Gainesville: Gatornationals raceday summary

Dixon, Pedregon, Alderman and Treble snag wins at Mac Tools Gatornationals GAINESVILLE, Fla. - For the second time this season, Larry Dixon has grabbed an NHRA national event victory. Dixon defeated Top Fuel rival Kenny Bernstein at the 33rd ...

Dixon, Pedregon, Alderman and Treble snag wins at Mac Tools Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - For the second time this season, Larry Dixon has grabbed an NHRA national event victory. Dixon defeated Top Fuel rival Kenny Bernstein at the 33rd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway on Sunday.

Dixon beat Bernstein in the season opener at Pomona Raceway in February and has had the points lead for the Top Fuel category all year.

Tony Pedregon, Darrell Alderman and Craig Treble also won their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon drove his Miller Lite Dragster to a 4.629-second run at 319.75 mph to beat Bernstein's 4.677 pass at 319.29 in his Budweiser Dragster.

"This is the strongest win we have ever had," Dixon said. "We were the No. 1 qualifier, we had the low E.T. and the top speed. And, we beat Kenny in the process while doing it at Gainesville. For drag racers, this is one of the major races of the season."

Bernstein, the 2001 Top Fuel champion, beat Dixon twice each in the semifinal round and final round last season. Dixon said the team did not want to give Bernstein a chance to give a repeat performance.

"We were 0-2 in the finals against Bernstein last year, which made me and the team work that much harder in the offseason," Dixon said. "But it is still going to be a long year and we are so elated about the win that we are staying in town and testing the car on Monday. We still have a lot of work to do."

Bernstein is going to retire at the end of the 2002 season, as he is celebrating the Forever Red farewell tour.

"I would have loved to have won my last time at Gainesville because this is where we broke the 300-mph barrier, but it wasn't meant to be," Bernstein said. "We'll just carry on and get ready for Las Vegas. This championship is a long way from over with."

Pedregon scored his first Funny Car win of the season, the 14th of his career. Pedregon used a 5.090 run at 281.25 in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to beat Gary Scelzi's 5.750 at 197.13 in his White Cap Toyota.

John Force, the points leader and defending champion, is aiming for his 100th victory. He was knocked out in the first round when Dean Skuza went 5.045 at 301.60 in his Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus to eliminate Force, who drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 5.090 at 294.82.

Tony Pedregon is one of two other drivers on the John Force Racing Team. He said the win for his team helps the early loss for Force. The last victory for Pedregon came during the Columbus event in 2000.

"I think I salvaged the day a little," Pedregon said. "It feels like it has been so long since that last win. We didn't start the season off like we wanted. We have a first and second round loss. But the win is great, especially since we were going up against a Toyota.

"I normally don't say much, but I said that there was no way we were going to let a Toyota and a dragster driver come in here and beat us. I'm glad we were able to back that up."

It was the first final round appearance for the three-time Top Fuel champion as Scelzi made the switch to Funny Car competition during the offseason.

Force's first round loss to Skuza marks the first time since 1989 and the sixth overall that Force was defeated in round one at Gainesville Raceway. Force will have to wait until the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to attempt to capture his 100th career victory.

"It was a real simple thing. We dropped a cylinder halfway down the track," Force said. "(Crew chief) Austin Coil said he knew how important getting the 100th win was, but I told him that it is more important for us to keep our focus. It creates a lot of hype and I really want to get that 100th win, but I am going to try to be laid back about it.

"It's destiny, and maybe it will happen in Las Vegas. If not in Vegas, maybe in Houston. We are just going to keep on trucking, that is what we do."

Darrell Alderman clinched his 28th career victory in Pro Stock competition, but first since 1997. He used a 6.927 at 200.77 in his Team Mopar Dodge Neon R/T to beat Jeg Coughlin's 6.940 at 200.14 in his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier. Alderman is the third different Pro Stock driver to win a race this season.

"It certainly has been way too long since the last win," Alderman, a three-time Pro Stock champion, said. "This is the most competitive field I have seen since I started racing. It has been extremely tough and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a whole bunch of different winners again this season."

Treble earned the second win of his career, the first since his rookie season of 1999, as the Pro Stock Motorcycle class opened up its first of 14 events for the season. Treble's 7.248 pass at 184.17 on his Matco Tools Suzuki beat the defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, Angelle Savoie, and her pass of 7.262 at 184.52 on her Star Racing Suzuki.

"This feels awesome," Treble said. "It looked like Angelle got out of the groove a little, and we got a little gift there. But we stayed in our lane, did our thing and got the win."

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event will be the third annual NHRA Nationals, April 4-7 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Craig Treble , Austin Coil