Chevrolet Heads to Florida Ready for Competition at Gatornationals

 Chevrolet seeks to carry momentum gained from the first two events of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) season to the East Coast this weekend at the 47th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.


Chevrolet drivers have won both Pro Stock events of the young Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series season, and Chevrolet teams reached the finals in the three professional divisions at the most recent event near Phoenix. Chevrolet drivers hold the top five spots in the Pro Stock point standings, while John Force and Robert Hight of John Force Racing are second and third, respectively, and Courtney Force is sixth in Funny Car points. Brittany Force of John Force Racing, who fell just short of winning at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in the second all-female final in NHRA history, is third in the Top Fuel standings.


Jason Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS), who beat Chris McGaha (Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the Pro Stock final three weeks ago and reached the final in the season opener at Pomona, is atop the standings. He has four career Pro Stock wins at Gainesville.


KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson, the Pro Stock winner at Pomona, is 18 points back in second. Bo Butner (Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS), the No. 1 qualifier and a semifinalist at Wild Horse Pass, is third. Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro SS) and McGaha complete the top five.


The fast start in the division marked by technical changes for 2016 is important in the build-up to the Countdown to the Championship.


“Certainly it is everybody’s goal to go out and have the baddest hot rod out there,” said Anderson, who turned 55 on March 14. “For the last three, four, five, six years, everybody has been stuck so close together because we’ve got to work on the same package forever, and technology certainly flows from one team to another and everybody pays attention to what everybody else does. It really has bunched up really tight and we’re shaking up the rulings like this, that it’s absolutely an opportunity to shake out maybe an early advantage to some teams. That’s what you hope for, and it seems like that’s what we’ve got. So we’re pleasantly surprised, very happy about it, but certainly not under the belief that it’s going to stay like that.”


Anderson defeated Line in the Gatornationals Pro Stock final last March for his third career win at Gainesville. Coupled with three other 2015 race victories and his 2016 season-opening win, Anderson is third on the all-time Pro Stock victory list to Bob Glidden (85 wins) and Warren Johnson (97). The Gatornationals are special to Anderson, of Charlotte, North Carolina.


“Gainesville, Indy and Pomona, they were always some of the biggest, and from the time I started going to the racetrack with my dad you knew those were one of the special ones,” said Anderson, who had the top speed at the event in 2015 at 213.67 mph. “They were the ones you wanted to jump in the camper or car and go across country to see. The first time I won there (2004) it felt like it was something special, something bigger. I’m glad we have that and not everyone feels the same. Any win is great but the ones that happen at the major tracks, you’re darn right they feel special.”


Nine Pro Stock competitors will drive the Chevrolet Camaro SS at the Gatornationals this weekend. Shane Gray (Valvoline/Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro SS) returns to competition after forgoing the event in Arizona to get a better handle through extensive on-track testing of the new fuel injection configuration, RPM limitations and shorter wheelie-bar length instituted by NHRA. Joey Grose (Skyler Electric/Big Chief Chevrolet Camaro SS) is not entered in the Gatornationals.


Many teams have used the three-week break to test on local tracks in an effort to fine-tune their machines.


“We’re not satisfied with everything on the car yet,” Line said. “There are still lots of improvements we can make and more power to pull out of it. We have to keep up with all the Pro Stock teams that are out there trying to go faster.”


In Funny Car, at least two John Force Racing entries have reached the semifinals in each of the events this season, and all three competed in the semis at Phoenix. John Force (PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS), who has seven Gatornationals wins in his illustrious career, reached the Funny Car final at Wild Horse Pass. Hight (Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS), also twice a semifinalist this season, set class track records at Wild Horse Pass for elapsed time and speed in eliminations. He also holds the Gainesville Raceway Funny Car speed record (317.12 mph) set in 2012. Courtney Force (Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS) qualified second and advanced to the semifinals at Phoenix.


Brittany Force (Monster Energy/Chevrolet Top Fuel Dragster) was runner-up for the seventh time in her career in an impressive display at Wild Horse Pass. She qualified seventh at Gainesville in 2015.


In addition, 12 Chevrolet COPO Camaro drivers will compete in Stock Eliminator and Super stock classes this weekend.


Chevrolet also will welcome fans to its Chevrolet Performance Display during the weekend. It will include a number of Chevrolet’s award-winning production vehicles, examples of Chevrolet engines, and a selection of performance parts and accessories that are available for fans to purchase from their local Chevrolet dealer.


FOX Sports 1 will telecast taped highlights of qualifying at 9 p.m. ET Friday and 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday. FS1 will telecast eliminations and finals at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Adam Sinclair