GAINESVILLE, Fla. --
After a first round loss to Greg Stanfield at the season-opening O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Pomona and a semifinal exit at the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix, Anderson says his team is getting closer to returning to the top form that led the Ken Black owned unit to claim six of the last 10 world championship titles in the 200-mph factory hot rod category.
Anderson says he's more determined than ever to win the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 14-17 at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending event winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Anderson, who was the runner-up to Edwards at last year's event in the Swamp is a two-time winner at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals with his last victory there coming in 2007. He says the overall competition level in the category has become very stout in recent seasons. The uptick in performance by other teams has put a high premium on the driver, he says.
"There are just so many good cars out here that you are going to have to find a way to be very, very good on the tree, or it will be really tough to win out here this year," Anderson said. "Pro Stock is tougher than ever, and we're continuing to work on finding the consistency and performance that we know we will soon have with our Team Summit Camaros. It's very important that I do my job as a driver."
Anderson enters the event in a tie for seventh in the points standings. He says his effort in Phoenix was a step in the right direction, but final rounds are his ultimate destination.
"We aren't happy with getting to the semifinals," Anderson said. "We want our Summit Racing Chevy Camaros in the final round. We have to become more consistent so that we can make that happen. The bottom line is that we need to find some more performance."
His Summit Racing teammate Jason Line is a four-time winner at the Gatornationals, and until last year Line had a stronghold on the title, winning there three straight seasons from 2009-2011. So Anderson knows his team has what it takes to win at the popular and tradition-rich NHRA East Coast opener.
Others to watch in Pro Stock include Phoenix winner Erica Enders-Stevens, Winternationals winner Vincent Nobile, two-time Gatornationals champ Jeg Coughlin and defending world champ Allen Johnson, who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher has led the way this season with one victory in two final round appearances. The U.S. Army dragster driver is a four-time winner of the Gatornationals. He will be challenged by defending world champ Antron Brown, defending event winner Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey and Doug Kalitta, among others. Rookie driver Brittany Force will make her first pro start at Gainesville in her Castrol Edge dragster.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps leads the points standings and will certainly be one of the pre-race favorites in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Defending event winner Hight, along with defending world champ Jack Beckman will try to grab their first victories of the season. Others to watch in the 8,000-horsepower category include track record holder Cruz Pedregon, Winternationals winner Courtney Force, 15-time world champ John Force who has seven Gatornationals victories on his resume, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham and 2009 Gators winner Bob Tasca III.
In addition to the exciting racing action in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories, the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals also will feature the season-debut of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. Riders will be looking to knock defending series champion Krawiec off his title perch. Last year, Krawiec and his Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle teammate, Andrew Hines, dominated the two-wheel category by winning 15 of the 16 events contested during the season. The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will compete in 10 events during 2013, also will take to the track for the first time this year as Troy Coughlin looks to defend his world championship title in the 250-mph doorslammer division.
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 motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway, fans will also want to check out NHRA's popular Hot Rod Junction presented by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
The Hot Rod Junction presented by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum will offer a spectacular display of many nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods on display, including vintage machines that were driven by 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits, Don Carlton, K.S. Pittman, Big John Mazmanian, Bruce Larson and Jerry Baltes, among others. There will also be several NHRA Legends of Drag Racing autograph sessions, allowing fans the rare opportunity to meet many drag racing stars from the past.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk with Top Fuel legend and Florida resident Darrell Gwynn, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA's biggest stars.
Also, on Friday at the track, fans will have the rare opportunity to attend a special Nitro Pit Party and Press Conference in the pro pits prior to the first qualifying session. Many of the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be featured during the Press Conference, which starts at 10:45 a.m.
As NHRA continues its Nitro Generation celebration, NHRA is offering free general admission for children 12 and under with a paying adult. Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
Pro qualifying begins on Friday, March 15, with sessions at noon and 2:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, March 16, also at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 17.
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