Gainesville, Fla. - - Although the University of Florida Gators basketball team will be in New Orleans in pursuit of the NCAA Division 1 basketball championship, there still will be plenty of action in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend. The NHRA ...
Gainesville, Fla. - - Although the University of Florida Gators basketball team will be in New Orleans in pursuit of the NCAA Division 1 basketball championship, there still will be plenty of action in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend. The NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series will be front and center at Gainesville Raceway when all professional classes take to the quarter-mile track on Friday in quest of the Mac Tools Gatornationals title.
Gainesville Raceway is one of two tracks, on which Pro Stock Trucks have competed since their inception as a professional category in 1998, that Bob Panella, from Stockton, Calif., has not advanced past the second round (quarter-finals). The other track is Panella's home track, Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. - - a venue that is no longer on the Pro Stock Truck schedule.
"I hate that place (Gainesville Raceway) because I've done terrible there," said Panella, who lost in the second round in 1999 to Brad Jeter and then suffered another second round loss last season to David Spitzer. "Between the momentum from our performance power wise at the last race in Pomona and what we've accomplished during the six weeks we've had off, I think we can change our luck there. I don't think the Gators are going to New Orleans thinking they aren't going to win and neither are we. We're going to Gainesville thinking we can win the title.
"There is no reason that we (Panella and teammate Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif.) can't be number one and number two qualifiers at Gainesville. I know everyone else will be there, and we have our work cut out to achieve that goal. But we have the power and the technology to make that goal a reality.
"Both ends (elapsed time -- ET -- and speed -- mph) of the track record for trucks should go by the wayside. I don't know what the weather is going to be like but I don't see any problem in running an ET around 43 or 44 (7.43 or 7.44 seconds) and speeds over 181 miles per hour. I think if the weather is right, we'll be both quick and fast at Gainesville," concluded Panella.
Randy Daniels holds the official track record for Pro Stock Trucks at Gainesville Raceway for both elapsed time and speed He recorded a 7.494 seconds pass and a speed of 179.78 mph at last year's event.
Panella, the reigning and two-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck champion, holds the top two quickest runs ever for trucks including the national record of 7.428 seconds, which he set at Memphis Motorsports Park, the first weekend of October 2000. He also holds the top three fastest passes in the NHRA history books by virtue of running 181.42 mph, 181.20 mph, and 181.03 mph at the season-opening race in Pomona, Calif., February 1-4, 2001. The 181.42 mph is a NHRA national speed record for the truck category.
Thus far this season, trucks have run only one of 14 events on the 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Truck schedule. Entering this weekend's Mac Tools Gatornationals, Panella is fifth in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck point standings with 57 points, 61 points behind leader Randy Daniels. It should be noted that Panella has been ranked in the top ten in Pro Stock Truck points following 40 of the 41 national events that trucks have run since 1998. In fact, he was ranked number one following 13 of the 14 national events on the 2000 schedule. He fell to number two following last year's Mac Tools Gatornationals.