CHEVROLET AT GAINESVILLE
49th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
Friday, March 16-Sunday, March 18
Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida
FS1: Qualifications (taped) – 8:30 p.m. ET Friday; 11 p.m. ET Saturday
FS1: Eliminations and finals (taped) – 7 p.m. ET Sunday
Chevrolet drivers seek to take bite out of Gatornationals prizes
Courtney Force enters 49th annual event with Funny Car momentum on her side
DETROIT (March 14, 2018) – Buoyed by a Funny Car victory at Phoenix, Courtney Force enters the 49th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway with mental and mechanical momentum.
The driver of the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS claimed her first win in eight final-round appearances dating to the 2016 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and delivered the 125th Funny Car win for Chevrolet with her ninth career victory.
“That win in Phoenix was definitely a great way to start off our season for our Advance Auto Parts team,” said Force, who is second in the Funny Car standings entering the third race of the season. “It feels good knowing that we have a pretty good race car. (Co-crew chiefs) Dan Hood and Brian Corradi have been doing a great job. I am excited to get to Florida. This is a track where I have qualified well but have yet to get a win at the Gatornationals. All of my teammates have won at this track, so I am really hoping we can get it done this weekend.”
Her father and teammate, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, is the eight-time and defending Gatornationals Funny Car winner. Force, driving the PEAK Motor Oil & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS, was the No. 1 qualifier at the 2017 event and went on to record his record-extending 148th career win.
Force returns to the racetrack after a scary explosion and crash in the quarterfinal elimination round at Wild Horse Pass three weeks ago. He was examined at a local hospital and cleared to drive.
“I am ready to get back to the racetrack. We have had some struggles at the first two races, but we are figuring it out,” said Force, who is closing in on 1,300 round wins. “My team has been going over my PEAK Chevrolet Funny Car and we’ll be ready. The good news is Robert (Hight) stayed and tested after the last race and Courtney won in Phoenix. We all share information and I love racing at the Gatornationals. I am ready to get back to the fans. It was good to have some time off but now the season is really going to get started.”
John Force Racing teammate and reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Brittany Force also is looking forward to returning to Gainesville Raceway in the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster. Force earned her maiden Top Fuel win at the track in 2016.
KB Racing teammates Jason Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) and Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) are four-time Pro Stock winners at the Gatornationals.
Line, with runner-up finishes in each of the first two races of the season, is the points leader in the stacked class. Chevrolet has amassed 280 Pro Stock victories since 1970.
The Gatornationals will mark the 2018 debut of the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology (SAM Tech) NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. David Barton of Robesonia, Pennsylvania, driving a Gary Wolkwitz-owned Chevrolet COPO Camaro, claimed the title in the five-race series in 2017.
In its seventh season, the field has been expanded to 16 cars in each of seven races.
“2018 will be a very interesting year for Factory Stock Showdown series,” Chevy Racing NHRA program manager Roger Allen said. “The series has been expanded to seven races and will compete as a separate eliminator category that will be highlighted with more prominent qualifying and elimination times on the weekend schedule.”
Barton won the SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown event at Gainesville last year.
“This class has been growing and the way I see it the sky is the limit,” he said. “We’ve got support from the manufacturers and we’re bringing a lot of new racers into NHRA. I’m also grateful to be the first real champion in the class. I’m really out here just living the dream.”
Barton will be joined by the following drivers in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros seeking to qualify for eliminations:
Peter Gasko Jr. of Monroe Township, New Jersey; Stephen Bell of Shreveport, Louisiana; Scott Libersher of Wilmington, Illinois; Waldemar Rodriguez of Cidra, Puerto Rico; Doug Hamp of York, Pennsylvania; Daniel Stevenson of Bolingbrook, Illinois; Jesse Alexandra of West Bend, Wisconsin; David Janac of Caldwell, Texas; Aaron Stanfield of Bossier City, Louisiana; Charles Malo of South Easton, Massachusetts; Robert Falcone of Pleasant Valley, New York; Daniel Condon of Wilmington, Illinois; Arthur Kohn of Richmond, Texas; Randy Taylor of Artesia, New Mexico; Todd Patterson of Augusta, Kansas; Jeffrey Bragg of Fort Myers, Florida; Leonard Libersher of Wilmington, Illinois; and Richard Bierie of Acworth, Georgia.
Jeff Strickland of Red Bay, Alabama, the 2016 Stock Eliminator champion in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro, leads the Bowtie Brand entries in the class this weekend. Also scheduled to compete are Adam Badgett of Mount Airy, North Carolina; Jeff Taylor of Sellersburg, Indiana; Tim Lowe of Macy, Indiana; and Scott Libersher.
Last weekend, Strickland visited the winner’s circle by driving his ’18 COPO Camaro to victory in the Stock Eliminator class at the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Southeast Division Prelude to the Gators at Gainesville Raceway.
Kohn and Brandon Bakies of Alexandria, Louisiana, are entered in Super Stock in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros.
FS1 will telecast taped qualifications at 8:30 p.m. ET Friday and 11 p.m. ET Saturday. FS1 will provide taped coverage of eliminations and finals at 7 p.m. ET Sunday.
CHEVY RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVY RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “Chevrolet teams have used time away from the racetrack since the Phoenix event to analyze data to improve their race cars, and in some cases build new race cars. At Phoenix, Courtney Force delivered Chevy Racing’s 125th Funny Car victory and Chris McGaha bested the highly competitive field to claim another Chevrolet Camaro SS Pro Stock win. Last year at Gainesville, John Force secured his record-extending 148th Funny Car win. Heading into the 49th Gatornationals, Chevy Racing teams are confident of another successful weekend on the track.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (reigning class champion; earned inaugural class victory at track in 2016): “Gainesville will always be a special track for me. My Monster Energy team had been chasing down our first win since my rookie season in 2013 and we made it happen at the Gatornationals in Gainesville. A first win is something a driver will never forget. That win was the first Top Fuel win for John Force Racing and the first double-up win with teammate Robert Hight. That track, that day is something I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to get back to the Gatornationals this weekend.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning class champion; runner-up in season opener; holds both ends of Funny Car track record, set in 2017; three-time Gatornationals winner): “Last year we got teamed back together with crew chief Jimmy Prock and we have been working towards a dominant tune-up. We got it figured out last summer and won the championship. This year I want to dominate the whole season and win another championship. I have a lot of confidence in this Auto Club team and really the whole John Force Racing team. It was good to see Courtney get a win in Arizona.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier and winner at Phoenix; second in points; aiming to qualify for 145th career Funny Car race): “(Co-crew chiefs) Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, it’s been a lot of fun working with them. They have a great connection. I think they really motivate my entire team to do such an amazing job. I put a lot of trust in these guys when I get behind the wheel of the car that they are doing their job correctly, and mechanically these guys are doing a phenomenal job.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT AND MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (eight-time winner of event, including 2017; No. 1 qualifier in 2017 event; has 148 career Funny Car wins and 1,288 round wins): “I really don’t need any motivation. I want to win and succeed no matter what is going on. I talk with all my crew chiefs and crew guys about having the heart and the fire all the time. These young guys keep me motivated and I trust them. I get excited every time I drive onto a racetrack. I won this race a lot, but every year is a new year. I go after every win with the same fire in my belly. I won this race last year and I am looking to get another win this year. I’ll have a special paint scheme that a fan made for me. It has the American flag on my race car and I love it.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up in first two races of season; class points leader; seeking 50th national event win – 47 in Pro Stock, two in Stock Eliminator; four-time winner and three-time runner-up in event; No. 1 qualifier past two years): “I love Gainesville because it can be a very fast racetrack, and the Gatornationals have been pretty good to me. History shows that I’ve typically been better at the beginning of the year than I am at the end of the year, and hopefully I can change that this time around and be good from start to finish. Either way, you have to make hay when the sun shines. The last two races did not produce the outcome I’d hoped for with my blue Summit racing Chevy Camaro, but I’d like to think we can get it done in Gainesville.”
BO BUTNER, KB RACING, JIM BUTNER AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning class champion; earned sixth Pro Stock win and second in a row at Auto Club Raceway in season opener; won 2013 Stock Eliminator event at Gainesville): “I’m excited to get to Gainesville. It’s not really a home track for me, but I’ve spent a lot of time down there and know the area pretty well, so it almost feels like it. I’ve had some success there with a Stock Eliminator win back a few years ago, and I really like the place. Anytime you go to Gainesville, you know there is a good chance of having a great weekend. Weekends like we had in Phoenix are going to happen, and it’ll keep you humble. But I’m having fun in this class. We’re going to give it our best and try again (for the championship) this year.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time winner of event; next final round will be 150th in his 20 seasons competing in Pro Stock; has been to final round in each of the past three years): “As a team, we love Gainesville. The racetrack is in the KB Racing wheelhouse, and it’s a great Pro Stock track with some of the most supportive fans. Team Summit runs strong there with our Chevrolet Camaro Pro Stock cars, and it would mean everything to us to get another race win for Summit Racing – especially this year, during their 50th anniversary. We have to make the most of this milestone, we have to celebrate it with them in the best way possible, and that’s by winning. As always, the plan is to put a Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro in the winner’s circle at the Gatornationals and to make Summit Racing proud for the remainder of this season.”
CHRIS MCGAHA, HARLOW SAMMONS RACING, HARLOW SAMMONS OF ODESSA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Phoenix as the No. 7 qualifier for sixth career Pro Stock win; competing in 120th Pro Stock race): “I’m starting to think that (reaction time) is attributed to hiring a crew chief full time. I’ve always felt like I needed to be doing something on the car to help take my mind off of driving. (At Phoenix) I just did the engine tune-up and focused more on driving. It paid off. (Season plans) I’ll be doing the whole tour, all the races and see what we can do.”
ERICA ENDERS, MCLEOAD CLUTCHES ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 2 qualifier at Phoenix; holds track Pro Stock speed record, set in 2014): “The prestigious Gatornationals is still a box that is left unchecked on my bucket list of success. We had had much success here with multiple runner-up finishes and a national record being set here but no Wally. We have started this year with a semifinal and quarterfinal finish and are looking to improve off of those as we go. My car is fast and I am hungry. We have been testing more frequently as well, so my guys really have a handle on things. I couldn’t be more proud to have the team that I do. I am looking for some driver redemption after Phoenix.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (two-time winner and four-time runner-up in event; five-time Pro Stock champion): “(In recent on-track testing) We found a few things that appear to be giving us the consistency and efficiency we’ve been lacking at the first two races of the year. I believe the team has fixed what’s been ailing us to a large extent and I’m pretty excited to get on the track and see how we match up. The weather looks to be a little warmer than what we’ve seen so far so we’ll dig into the database and find a good tune up. We’ve won here before and we’d love to do it again this time through.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (five-time winner in 26 career Pro Stock races): “I feel a lot better about Gainesville than the past two races. We’ve had a few days down in Bradenton to test and really get everything worked out. The car is running good and everyone is pretty confident going into this weekend. We just have to take it one race at a time and start going rounds.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 2 qualifier in opener; advanced to the quarterfinals in each of the first two races): “We’ve started slower than I would have liked. We had a good qualifying at Pomona, but it didn’t translate to a decent race day. And we just didn’t have what it took at Phoenix. It’s early in the season and we’ll get things sorted out soon enough.”
JOHN GAYDOSH JR., GAYDOSH PERFORMANCE, PIPES PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (competing in first event of 2018 season; new look to car this year, emulating the ’69 Hugger Orange Camaro): “Last year was very memorable for us. It just takes baby steps to keep moving forward and up. Anything can happen come Sunday. We pulled off a few surprises last year and we hope to do more of that in 2018.”