Morgan Lucas raced to the Top Fuel victory Monday at the rain-delayed Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

Lucas powered his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster to the second-quickest run in NHRA history with a 3.743 second time at 326.87 mph to hold off seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, whose U.S. Army dragster lost traction early and finished in 5.289 at 139.63. Schumacher hasn’t won a race in his past nine final round appearances, dating back to Oct. 2010 in Las Vegas.

It was the fifth career victory for Lucas, who was the event’s No. 1 qualifier and also defeated Brady Kalivoda, Spencer Massey and Doug Kalitta in earlier rounds. After making some changes to his team during the off season, Lucas seems poised to improve on disappointing back-to-back 10th place points finishes the last two seasons.

“I’m just having so much fun right now I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else,” Lucas said. “This team has had its ups and downs over the past few years but I honestly love where we are now. We have great chemistry with [crew chiefs] Aaron Brooks and Rob Centorbi. Aaron is not afraid to be aggressive and I’m not sure I ever had that before. He thinks things over and he is selectively aggressive. It also helps that he’s close to my age. I’ve always said you have to ride the wave when it’s up. Right now, we’re doing that.”

With his second final round appearance of the season, Schumacher is now in the series lead, 14 ahead of Lucas.

Hight won a tire-smoking pedal-fest over Johnny Gray to take the Funny Car title. Both cars lost traction early in the race and were on and off the throttle all the way down the dragstrip. Hight managed to guide his Auto Club Ford Mustang across the finish line first in 4.866 at 236.05, while Gray trailed in his Service Central Dodge Charger at 6.074 at 116.09.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” Hight said of the thrilling side-by-side final round.  “Jimmy Prock [crew chief] said he was going to back it off because the track was warming up and from what I felt we backed it off too much and it was weak and shook. It shook and I had to pedal it. Sometimes as a driver you want to be perfect and you want your car to be flawless, but sometimes as a driver it’s cool to win a race like that, a good old pedal-fest. It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get the win light.”

It was Hight’s second victory of the season, 25th of his career and first ever at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.


“I’ve won Indy and I’ve won races at home in Pomona, but next to Indy, our biggest event, this is where you want to win,” said Hight, who moved to second in the points standings and now trails series leader Mike Neff by seven. “You don’t want to retire and not have a Gatornationals win. That’s two in a row, that’s huge and a great way to start the season.”

In Pro Stock, Edwards used a holeshot start in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to defeat Greg Anderson for his first win of the season and 33rd of his career. Edwards finished in 6.566 at 211.30 but his quicker reaction time allowed him to hold off the quicker but losing performance of Anderson’s Summit Racing Equipment GXP, which finished in 6.538 at 211.69.

“I won on a holeshot, but I really can’t explain it,” Edwards said. “Those guys [Summit teammates Anderson and Line] have been to the final round in all three races so I knew I had to do something. You can never be late against those guys. You’ve got to go on time. I was very concerned about not having lane choice in the final. I didn’t get down the track in that lane either time in qualifying but I’m guessing maybe something about the rain helped us with our set-up.”

It was the third consecutive final round appearance for Anderson, who maintains the series lead with the runner-up finish. He sits 44 points in front of Edwards.

Krawiec completed a perfect weekend to open defense of his Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship, defeating teammate Andrew Hines in the final round. Krawiec became only the second racer to earn the maximum 150 points by winning the race, setting the national E.T. record (6.750 seconds), leading all four qualifying sessions and earning the No. 1 qualifying position. In the final round, he powered his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.822 at 194.94 to cross the finish line five feet in front of Hines, whose identically prepared Harley-Davidson posted a 6.861 at 194.55. It was Krawiec’s third consecutive Gatornationals victory and 12th win of his career.

“I’d say this is a great way to start a championship defense,” Krawiec said. “I had a great bike from the time we rolled it off the truck. We had low E.T. of every round except one. It was also a great way to roll out our new re-designed bikes which are based on the 2012 Harley Night Rods. We tested a little this off-season and we worked hard and the results showed. Unfortunately, there was no 200-mph run. If I had done that, I could have retired. I guess I was not meant to retire.”

Veteran Pro Mod driver Rickie Smith raced to his first career victory in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx Monday during the rain-delayed Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com.

Smith, a former multi-time winner in NHRA Pro Stock competition, held off event top qualifier Mike Castellana in the final round after defeating Adam Flamholc, Raymond Commisso and Leah Pruett in the first three rounds. In his only other NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series final round appearance, Smith lost to Khalid alBalooshi last spring in Las Vegas.

In the final round at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Smith powered his trademark red ’68 Camaro past Castellana’s ’68 Camaro with a performance of 5.913 seconds at 240.29 mph. Castellana left the starting line first with an amazing .006 reaction time, but his car got loose near mid-track and slowed to a run of 6.435 at 189.79.

The key round for Smith was his semifinal victory over Leah Pruett. Smith won that race on a holeshot, using a quicker reaction time at the starting line with his performance of 5.926 at 239.95 to cross the finish line about seven feet in front of Pruett, who had the quicker time and speed in her late-model Ford Mustang, posting a 5.919 at 251.34.

With the victory, Smith opens the season in the series lead, 19 points ahead of Castellana.

Qualifying Wrap up

Morgan Lucas raced his GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fueler to the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

Cruz Pedregon leads Funny Car in his Snap-On Tools Toyota Camry heading into eliminations Sunday, while Allen Johnson topped Pro Stock in his Mopar Dodge Avenger and two-time Gatornationals champ Eddie Krawiec ran the quickest pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle history en route to the No. 1 spot on his Harley-Davidson.

The GEICO/Lucas Oil driver earned the second No. 1 of the season and sixth of his career Saturday with a 3.766 second pass at 321.88 mph. In just the third race of 2012, Lucas equaled his career-high for No. 1 qualifying positions in a single season.

“I can honestly say this is the best racecar I’ve ever had,” Lucas said. “I can’t wait to hop in the thing. The problems we have this year have had to do with freak parts failures, not performance. This team is so strong right now.”

Lucas is not only the driver but also the team owner and for part of last season he was also the crew chief. After some changes in the offseason Lucas has been able to focus on what he knows best.

“I credit the guys on the team. I feel like we’ve had the ingredients to perform this whole time and didn’t know how to put it together. (Crew chiefs) Aaron Brooks and Rod Centorbi brought that to the table. With them here, I can focus and drive the car with a clear mind.”

Krawiec set the national record on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod Saturday with a 6.750 second pass at 198.03 mph and collected not only the 10th No. 1 of his career, but also the 20 point bonus that comes with setting a national E.T. record.

“This morning we got some great weather and we were able to take advantage of it,” Krawiec said. “We had a stiff head wind so maybe tomorrow if the wind dies down and we can get that 200-mph run. We’re trying to run 200-mph but I keep telling everyone you can’t push it. Everything has to be just right. We want to go 200 but we also want to win a Wally.”

Last season, Krawiec set the speed record at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville and won the prestigious event which makes it a place he feels very comfortable.

“Being here [in Gainesville] is like walking in my front door,” Krawiec said. “I’m very comfortable here. This is a great facility and everyone gets excited for Gainesville.”

Pedregon took the No. 1 spot from defending event champ Mike Neff during the final qualifying session Saturday evening when he laid down a 4.026 second pass at 311.05 mph. This is the third No. 1 at the Gatornationals for Pedregon, first of the season and 46th of his career.

“I was looking for some kind of 4.0, and sometimes these cars will surprise you,” said Pedregon. “I always want to lay one down when I’m racing beside (John) Force, but I didn’t want to mess it up. It put me back in the seat really hard and got a little blurry around mid-track. It was a very good feeling, euphoric as they say. It’s nice to reward these guys with a run like that.”

After a DNQ and first round loss at the first two races of the season Pedregon feels the team may have found the right race day combination.
“We’re really going to enjoy it for tonight, but we’ll be focused on getting back into the points battle on race day,” Pedregon said. “We didn’t have much to show from the first two races, so we kind of considered them our test sessions. We had some consistency on Friday, and to cap it off with a run like that is beyond great.”

Johnson’s Mopar Dodge Avenger raced to the top spot Saturday morning with a 6.486 second pass at 211.93 mph. It’s Johnson’s first No. 1 of the season, first at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville and 19th of his career.

“Anytime you’re in Gainesville it is prestigious,” Johnson said. “This is Pro Stock country so it’s great to be No. 1 qualifier here. I really appreciate the [K&N Filters] bonus. The Mopar people are throwing us new parts and the Dodge Avenger is an awesome race car. I’m just looking forward to starting from No. 1 spot in this field.”

Eliminations for the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville will begin Sunday at 11 a.m. (EDT)

The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx kicked off their season at the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. Mike Castellana’s Camaro lead the 16-car field when eliminations got underway Saturday afternoon and took out veteran Jay Payne in the opening round at the historic track.

Leah Pruett started from the seventh qualifying position and advanced to the quarterfinals with her quickest pass of the weekend, 5.916 seconds at 250.83 mph, outrunning Steve Matusek’s Mustang in the process.  Raymond Commisso, Mike Knowles, Kenny Lang, Donald Martin, Rickie Smith and Danny Rowe also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Final Qualifying Results

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sunday’s first-round pairings for professional eliminations for the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the third of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Morgan Lucas, 3.766 seconds, 326.56 mph  vs. 16. Brady Kalivoda, 3.925, 291.70; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.790, 322.81  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.907, 297.55; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.797, 323.04  vs. 14. T.J. Zizzo, 3.904, 312.42; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 3.813, 320.58  vs. 13. Doug Kalitta, 3.897, 315.34; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.822, 322.19  vs. 12. Clay Millican, 3.890, 307.58; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.825, 320.20  vs. 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.852, 320.20; 7. Antron Brown, 3.832, 320.43  vs. 10. David Grubnic, 3.847, 314.97; 8. Spencer Massey, 3.847, 321.50  vs. 9. Hillary Will, 3.847, 312.50.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Dom Lagana, 3.926, 309.56; 18. Ike Maier, 3.951, 307.93; 19. Cory McClenathan, 3.964, 293.73; 20. Keith Murt, 3.966, 280.60; 21. Chris Karamesines, 4.143, 277.49; 22. Pat Dakin, 7.294, 149.38.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.026, 311.77  vs. 16. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.226, 298.21; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.047, 314.61  vs. 15. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala, 4.220, 292.39; 3. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.057, 313.66  vs. 14. Blake Alexander, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.168, 297.02; 4. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.065, 313.00  vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.154, 307.23; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.083, 309.06  vs. 12. Jim Head, Solara, 4.153, 301.13; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.108, 306.88  vs. 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.136, 306.12; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.114, 309.49  vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camary, 4.125, 306.81; 8. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.114, 307.79  vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.116, 307.65. Did Not Qualify: 17. Tony Pedregon, 4.492, 291.51; 18. Todd Lesenko, 4.538, 200.38; 19. Dale Creasy Jr., 6.387, 145.93.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.486, 211.99  vs. 16. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.555, 210.83; 2. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.490, 212.69  vs. 15. Mark Martino, GXP, 6.552, 210.31; 3. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.504, 212.03  vs. 14. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.551, 209.69; 4. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.506, 211.83  vs. 13. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.544, 210.31; 5. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.515, 211.36  vs. 12. Steve Kent, GXP, 6.543, 210.21; 6. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.519, 211.69  vs. 11. Rickie Jones, GXP, 6.543, 210.77; 7. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.519, 211.76  vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Avenger, 6.541, 210.37; 8. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.529, 212.13  vs. 9. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.533, 210.47. Did Not Qualify: 17. Grace Howell, 6.572, 208.94; 18. Warren Johnson, 6.573, 209.69; 19. Jeg Coughlin, 6.597, 210.24; 20. V. Gaines, 6.598, 210.73; 21. Gary Gregory, 6.625, 208.10; 22. Kurt Johnson, 8.520, 207.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.750, 198.03  vs. 16. Ulf Ogge, Buell, 7.034, 187.65; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.812, 193.63  vs. 15. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.018, 190.32; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.834, 195.14  vs. 14. John Hall, Buell, 7.012, 189.68; 4. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.842, 193.99  vs. 13. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.010, 190.57; 5. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.881, 192.99  vs. 12. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.977, 189.71; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.894, 192.93  vs. 11. Jerry Savoie, Buell, 6.972, 189.36; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.894, 192.58  vs. 10. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.958, 190.89; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.932, 192.58  vs. 9. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.956, 188.89. Did Not Qualify: 17. Michael Ray, 7.035, 186.85; 18. Joe DeSantis, 7.065, 186.69; 19. Wesley Wells, 7.065, 187.36; 20. Mike Berry, 7.084, 187.60; 21. Redell Harris, 7.094, 186.64; 22. Anne Hansen, 7.124, 187.47; 23. James Surber, 7.195, 185.49; 24. Charles Sulivan, 7.302, 179.49; 25. Justin Finley, 8.676, 157.43.

PRO MODIFIED:

ROUND ONE — Mike Knowles, Chevy Camaro, 5.919, 241.63 def. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, foul; Leah Pruett, Ford Mustang, 5.916, 251.34 def. Steve Matusek, Mustang, 12.231, 71.16; Raymond Commisso, Camaro, 6.338, 183.44 def. Troy Coughlin, Camaro, 8.056, 111.09; Kenny Lang, Camaro, 5.892, 244.34 def. Roger Burgess, Pontiac Firebird, 6.009, 246.48; Donald Martin, Camaro, 5.936, 245.23 def. Donald Walsh, Mustang, 6.044, 236.96; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.927, 238.72 def. Adam Flamholc, Camaro, 6.064, 234.21; Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.890, 244.96 def. Ike Maier, Chevy Corvette, 6.271, 230.25; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.904, 243.55 def. Jay Payne, Camaro, 13.146, 76.48.