Tampa Bay Sports Day

WEEKEND FOCUS: 48th Annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals Coming Next Month

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Early-season momentum and a chance at glory at one of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ legendary races is on the line at the 48th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 16-19 at Gainesville Raceway.

The NHRA’s traditional East Coast opener is the third race in the 2017 season, and the event never fails to disappoint as the world’s best drag racers power their 10,000-horsepower, nitro-burning machines down one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).

Long revered by fans and drivers alike, the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals has delivered one memorable moment after another, including notable runs like the first 260-mph runs in Top Fuel and Funny Car in 1984 and the first 270-mph and 300-mph Top Fuel passes in 1986 and 1992, respectively.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class makes its 2017 debut at the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the first of 16 races delivering thrilling action in the two-wheeled class. Jerry Savoie will look to start fast after claiming his first world championship a year ago, but he will have to deal with a host of talented riders. That includes defending event winner Eddie Krawiec, a four-time winner at the event, as well as his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines. Others to watch include 2015 event winner Karen Stoffer, two-time world champ Matt Smith, three-time world champion Angelle Sampey and Cory Reed, NHRA’s top rookie in 2016.

In Top Fuel, the ‘Gators’ was a monumental weekend for Brittany Force in 2016, as she claimed her first career class victory, ousting Terry McMillen in the finals. Force will look to add to her win total and championship resume this year in her Monster Energy dragster, but the competition will be stout. Leah Pritchett started 2017 with a win at the season-opener in Pomona, while other class stars include back-to-back world champion Antron Brown, Steve Torrence, 2014 event winner Doug Kalitta, rookie Troy Coughlin Jr., Clay Millican and four-time event winner Tony Schumacher.

Hight’s victory in Funny Car last year gave John Force Racing its first double-up weekend in team history, also giving the former world champ his third win at the facility in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro. Hight will look for another early-season boost, but will have to contend with the likes of 2015 Gainesville winner and reigning world champion Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, who won the season-opener in Pomona, John Force, a seven-time event winner, Courtney Force, class newcomer J.R. Todd, Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and Jack Beckman.

Longtime Pro Stock standout Greg Anderson will look for his third straight win at Gainesville Raceway after ousting his teammate Jason Line a year ago. Both had incredible 2016 seasons, with each winning eight races, but Line claimed the world championship and also the Winternationals victory to start 2017. Looking to stop another dominant campaign from the tandem is a group of talented drivers, including teammates Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., two-time Gators winner Allen Johnson, and young standouts Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile and Bo Butner.

The event is also the season-opening race for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Along with the exciting on-track action, the NHRA Arizona Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, March 17 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 18 at 12:00 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 19.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.