Gainesville Record Book in Jeopardy at Gatornationals

NHRA RECORD BOOK IN JEOPARDY AT MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Performance records in all five NHRA professional categories will be in jeopardy at the 30th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway, ...

NHRA RECORD BOOK IN JEOPARDY AT MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Performance records in all five NHRA professional categories will be in jeopardy at the 30th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway, March 18-21.

Teams in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Truck and Pro Stock Motorcycle will be in hot pursuit of national records at the $2.1 million race, the third of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Among the top candidates threatening the NHRA record book include track record holders Joe Amato in Top Fuel, John Force and Cruz Pedregon in Funny Car, Warren Johnson in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Hines.

National performance record holders Mike Dunn (4.503 seconds) and Gary Scelzi (326.44 mph) in Top Fuel, Pedregon (4.807 seconds) and Force (323.89 mph) in Funny Car, Johnson (6.867 seconds, 201.34 mph) in Pro Stock, Hines (7.245 seconds, 188.32 mph) in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Larry Kopp (7.586 seconds) and John Lingenfelter (178.32) in Pro Stock Truck will all look to take advantage of Gainesville Raceway's traditionally fast quarter-mile and establish new national bests in elapsed time and speed in their respective categories.

While the opportunity to set track and national records will provide plenty of drama and excitement, the thrilling battle for victories in each category is the main attraction as teams look to gain valuable points in their pursuit of Winston championship glory.

Defending event winners include Kenny Bernstein in Top Fuel, Pedregon in Funny Car, Johnson in Pro Stock and Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle. It is the first appearance at Gainesville Raceway for Pro Stock Truck, NHRA's newest professional category.

Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., drove his Budweiser King dragster to the Top Fuel win last year, defeating '95 Gatornationals winner Larry Dixon in the final. While Bernstein has the momentum at this event and will look to repeat, Team Mopar's Dunn has been impressive this season, winning the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. Defending Winston champion Scelzi, Exide Batteries dragster pilot Tony Schumacher and MBNA dragster driver Cory McClenathan are among the top contenders in the category.

Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Pedregon defeated eight-time Winston champ Force in a classic final round match last year. Pedregon, from Moorpark, Calif., joins five-time Gatornationals winner Force to head a list of favorites this season that includes Ron Capps, Whit Bazemore, Tony Pedregon, Dean Skuza, '97 Gatornationals winner Al Hofmann and NHRA Rookie of the Year candidate Scotty Cannon. Buford, Ga.'s Johnson dominated Pro Stock last year with a record-setting performance and final round victory over arch-rival Jim Yates. Johnson will try for his eighth Gatornationals victory behind the wheel of his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Trans Am, as Yates, Winston points leaderKurt Johnson and the tough brother duo of Jeg and Troy Coughlin attempt to earn some success of their own at Gainesville Raceway.

Defending Winston champion Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., is the pre-season favorite in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Angelle Seeling, John Smith, Antron Brown, and Florida natives Dave Schultz and Tony Mullen are among Hines' top challengers at the season-opening race for the two-wheelers.

In Pro Stock Truck, defending Winston champion Larry Kopp is among the favorites, which also includes Winternationals winner Randy Daniels, Brad Jeter, Mark Osborne, John Lingenfelter and Jerry Haas.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Larry Kopp , Randy Daniels , John Lingenfelter , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Jerry Haas