Josh Hart Won the Race at the Tree in Gatornationals Debut
It was business as usual for Steve Torrence during qualifying for the 52nd annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Three-time NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series driver of the CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel dragster captured the number one spot going into Sunday’s elimination rounds. Unfortunately, Torrence would faceoff in round two with newcomer Josh Hart. The two-time U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Champion nailed a holeshot victory with a .076 RT against the defending NHRA Top Fuel Champion. Hart had eliminated Clay Millican in the opening round and breezed past Justin Ashley after he had issues during staging for the semifinal round.
As the Ocala newcomer staged for his debut final round in Top Fuel at the Gatornationals, the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon slotted his Kalitta Motorsports DHL-sponsored dragster alongside. The former Top Fuel world champ returned to the division last season after racing for a couple of years in Nitro Funny Car. Langdon eliminated Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, and Antron Brown on his way up the ladder at Gainesville. When the lights turned green, Hart grab the lead with .026 reaction time and, when Langdon spun the tires at mid track, Hart saw his dreams come true. The class newcomer posted a 3.826 ET for a winning speed of 323.66 mph.
J.R. Todd Tops Funny Car Field
With Josh Hart defeating his teammate in Top Fuel, 39-year-old J.R. Todd broke the 14 consecutive Funny Car win streak of Don Schumacher Racing by defeating Robert Hight. With John Force Racing opting out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, it would have made for a special return to racing for Hight, but the 2018 NHRA Funny Car world champion took the lead off the tree and coasted home for his first ever Wally at Gainesville Raceway. Most of the day had belonged to Bob Tasca III, who had eliminated Matt Hagan in the opening round setting an event Top Speed of 330.47 mph. Tasca then beat out Ron Capps in the quarterfinals. Condolences go out to the Tasca family as Bob’s mother had passed earlier in the week. As a show of force and to give notice to the other drivers, the legendary John Force grabbed low-ET of 3.915 before being eliminated by his son-in-law in the quarterfinal round. So, much for retirement anytime soon.
60th Birthday Present and 200+ MPH Runs
Pro Stock legend Greg Anderson was celebrating his 60th birthday weekend at the Gatornationals. After going winless in the abbreviated 2020 season, Anderson launched his 2021 NHRA Pro Stock season with a win. In the final round, the Mooresville, NC-native posted a 6.602 ET at 209.33 mph in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro to beat Troy Coughlin, Jr. and claim his 95th career Wally in Pro Stock. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it was reigning NHRA champion Matt Smith who became the first national winner in the elite classes of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series with four (4) consecutive 200+ mph runs. Smith ran a 6.785 ET in the final round against Ryan Oehler’s 6.869 seconds.
Teams head west for the April 9-11 Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA. NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series classes will run on Saturday and Sunday only, with two (2) qualifying sessions on Saturday, and Final Elimination rounds on Sunday.