Jacksonville Sports Day

NHRA: Traditional East Coast Opener in Gainesville is Must-See Event

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standouts will race with an opportunity to make history at one of the most legendary races on the NHRA circuit, the 49th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 15-18 at Gainesville Raceway. It is the third of 24 races during the 2018 season.

Long revered as one of the most memorable NHRA races, its traditional East Coast opener is a must-see event, as the world’s best drag racers power their 10,000-horsepower, nitro-burning machines down one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. Gainesville Raceway is home to one incredible moment after another, including the first 300-mph Top Fuel pass in 1992, with plenty more to follow in 2018.

All the top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will look for a hot start this season at the fan-favorite event. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. (ET).

Pro Stock Motorcycle makes its 2018 debut at the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. It is the first of 16 races delivering thrilling action in the two-wheeled class, and everyone is out to stop defending world and event champ Eddie Krawiec, who has a class-best five wins at the race. A host of talented riders will look to prevent a sixth, including 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie, five-time world champ Andrew Hines, two-time champion Matt Smith, three-time champ Angelle Sampey, who has three event wins, Hector Arana Jr. and two-time Gainesville winner Karen Stoffer.

Schumacher became the winningest Top Fuel driver at the Gatornationals a year ago, claiming his fifth event win. With a slew of changes to his U.S. Army team, Schumacher started off well with a runner-up finish at Pomona as he seeks his ninth world title. He’ll face off against a loaded field that includes Pomona winner Doug Kalitta, who has three Gatornationals wins, defending Top Fuel world champ Brittany Force, whose first career class victory came at the race in 2016, Steve Torrence, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.

John Force’s lone Funny Car win in 2017 came at the Gatornationals, where the 16-time world champ claimed his eighth victory in Gainesville, also earning his 2,500th round win in the process. Force will look to get on track at the annual event against a star-studded class that features defending world champ and three-time event winner Robert Hight, 2016 world champ Ron Capps, who is also a three-time winner in Gainesville, Courtney Force, Pomona winner Matt Hagan and J.R. Todd.

Running a limited schedule, Shane Gray picked up his first Pro Stock Gatornationals win last year. The 2017 season continued to be enjoyable, as he watched his son, Tanner, win five races in his rookie season. Tanner will look for his first win in Gainesville, but it won’t be easy with a Pro Stock lineup that includes reigning world champ Bo Butner, who also won in Pomona, four-time Gatornationals winners Jason Line and Greg Anderson, who had victories in 2015 and 2016, Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin and Drew Skillman.

The event is also the season-opening race for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service and features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills.

Fans in attendance will experience NHRA’s new Mello Yello Welcome Center offering information, schedules and guided tours. They can learn even more about the sport by attending a Nitro School session and tuning in to First Round follow up segments. Because Every Ticket’s A Pit Pass® at NHRA events, racing enthusiasts have the opportunity to meet their favorite professional drivers and get an up-close look at their powerful automobiles. On-track action will also feature the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport hone their skills, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.

Along with the exciting on-track action, the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:15 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 16 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 17 at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 18.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

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