Langdon, Neff, Line, Krawiec first-day leaders at Gatornationals
Mike Neff raced his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the Funny Car qualifying lead at the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also lead their classes heading into Saturday.
Neff’s Mustang was the quickest Funny Car on the property Friday thanks to his 4.080 second pass at 309.06 mph during the opening day of qualifying at the historic track in the Sunshine State. If the defending event champ can remain on top after qualifying action Saturday, it will be the fifth No. 1 of his career.
"The runs we made today will make tomorrow a whole lot easier," said Neff. "We can concentrate on racing in conditions tomorrow that will be more like what we’re going to be racing in on Sunday.”
Neff is not only the driver of the John Force Racing Mustang, he is also the crew chief of the 7,000-horsepower machine, which puts pressure on both his driving and tuning skills each weekend, especially on race day.
“The key to winning is making four great runs on Sunday, and the driver and the car both have to do their jobs,” Neff said. “I messed up driving during the first race and messed up the tune-up in the second race, so we didn’t end up winning either. Everything has to be right to win. I feel pretty good about the car, the team, and the way the car responds."
Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Krawiec raced his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod to a 6.824-second pass at 196.93 mph at the season opening race for the two-wheel class to take the qualifying lead Friday. Krawiec has won the past two Gatornationals, and if his time holds, it will be the 10th No. 1 of his career.
“I think this sort of sets the tone for the season,” Krawiec said. “You’re off-season is as good as the first run off the trailer, and when you post a good time, all the hard work you did over the winter is worthwhile. We ran really well in testing, and if we had cool air here, we could maybe have run 200, but it was a little hot and humid. Still, tomorrow should be better.”
Langdon powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to the No. 1 position Friday evening as the sun was setting over Auto-Plus Raceway. If Langdon holds on to the top spot, it will be his second of the season and third of his career.
“The car is flyin’,” said Langdon. “The first run made me a little nervous because there was a lot of wheel speed, and I over-drove it. I tried to under-steer it on this run, and I felt the clutch applying at midtrack. I felt that clunk when the clutch locked up and knew it was moving. I tried so hard to qualify No. 1 in my first three years and only did it once, and we’re starting our third race of the year with a No. 1 qualifier in Phoenix and a provisional No. 1 here. I’m very confident with this team.”
Line, the two-time Pro Stock world champ and three-time Gatornationals champion, raced his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to the qualifying lead with a 6.545-second pass at 211.46 mph. If it holds, it will be Line’s second No. 1 of the season and 26th of his career.
“This track is a great place for me,” Line said. “I’d love to make it four [wins] in a row and tie the record [held by Warren Johnson] being the low qualifier can’t hurt."
Qualifying for the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville will continue Saturday at 11:30 a.m. with eliminations beginning on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The first NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx of the year kicked off, and it was Mike Castellana that raced to the qualifying lead. Castellana posted a 5.862-second pass at 242.80 mph to lead the 17 cars entered into the event. If he holds onto the No. 1 qualifying position, it will be the second of his 13-race career.
Also attempting to qualify for the 16-car field is Rickie Smith in second with a time of 5.920 seconds at 237.34, Donald Martin in third at 5.945 at 243.02, Troy Coughlin at 5.946 at 256.26, and Leah Pruett, who is currently fifth after running 5.952 seconds at 250.83.
The third round of qualifying for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday followed by the first round of eliminations at 1:30 p.m.