. “Get that first win off your back, keep that momentum rolling, get the points. You know once you win one or two races you kind of solidify your spot. With the extra competitive class we have this year it definitely helps. There’s a lot of great motorcycles. My Harley-Davidson this weekend really has been really fast, we just haven’t been able to harness that power and get it sorted out. I think as the year goes on we’re going to get better.” Needless to say, Krawiec has the points lead going into the next PSM race in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will head back west to Las Vegas, Nevada for the DENSO Spark Plug NHRA Nationals, March 31- April 2.