GAINESVILLE, Fla. – With three consecutive Gatornationals victories, Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec is eager to get back on the saddle to claim a fourth win at the tradition-rich 44th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 14-17 at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.
The Gatornationals is the season debut for the NHRA’s two-wheel class, Pro Stock Motorcycle. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s event champions. The third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
“We’re excited, looking forward to Gainesville,” Krawiec said. “Hopefully the performance side of it will steadily increase throughout the season. For me, I know the target is on my back and everybody’s after me. They want my No. 1 plate. The hardest thing is to maintain it. When you’re in the No. 1 spot, the only place to go is backwards. From two on up, you can improve. From one, the only way to go is down.”
Guarding his throne will not be an easy task. The NHRA’s new Pro Stock Motorcycle rules have teams working overtime in preparation for their season-opener at Gainesville. Krawiec is confident the growing pains will be cured and will try to start the season right where he left off in 2012.
“As a rider, I feel like I have it together mentally,” Krawiec said. “Obviously after the rule changes this past season, we had to go back and do pretty much a whole redesign of the top half of the motor. It's going to be a long road from here. There are a lot of great bikes out there. It will be interesting to see how we stack up and see how competitive we are off the hit. It’s exciting just to be able to make Gainesville at this point.”
The Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider is coming off a record-making 2012 season that included winning his third Pro Stock Motorcycle championship on the strength of nine victories, two runner-up finishes, and five No. 1 qualifying positions. He lost only seven rounds of racing the entire season.
“For us as drivers, obviously with the momentum, after coming off a championship, I’m ready to go two weeks later,” Krawiec said. “Let’s start the schedule again, go racing. But I think as a racer, the key thing is being able to develop your overall package, refine what it is you have, then go out there and continue to race. The off-season is much needed time, but now I'm ready to go racing.”
Defending last season’s win at the Gators would be a great kick start for the Harley-Davidson team. In the final round, Krawiec defeated teammate Andrew Hines becoming only the second racer to earn the maximum 150 points by winning the race, setting a national E.T. record (6.750 seconds), leading all four qualifying sessions, and earning the No. 1 qualifying position.
“Our intentions at Gainesville are right now to show up with our two Harley-Davidsons and qualify,” Krawiec said. “Anything from there on would be a bonus. Then we’ll continually raise our goals going to each race throughout the season. I’m excited.”
Fellow Harley-Davidson teammate Hines, 2004 Gainesville winner and three-time world champ, is looking to finally seal the deal with a fourth championship this season. Hector Arana Sr., 2009 world champion and event winner, is taking his two sons, 2011 rookie of the year Hector Jr. and rookie Adam Arana, along for the ride on board their Lucas Oil Buell bikes this season with hopes to end a winless streak. Power-couple Matt and Angie Smith revamped their three-bike team with rider John Hall. Others to watch in the two-wheel class this season include new Sovereign/Star Buell rider Michael Ray and teammate Scotty Pollacheck, and Suzuki rider Jimmy Underdahl.
In Top Fuel, defending event winner Lucas will be challenged by seven-time world champion and Mello Yello points leader Tony Schumacher, a four-time winner of the Gatornationals. Others seeking wins include defending world champ Antron Brown, Winternationals winner Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey and Doug Kalitta. Rookie driver Brittany Force will make her first pro start at Gainesville in her Castrol Edge dragster.
In Funny Car, two-time Gatornationals winner Ron Capps leads the points standings in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Defending event winner Hight, along with defending world champ Jack Beckman will try to grab their first victories of the season. Other pre-race favorites in the 8,000-horsepower category include track record holder Cruz Pedregon, Winternationals winner Courtney Force, 15-time world champ John Force who has seven Gatornationals victories on his resume, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham and 2009 Gators winner Bob Tasca III.
The Pro Stock class is chock-full of championship contenders including defending event winner Edwards in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro, four-time Gatornationals winner Jason Line, Phoenix winner Erica Enders-Stevens, Winternationals winner and points leader Vincent Nobile, two-time Gatornationals champ Jeg Coughlin and defending world champ Allen Johnson, who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will compete in 10 events during 2013, also will take to the track for the first time this year as Troy Coughlin looks to defend his world championship title.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway, fans will also want to check out NHRA’s popular Hot Rod Junction presented by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum that offers a spectacular display of many nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods, including vintage machines that were driven by ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, Don Carlton, K.S. Pittman, Big John Mazmanian, Bruce Larson and Jerry Baltes, among others. There will also be several NHRA Legends of Drag Racing autograph sessions scheduled throughout the weekend, allowing fans the rare opportunity to meet many of NHRA Drag Racing’s biggest stars from the past.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk with Top Fuel legend and Florida resident Darrell Gwynn, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
On Friday at the track, fans will have the rare opportunity to attend a special Nitro Pit Party and Press Conference in the pro pits prior to the first qualifying session. Many of the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be featured during the Press Conference, which starts at 10:45 a.m.
As NHRA continues its Nitro Generation celebration, NHRA is offering free general admission for children 12 and under with a paying adult.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 2:15 p.m. on Friday, March 15 and continue on Saturday, March 16 at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 17.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 17 and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 17.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.
AMALIE OIL NHRA GATORNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 44th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 14-17
THURSDAY, March 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, March 15 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 1:45 and 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 16 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and eliminations at 1:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 17 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, March 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 1:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, March 15, 5 - 5:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
Saturday, March 16, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
Sunday, March 17, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
(4060 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Morgan Lucas, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Warren Johnson, 9, PS; John Force, 7, FC; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Jason Line, 4, PS; Ed McCulloch, 4, FC; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM; Terry Vance, 4, PSM.
Top Fuel - 3.749 seconds by Morgan Lucas, March ’12; 326.87 mph by Lucas, March ’12.
Funny Car - 4.026 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, March ’12; 317.12 mph by Robert Hight, March ’12.
Pro Stock - 6.486 seconds by Allen Johnson, March ’12; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11.
PS Motorcycle - 6.750 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12; 199.26 mph by Krawiec, March ’11.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com
2013 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 228; 2. Shawn Langdon, 149; 3. Antron Brown, 148; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 131; 5. Morgan Lucas, 124; 6. David Grubnic, 112; 7. Doug Kalitta, 103; 8. Spencer Massey, 100; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 93; 10. Larry Dixon, 86.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 210; 2. Courtney Force, 165; 3. Matt Hagan, 151; 4. Bob Tasca III, 124; 5. Johnny Gray, 122; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 117; 7. (tie) John Force, 106; Tim Wilkerson, 106; 9. Todd Lesenko, 102; 10. Robert Hight, 83.
Pro Stock: 1. Vincent Nobile, 171; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, 155; 3. Mike Edwards, 153; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 149; 5. V. Gaines, 142; 6. Jason Line, 119; 7. (tie) Greg Anderson, 109; Allen Johnson, 109; 9. Greg Stanfield, 104; 10. (tie) Shane Gray, 83. Chris McGaha, 83.