GAINESVILLE, Fla. -
All of the biggest stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be on hand to blast their way toward the finish line and keep the fans on the edge of their seats. A win at this event can mean great momentum as drivers pursue NHRA Mello Yello world championship glory during the season that crisscrosses the United States. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2HD.
Celebrating its 45th edition, the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals has entertained spring-break-loving fans for four decades and brings lots of star power to the tradition-rich dragstrip including many of the sport's greatest legends, like "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, and this year will be no different. Along with the brightest personalities in the track's history, fans will be treated to an All-American nitro spring break and with kids 12 and younger admitted free to the general admission areas with a paid adult, the event is a perfect family getaway.
Long considered one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA circuit, it was from this legendary point that drivers clocked the first 260-, 270- and 300-mph Top Fuel runs. Perhaps the most memorable of those was Kenny Bernstein's historic first 300 mph Top Fuel pass in 1992.
The Smith family also made NHRA history last season when Matt clinched the Pro Stock Motorcycle Mello Yello Series crown at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his father Rickie won the 2013 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship title a few weeks earlier in St. Louis. They became the first father-son in NHRA history to celebrate earning world championship titles in the same season.
Others to watch in the two-wheel category include three-time Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines, Michael Ray, defending event champ Arana Jr., who will be joined by his father Hector Sr. and brother Adam and newcomer Chaz Kennedy, who will be one of the leading contenders for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award.
In Top Fuel, defending world champ Shawn Langdon realized a lifelong dream in 2013 when he raced to his first world championship title becoming the first driver in NHRA history to earn championships at the Jr., Sportsman and Pro levels. The Al-Anabi Racing team is off to a good start in 2014 with Khalid alBalooshi claiming the team's first season win at Pomona. Langdon, who fell to alBalooshi in round two in Pomona, will try to add a second championship title and seeks his first Gatornationals victory. Defending event winner Brown will look to score another win at Gainesville and his Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Spencer Massey and Tony Schumacher, also will be among the top challengers. Joining them in the field will be 2013 rookie Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett, Amalie Motor Oil fan-favorite Terry McMillen and 2014 rookie Richie Crampton.
The reigning Pro Stock champ, Jeg Coughlin, will look for more success with Mopar teammate Allen Johnson, while Winternationals winner and four-time Gatornationals winner Jason Line and his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro are seeking another early season win. Erica Enders-Stevens, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile and Dave Connolly always provide tough competition in the parity-filled factory hot rod category.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which is making its 2014 season debut, also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
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 that offers 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, K.S. Pittman, Big John Mazmanian, Bruce Larson, among others. There will also be several NHRA Legends of Drag Racing autograph sessions, allowing fans the rare opportunity to meet drag racing stars of the past.
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 red-carpet Press Conference affair, which starts at 10:30 a.m.
On Sunday, fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Track Walk with Top Fuel legend and Florida resident Darrell Gwynn at 10 a.m. Fans will be able to get "up-close and personal" with Gwynn and other NHRA stars by walking with them on the famed track for a donation of $20 or more to the Foundation. Money raised will support the Darrell Gwynn Foundation's ongoing work to provide education about spinal cord injury prevention, offer support to those afflicted by spinal cord injuries and debilitating disease, and raise funds to help find a cure.
Pro qualifying begins on Friday, March 14, with sessions at noon and 2:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, March 15, also at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 16.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRAtix.com or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center, (800) 884-NHRA (6472). General admission tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket. For more information about NHRA, log on to www.NHRA.com.
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