Saturday, June 22, 2024

NHRA Gatornationals Sportsman Preview

GAINESVILLE – The NHRA traveling circus rolls into Gainesville Raceway for the 50th running of the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals. Racers from all over the country attend the event each year. The event marks the start of the racing for a large number of East Coast racers. Thus, making the Gatornationals one of the most prestigious events of the year.

With this being the 50th anniversary, the event will be a little more special as the NHRA has a number of special events planned. In addition to the pomp and circumstance, 400 of the best sportsman racers in the country are onsite looking to add the Gatornationals Wally to their trophy case.

All eight of the sportsman classes will be on hand this weekend plus the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown cars. This includes: Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Sportsman, and Top Dragster.

Gatornationals 50th Logo

Thursday Eliminations? Again?

In what looks like a trend, the NHRA announced most sportsman classes would begin final eliminations on Thursday evening. I’ve mentioned this previously but it’s worth bringing up again. It’s already hard enough to justify the time, money, and dedication required to race at the national level. Now think of putting in all of that effort only to be possibly done on Thursday afternoon, the first day of the event.

Some racers travel great distances to attend nationals, taking up to a week or two off of work to do so. As the NHRA continues to move up eliminations earlier in the event, it can feel like you’re not part of the main event at all. Maybe it’s just me but racing on the weekend at a national event has a different feel. This feeling makes it special and different from other events. If that’s taken away from most of the field, what’s the point of attending.

That’s my two cents but let’s move into our Sportsman Preview starting with the 2018 winners.

Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series

2018 NHRA Gatornationals Sportsman Champions

Competition Eliminator – Frank Aragona

Super Stock – Kevin Riner

Stock Eliminator – Jeff Taylor

Super Comp – Greg Slack

Super Gas – Jim Perry

Top Sportsman – Ronnie Proctor

Top Dragster – Alan Kenny

Factory Stock Showdown – Eric Bell


2019 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals Predictions

With each NHRA national event DragChamp’s sportsman preview includes an overview of each class. In addition, we select the Team DragChamp Picks to win the race. Here are this week’s picks.

Factory Stock Showdown – 32 Car Field

Factory Stock just might be the most exciting and anticipated class of the event. With a number of current and former Pro Stock teams jumping into the class along with Top Fuel racer Leah Prichett, the competition is picking up. Throughout the winter months, racers have been posting testing videos and time slips. With laps in the low 7.70 range, the class should be quick and entertaining this weekend.

Team DragChamp pick to win:

Drew Skillman – After leading qualifying at the NMCA event in Florida last week, the Team Skillman set the class on notice.

Competition Eliminator – 23 Car Field

With 23 cars in attendance, Comp should be highly competitive this weekend.

Team Drag Champ pick to win:

Brad Plourd – Expect Bad Brad to come out swinging this weekend in his supercharged buggy.

Super Stock – 61 Car Field

The Super Stock field is loaded with heavy hitters this week. Including two-time 2019 Lucas Oil winner Marion Stephenson, Dan Fletcher, Anthony Bertozzi, the Cummings family, and many more.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Jeff Longhany – Talented racer who’s already off to a great start in 2019.

Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. – Cooter can flat out get it done. Would love to start the season with a W.

Brad Zaskowski – Super talented at yanking gears and turning on win lights in his stick-shifted Camaro.

Stock Eliminator – 62 Car Field

Like Super Stock, the Stock class is loaded this week. With most racers running the Baby Gators last week, they should be dialed-in this week.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Daniel Young – Great young racer that’s due to break through at the national level.

Mike Mahan – The Corvette racer has already made some noise at the Lucas Oil level this season.

Slate Cummings – The Chosen One, or is it the Golden Child. I can never get that right. Either way expect to see the Moser-sponsored racer in the late rounds.

Super Comp – 61 Car Field

The Super classes are such a crap shoot since everyone can cut a light and run the index. Red-hot Ray Miller 3 is in attendance this week along with Edmond Richardson, John Labbous Jr. and more.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Jonathan Anderson – Talented racer who’s already made a Lucas Oil final round this year.

Jason Kenny – Talented top-end driver who holds a ton and knows how to get rid of it at the finish line.

Raymond Miller 3 – Already on pace to challenge for the national championship once again.

Super Gas – 61 Car Field

Everything I said about Super Comp, copy and paste here. Baby Gators winner Cole Cummings will be looking to go back-to-back. He’ll be challenged by a host of talented Super Gas racers.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Steve Furr – Fuzz is always a tough out, look for him to hang around late.

John Taylor – Taylor knows how to put his Dakota in the winners circle.

Sherman Adcock Jr. – Multi-time world champ is always tough at the Gators.

Super Street – 41 Car Field

Lots of big names are included on the entry list. I would expect the more experienced racers to rise to the top this weekend.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Rudy Matthews – Tough competitor and genuinely good guy (I parked next to him at Indy in 2017).

Ray Dew – Multi-time Division 4 champ could make some noise in Florida.

Top Sportsman – 34 Car Field

This week’s field should be a quick one based on the entry list. Racers from as far away as Texas and all throughout the Eastern Seaboard will be on hand this week.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Sandy Wilkins – With one win on the board in 2019, look for Wilkins to go rounds again this week.

Ronnie Proctor – The champ would love to start the season with a W.

Top Dragster – 37 Car Field

The 6.10 index class as it’s affectionately known as should be a quick one once again. With a full field and a couple of qualifying shots, expect the bump to be in the 6.20 range.

Team DragChamp picks to win:

Ross Laris – Coming off his big win at the Baby Gators. Looking to double down in Florida.

Jeff Strickland – Former world champ is the only racer to ever double up at the Gators.

The talking is done, it’s time to race. Time trials and qualifying start Thursday morning with eliminations to follow. Check DragChamp for daily race results from the NHRA Gatornationals.

For more NHRA sportsman race results, click here.

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