GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10, 2021) – Steve Torrence’s first win in Gainesville came a year ago and helped him to his third straight NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series world title. With the race back in its traditional spot, the Top Fuel star will look to start his 2021 season impressively at this weekend’s 52nd annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.
The race took place in September last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Torrence delivered a strong showing, winning the race while sporting a Don Garlits throwback look in his Capco Contractors 11,000-horsepower dragster. With the historic nature of the race, Torrence is just as motivated for a repeat performance this weekend.
“Everybody is on this team because they want to win and they want to do well,” Torrence said. “The more you do well, the more it motivates you. In this group, we consistently want to do better and accomplish more. We’re always pushing. That was instilled in me by my father and everyone on this team shares the same mindset.”
Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and FOX, including live finals coverage starting at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 14 on FOX.
Torrence will again be the man to beat in a talent-filled Top Fuel class. He’s been nearly unstoppable the last three years, piling up 24 victories since 2018 and 32 since 2017. The team isn’t slowing down and remains dedicated to improving, in part because the competition is so stout. Torrence will face off with the likes of Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Leah Pruett, Brittany Force, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, and more, but Torrence has always been impressed with how his team has responded to challenges.
“To see how mentally tough they were and just the mental fortitude each one of the guys showed was impressive,” Torrence said. “This is a group that always battles and you can’t help but think what we’ve accomplished together. It’s been incredible, but we hold each other to a very high standard and that’s what motivates us.”
In Funny Car, a familiar and legendary face is back to open 2021, as 16-time world champ John Force is back in the seat of his 11,000-horsepower PEAK/BlueDEF PLATINUM Chevrolet Camaro in Gainesville. The John Force Racing team sat out the rest of the 2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it a much-anticipated return for the 151-time event winner. Force looked good in testing and is now eager to see how it translates for his team in Gainesville, which is the organization’s first race in more than a year.
“It feels good to be back in my car, back in the seat,” Force said. “BlueDEF PLATINUM looks good on the side and it’s comfortable, it’s home. We’re ready for this weekend, ready to get the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season started. Testing went well, we were quick and fast and the new guys are figuring it out. I’ve got confidence in my crew chiefs, Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi, and we’re all just excited to be back racing.”
There’s an obvious challenge right off the bat, as rival Don Schumacher Racing swept the entire season in the class. DSR has won the last 14 Funny Car races dating back to 2019 and will field two cars in 2021 with defending world champ Matt Hagan and Capps, who won in Gainesville last year. Both will try to extend that streak, but Force has other ideas, as does a loaded field that features the likes of Robert Hight J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III, Paul Lee, and Alexis DeJoria.
Pro Stock’s Erica Enders will start 2021 aiming for a third straight championship and fifth overall. But a host of standouts will try to stop her, including defending Gainesville winner Alex Laughlin, Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield, Kyle Koretsky, and Troy Coughlin Jr.
Matt Smith impressed in Gainesville last year en route to the world title and he’ll look to repeat that to open his title defense. Trying to stop him will be top riders like Ryan Oehler, Jerry Savoie, Angelle Sampey, and Hector Arana Jr.
The event will also feature the opening race of the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season. The race is presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars and FTI Performance, and the defending winner is Rickie Smith. The race also includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, as well as the Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series and the Top Fuel Harley Series.
Additionally, the Southeast Nostalgia Pro Stock Group will bring vintage Pro Stock cars to Gainesville to entertain the fans, while a special Street Car Shootout between Tom Bailey and Rod Tschiggfrie, two of the best street car racers in the world, will take place during the weekend.
Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, March 12, with the two final rounds slated for 12:05 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 14. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 13, and live eliminations beginning at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 14 on the FOX national broadcast network.
Tickets are on sale now for the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals and may be purchased by visiting NHRA.com or calling 800-884-NHRA.
AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
WHAT: 52nd annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the first event of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series world championships. Also, in competition will be the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Presented by J&A Service, the Factory Stock Showdown and NHRA Top Fuel Harley division. Sportsman racers will also be competing throughout the weekend in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.WHERE: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla. Track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.
WHEN: March 11-14
THURSDAY, March 11
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series qualifying at 8:00 a.m.
FRIDAY, March 12
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series eliminations at 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
Factory Stock Showdown qualifying at 3:00 p.m.
NHRA Top Fuel Harley qualifying at 3:15 p.m.
E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying at 3:30 p.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 4:00 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 13
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series eliminations at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Factory Stock Showdown qualifying at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
NHRA Top Fuel Harley qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.
E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying at 11:30 and 3:30 p.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 12:00 and 4:00 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 14
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series eliminations at 8:15 a.m.
Factory Stock Showdown eliminations at 8:30 a.m.
NHRA Top Fuel Harley eliminations at 8:45 a.m.
E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series eliminations at 9:00 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at 10:00 a.m.TELEVISION:
Saturday March 13, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 3:00 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 14, FS1 and FOX will televise four hours of finals coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. (ET).
2020 EVENT WINNERS: Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Alex Laughlin, Pro Stock; Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle
MOST VICTORIES: Warren Johnson, PS, 9; John Force, FC, 8; Eddie Krawiec, 6, PSM; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Jason Line, 4, PS; Ed McCullock, 4, FC; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM; Terry Vance, 4, PSM
Top Fuel – 3.680 seconds by Brittany Force, March ’19; 331.28 mph by Clay Millican, March ‘18
Funny Car – 3.828 seconds by Robert Hight, March ’17; 334.82 mph by Hight, March ‘17
Pro Stock – 6.473 seconds by Mike Edwards, March ’12; 214.69 mph by Erica Enders, March ‘14
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.720 seconds by Andrew Hines, March ’19; 201.76 mph by Matt Smith, March ‘19
Top Fuel – 3.623 sec. by Brittany Force, Sep. ’19, Reading, Pa.; 338.17 mph by B. Force, Nov. ’19, Las Vegas, Nev.
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call 800-884-NHRA (6472), of visit www.nhra.com/tickets/.
Photos courtesy of NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 22 national events featuring the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, Factory Stock Showdown and Top Fuel Harley Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. With over 120 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to www.NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.