By Anthony Caruso III
Kalitta Air/DHL Top Fuel Dragster pilot Richie Crampton is the only repeat winner at the Gatornationals. Crampton won the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida.
Crampton won with a holeshot win over Parts Plus/Strutmasters.com Top Fuel Dragster pilot Clay Millican in the final round. He went 3.769 at 323.89 mph compared to Millican’s 3.756 at 324.67 mph.
In one calendar year, Crampton won two races. Both were at this facility.
“This is just a big race no matter what year you win it,” Crampton stated. “There were not too many easy rounds this year. That goes to tell you how difficult this Top Fuel category is. I think this win is going to take a while to sink in. I’m so lucky to have a team that puts me in a position to win like this. I’m just focusing to be a dependable driver.”
Auto Club of Southern California Funny Car pilot Robert Hight defeated Levi, Ray, and Shoup Inc.’s Tim Wilkerson in the final round. Hight went 3.867 at 331.61 mph to Wilkerson’s 11.165 at 92.63 mph.
Wilkerson had a problem from the hit. He was up in smoke by the time he crossed the finish line.
Hight won both final round matchups against Wilkerson. He also won last year in St. Louis when he broke his collarbone from the car explosion.
This was the first-time that the 1-2 qualifiers raced in the final round together in Funny Car at the NHRA Gatornationals.
This is Hight’s second win of the season.
“Qualifying No. 1 at the first three races is really impressive,” Hight said. “It shows that we have a really good handle on this car. We didn’t get the job done on the last day of the season last year and my team worked really hard because they don’t want to be in that spot again.”
Jim Butner Auto Group’s Pro Stock driver Bo Butner defeated Havoline’s Alex Laughlin in the final round. Butner had a solo pass, as Laughlin had a problem with his car.
Butner went 6.505 at 212.29 mph to win the 50th Gatornationals. In addition, this is the first-time that Butner and his fianceé Randi Lyn Shipp won a national event together.
Laughlin did not make a pass with his car. As a result, he did not register a time.
Like Hight, Butner has won two of the first three races of the season.
“I had no shot of winning rounds today,” Butner stated. “Second and third round we didn’t get down the track. The KB guys never gave up and I made the best run of the weekend in the finals. We were real ready for the final.”
Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines ended his teammate Eddie Krawiec’s domination in this event. Krawiec was going for his fourth straight win at the track.
This was the third straight year that the teammates faced each other in the final round. Hines went 6.752 at 199.17 mph, while Krawiec went 6.762 at 198.90 mph.
This is Hines’ first win since Nov. 2017 when he won the Auto Club NHRA Nationals.
“The motorcycle I had this weekend was phenomenal,” Hines said. “It was tracking straight down the track and it responded to all of the changes. That made it so much easier to focus on going out there and racing, cutting good lights and not really worrying about what could happen the very next run.”