Gainesville: Gatornationals notes and quotes

NHRA Notes And Quotes -- Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals: *TURN BACK THE CLOCK: Legendary Top Fuel drivers "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney will return to action at the Mac Tools Gatornationals. Last season both qualified at the Mac...

NHRA Notes And Quotes -- Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals:

*TURN BACK THE CLOCK: Legendary Top Fuel drivers "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney will return to action at the Mac Tools Gatornationals. Last season both qualified at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals but were both eliminated in the first round. Garlits also posted a DNQ at the 2001 season-ending event in Pomona, Calif.

Garlits won the Florida race four times ('72, '77-78, '86) and was the runner-up once ('82). He also notched two No. 1 qualifying positions ('86, '77) at Gainesville. Muldowney has two career wins ('81-82) and one top qualifying effort ('79) at the famed quarter-mile.

Neither driver has won an NHRA national event since the 1980s.

* SOPHOMORE SLUMP: 2001 NHRA Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell is looking to rebound from a slow start in 2002 for team owner Joe Amato. At this time last year Russell went to Gainesville as the points leader with a win and a runner-up finish. This season he has two first-round losses and has qualified in the bottom half of the ladder both times.

"We just don't have the combination we need yet," said Amato. "When this happens you just have to back up a bit and try to simplify what you're doing by going back to the basics. Then you work from there and fix your problems. We'll be fine."

*ROUGH START: Jeg Coughlin, the 2000 NHRA Pro Stock champion, has experienced some difficulties in the early going of the 2002 POWERade season. After a DNQ (did not qualify) in the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Coughlin managed to qualify in the No. 16 spot in Phoenix, but was eliminated in the first round by Ron Krisher.

This is uncharacteristic of the driver that won 10 races in 14 final round appearances and qualified for every event in 2000. Coughlin will try and regain his championship form at Gainesville Raceway where he is the defending event winner.

"The Mac Tools Gatornationals is one of the premier events on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing tour and has been a fan favorite for years," said the 31-year-old Coughlin. "It will be the first event of the season that we return as the defending champion. Team Jeg's is focused on successfully defending last year's title and our program is starting to pick up speed. The conditions should be great for Pro Stock and given the current weather pattern it should be another record setting weekend at Gainesville Raceway."

The other three Coughlin brothers also will compete at Gainesville with Troy in Pro Stock and John and Mike competing in Super Comp of the Sportsman ranks. All four brothers will be testing in Bradenton, Fla., before heading to Gainesville.

* GATOR DOMINATOR: Defending Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson is coming off a runner-up finish in Phoenix and returns to Gainesville Raceway where he has won nine times in his career ('83-84, '91-94, '98-00) and has been the top qualifier eight times including seven of the last nine years.

* SWITCHING GEARS: Jim Bernard won the Mac Tools Gatornationals back in 1992 atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle. In 2002 Bernard will return to Gainesville behind the wheel of a Chevy Cavalier as he runs in the ultra-competitive category of Pro Stock. The McHenry, Md., resident is attempting to qualify for his first event of the season following two DNQ's.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Joe Amato , Ron Krisher