Gainesville: Gatornationals final qualifying summary

Dixon, Densham, Krisher And Hines Are No. 1 Going Into Eliminations Of Gatornationals GAINESVILLE, Fla. - For the first time this season, someone beside John Force qualified in the No. 1 spot for the Funny Car category. Gary Densham earned his...

Dixon, Densham, Krisher And Hines Are No. 1 Going Into Eliminations Of Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - For the first time this season, someone beside John Force qualified in the No. 1 spot for the Funny Car category. Gary Densham earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of his career Saturday during the 33rd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Densham, a member of the three-car John Force Racing team, drove his Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to a 4.885-second run at 320.36 mph to top the 16-car field.

"It's dynamite to get the No. 1 qualifier," Densham said. "We are all learning about the new tire and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock has been a magician. He told me before we ran that he thought we could take over No. 1. I thought he was kidding, then we laid down that number."

Larry Dixon, Ron Krisher and Matt Hines grabbed the No. 1 spot in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

One problem several teams have had over the weekend has been the weather. The track has been hot during most of the runs.

"This is a beautiful facility, but it has been hot," Densham said. "We've had our trouble with that just like everyone else."

Force may not have gotten the top spot, but he still has some goals for Sunday. Force has 99 career victories, and is looking to earn No. 100.

"I want to get that win for Ford and Castrol," Force said. "I want to get it so we can get back to work and focus just on racing. But this 100th win will mean just as much as Densham's first win (last season). They are equally important."

Del Worsham, second in the points behind Force, failed to qualify for the first time in 28 events. The last time Worsham did not make the final 16 was at the Houston event in October 2000. In the first two races of the season, Worsham advanced to the final round in both races, earning one victory.

"We all have a long road ahead of us," Force said. "Del is going to be (in the points chase) in the end. They have some good hot rods on that team."

Dixon earned the 14th No. 1 qualifying spot of his career after turning in a 4.604 pass at 321.96 in his Miller Lite Dragster Top Fuel car.

Dixon is the defending champion of the Gatornationals.

"I think we were real fortunate to keep the No. 1 spot," Dixon said. "The track was a little warmer than we anticipated. I think you are going to have to hit the 4.60's every run (during eliminations) to win the race. Someone might even get sent home running in the 60's."

In the first two races of the season, Dixon has earned one top qualifier, and one event victory. He said the momentum of the 2001 season has carried over into the 2002 season. Dixon finished second to Kenny Bernstein, as the title was decided at the last race of the season.

"I think our success (now) goes back to last season," Dixon said. "We finished second to Kenny, and I congratulated him on that because he had a better season. But that made us work that much harder in the offseason."

Legendary driver Shirley Muldowney, racing at Gainesville Raceway for the first time since 1987, qualified in the No. 9 spot in her Action Collectibles/Mac Tools Dragster with a time of 4.790 pass at 249.81. Muldowney's former rival, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, however, failed to make the field. Driving his Matco Tools Swamp Rat XXXIV, Garlits was No. 18 with a 5.095 pass at 289.32.

Krisher earned his eighth low qualifying position with a 6.821 run at 203.25 in his Eagle One Chevy Cavalier to top the Pro Stock class. This is the third straight race that Krisher has taken the No. 1 position.

"We are real excited," Krisher said. "We have a tremendous race car, but I think that we are going to be a bit more conservative on race day. It really is anybody's race."

Former NBA player Tom Hammonds will start in the No. 2 spot - a career best. Hammonds drove his Winnebago Chevy Cavalier to a 6.845 pass at 201.82.

Hines grabbed the 40th No. 1 qualifying position of his career with a 7.156 pass at 193.85 on a Vance & Hines/Eagle Once Suzuki to pace the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. This is the first of 14 professional events for the two-wheel class.

"It feels great to get the No. 1 at this race," Hines, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, said. "The bike is almost flawless. We are 150 percent focused on getting a championship season together."

Hines' father, Byron Hines, has been distracted throughout the offseason. Hines was instrumental in putting a Harley-Davidson entry into competition this season. The Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson motorcycle, driven by GT Tonglet, failed to qualify for Sunday's elimination round. Tonglet turned in a time of 7.596 at 171.51 to finish outside the top 16.

"My dad has been working on the Harley program for about a year," Matt Hines said. "It's nice to see that program running because that was a big distraction for us. That Harley has a lot of promise. That bike has only about 10 runs on it and I think it is going to qualify as soon as Houston."

Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Del Worsham , John Force , Ron Krisher , Gary Densham , Don Garlits , Tom Hammonds , GT Tonglet