Crampton, Hight, Butner, and Hines win Gatornationals
Crampton won in Gainesville for the second-straight year when he drove the Kalitta Motorsports DHL Top Fuel dragster to a final round win against Clay Millican. Following wins against Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, and the very competitive entry of T.J. Zizzo, Crampton won the final on a holeshot with his 3.769 barely edging Millican's 3.756. Crampton was able to claim his ninth-career win by a final margin of just 0.0032-second.
Hight padded his early-season points lead by winning his second race in three starts. The Auto Club driver, a Gainesville winner in 2012, 2014, and 2016, nailed down his fourth title in Florida and the 47th of his career after Tim Wilkerson smoked the tires in the final. The low qualifier with a 3.86, Hight never ran slower than 3.870 in his Sunday wins over Terry Haddock, Ron Capps, and teammate John Force.
Like Hight, Butner has also started the season with a pair of wins after wheeling his Butner Auto Camaro to the Pro Stock title in Gainesville. Butner picked up the win, the 24th of his career, after opponent Alex Laughlin encountered a mechanical issue and could not make the run. Butner topped Fernando Cuadra, Deric Kramer, and low qualifier Rodger Brogdon. While he didn't qualify for the tough SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock field, Butner did share the winner's circle with his fiancee, Randi Lynn Shipp.
Top Fuel winner Richie Crampton: “It’s funny how you can develop a connection to a certain racetrack, and I’m pretty excited that I’ve developed that connection with the Gatornationals because this is a huge race no matter what year you win it.
“With Kurt Elliott and Connie Kalitta turning the screws it’s been a good day of racing and I’m really proud of my guys. There weren’t any easy rounds today; it just goes to show you how tough Top Fuel is this year. Every round win is getting harder and harder to get. Since we won here last year, you hear those clichés like ‘You’re going to have those in your career’ but I knew I just continued to do my job and had faith in my team the wins would come back. I’m just focusing on being a dependable driver.”
“I almost blew it in the final. I had been watching Tim Wilkerson and he had great lights all through qualifying so I knew going up there I’d have to be on my game. I got a little antsy and it was a long Tree, and I started to go [down on the accelerator], caught it and then went all the way down. It’s a good thing I wasn’t deep-staged. I’ll be honest with you, I think I got away with one there.”
Pro Stock winner Bo Butner: "Today was absolutely crazy; I had no shot at this after round one. I struggled just to get down the track but my KB team didn't give up. They went to work and made it happen. By the final, I felt like we had our car fixed. I was ready for Alex and then they told me he was broke. I didn't like winning like that but I'm sure we'll have many more battles this year.
"Winning this race along with Randi Lyn is special. The fact that it's the 50th [Gatornationals] makes it even more special. I've never seen a race like this where the crowd was so big. NHRA did right by this race."
"I thought we could run 200-mph this weekend but we just missed it. I even took a shot in Q2 by shutting off early so I'd be first out in Q3. We ran 199.94 mph but I did run 6.720 and got the [E.T.] record. That's stood for six years so it was a big deal to go out and re-set that. We can get the 200 down the road, hopefully in Charlotte."
TOP FUEL ROUND RECAPS
Reigning world champ Steve Torrence matched low qualifier Force’s 3.680 for low e.t. (but gets the edge based on a faster speed, 327.27 to 326.32) in beating one of his usual crewmembers, Dom Lagana. Doug Kalitta and terry McMillen also ran identical e.t.s, but against each other one one, with Kalitta taking the win via an .050 to .072 holeshot.
Top Fuel round 2: T.J. Zizzo, who surprised everyone by qualifying low on Friday, dropped more jaws with his wheelstanding Rust-Oleium dragster when he dropped low qualifier Brittany Force on a holeshot to reach his second career semifinal.
Zizzo’s 3.764 beat Force’s 3.751 to the win stripe thanks to a two-hundredths holeshot. Similarly, Richie Crampton sent Leah Pritchett home on a holeshot, cutting a psychic .020 light and beating her, 3.785 to 3.739. Clay Millican’s 3.701 was low e.t. of the round, which closed with Doug Kalitta beating Steven Torrence for the second time this season.
Top Fuel semiifinals: The Clay Millican-Mike Kloeber reunion is already paying dividends in their third race together after a long break as the Tennessean will compete for the Gatornationals title after beating Doug Kalitta.
Millican’s run was in peril early when his Parts Plus dragster shook the tires, but Millican expertly pedaled and chased down Winternationals champ Kalitta, who smoked the tires a few hundred feet downtrack.
Richie Crampton will have a chance to win the Gatornationals for the second straight year after extending his Gainesville Raceway win streak to seven rounds. Crampton ended the Cinderella story of T.J. Zizzo, who was trying to reach his first final.
Interestingly, prior to this race, neither Millican nor Crampton had won a round this season.
Top Fuel final: Richie Crampton scored his second straight Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals victory, stopping Clay Millican in the final round with a holeshot effort.
Crampton’s DHL machine left first, .042 to 058, and stayed ahead of Millican’s Parts Plus dragster to light the win light first by just .003-second, 3.769 to 3.756. It’s the ninth win of Crampton’s career in 11 final-round appearances.
FUNNY CAR ROUND RECAPS
Funny Car round 1: Tommy Johnson Jr. and crew chief John Collins didn’t have the quickest of a flurry of three-second passes in the opening round, but after blowing the body off Saturday night, they were happy to light the win light with a 3.93 against John Smith.
Low qualifier Robert High had the quickest run of the stanza, a 3.869 that was just .001-second off of his qualifying pace. As testimony to the job performed by the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA after the rain delay, Matt Hagan and Jonnie Lindberg in their clash, Cruz Pedregon and Shawn Langdon in theirs, and Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III all made side-by-side three-second passes, with Hagan, Pedregon, and Capps advancing. Seven of the eight winners ran in the threes, the outlier being Tim Wilkerson in a tire-spinning, cylinder-dropping victory over Dave Richards.
Funny Car round 2: Jack Beckman beat his teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. by just .007-second on a holeshot to advance to the semifinals for the second time this season. Beckman’s 3.898 beat Johnson’s 3.892 thanks to a .063 to 069 reaction-time advantage. Low qualifier Robert Hight advanced with a 3.870 – his third straight run within .002-second of on another – and will face his boss John Force, who survived a scary race with Matt Hagan when his Peak Camaro lost power just past halftrack; fortunately for him, Hagan’s Mopar had smoked the tires at the green. Tim Wilkerson, who had to pedal his way to victory in round one, bounced back with a 3.872 to reach his first semifinal since last year’s Charlotte event.
Funny Car semifinals: Tim Wilkerson will have the chance to win the Gatornationals for the second time, but he’ll have to climb a tall hurdle in Robert Hight to get it done.
Wilk ran his second straight 3.8-second pass, a 3.896 to beat Jack Beckman and even their head-to-head record at 19 wins apiece. Low qualifier Hight, meanwhile, beat his boss, John Force, for the third time in three races this season with a devastating 3.852, low e.t. of the meet and his third straight 3.8-second pass of eliminations.
Funny Car final: Robert Hight won for the second time in three races this season to build upon his points lead, defeating Tim Wilkerson, whose mount faltered just off the starting line.
Hight’s win was also his fourth in the past eight years at the Gatornationals, having won previously in 2012, 2014, and 2016. He’s also the third straight Funny Car driver to win the Gatornationals from the No. 1 qualifying position. Wilkerson who won the Gatornationals in 2010 in his only other final-round appearance at Gainesville Raceway.
PRO STOCK ROUND RECAPS
A few jaws hit the pavement when Kenny Delco scored a holeshot win over five-time champ and Phoenix winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. Delco made one of the best runs of his career with a 6.533 to knock out Coughlin’s 6.516. There was a similar reaction when Shane Tucker knocked out Matt Hartford, also via a holeshot.
Chris McGaha defeated Erica Enders after the two-time world champ shut off early. Both racers shook the tires but McGaha was able to recover quicker to win with a 6.566 while Enders shut off after her Melling Camaro drifted close to the wall.
Pro Stock round 2: Kenny Delco, the 1990 Gatornationals Pro Stock champ, reached the semifinals for the 12th time in his career following a 6.555 to 6.610 win against Shane Tucker in an action packed quarterfinal round. Delco’s path to the final round will go through Alex Laughlin, who made the best run of the round with a 6.507 in his holeshot win over Greg Anderson, who was slightly quicker at 6.506.
Pomona champ Bo Butner picked up his seventh round win of the season after Deric Kramer shook the tires and low qualifier Rodger Brogdon parlayed his success in qualifying to a win against fellow Texan Chris McGaha.
Pro Stock semifinals: Bo Butner advanced to his second final round of the year in Pro Stock and he needed only an 8.10 E.T. to do it. Butner got a free pass after low qualifier Rodger Brogdon left before the Tree was activited and red-lighted. Butner will attempt to join his fiancee, Randy Lyn Shipp, who won the 50th Gatornationals Stock title last night in her Firebird.
Alex Laughlin joined Butner in the final following a close 6.531 to 6.550 win over Kenny Delco's Camaro. Laughlin will be appearing in his fourth Pro Stock final.
Butner's KB Racing prepared Butner Auto Camaro was one of the quickest Pro Stock cars in Gainesville with a string of low 6.5-seocnd runs but he didn't need one in the final after opponent Alex Laughlin encountered a reported electrical gremlin that prevented him from making the run in his Havoline Camaro. Making a solo run to his 24th career national event title, Butner thrilled the packed house in Gainesville with a 6.505, 212.29.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND RECAPS
Pro Stock Motorcycle round 1: Andrew Hines is still looking for his first 200-mph run, but he managed to open the new season with a round win over Cory Reed. Hines, the low qualifier, set the pace in round one with a 6.781 to hold off Cory Reed’s EBR. Reigning Mello Yello world champ Matt Smith also found the 6.7s with a 6.795 in his win against wife and teammate, Angie.
Hector Arana Jr., the 2013 Gainesville winner, also put forth a very competitive effort with a 6.815 on his Lucas Oil EBR in his win against Kelly Clontz and Eddie Krawiec is also in contention for a seventh Gatornationals title following his impressive 6.803 to 6.964 win over Scotty Pollacheck.
Angelle Sampey’s debut with the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team was cut short after she lost to Joey Gladstone, who helped seal the win with a 0.002 reaction time.
Pro Stock Motorcycle round 2: Three of the top four qualifiers advanced to the semifinals or Pro Stock Motorcycle, but Matt Smith wasn't one of them. The reigning world champ's Denso EBR sat silent on the starting line while opponent Joey Gladstone blasted to the semifinals. Smith later admitted that his bike had no oil pressure, so he didn't want to risk a potential catastrophe.
Eddie Krawiec almost suffered a similar fate after his Harley-Davidson bogged. Krawiec got a reprieve when Jimmy Underdahl's Suzuki slowed before the finish line. Andrew Hines and Hector Arana Jr. had no sure issues with solid 6.7-second runs to move on.
Pro Stock semifinals: Andrew Hines is one round away from ending a winless drought that goes back more than a year. The problem is that in order to do it, he'll have to go through his Harley-Davidson teammate, Eddie Krawiec, who hasn't lost a round in Gainesville since 2015.
Hines continued to throw down solid numbers with a 6.758 in his semifinal win against Hector Arana Jr., who fouled. Krawiec was slightly off the pace with a 6.819, but that was enough to defeat Joey Gladstone, aboard Cory Reed's EBR-bodied V-twin.
Pro Stock Motorcycle final: Going an entire season without a win clearly didn't sit well with five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Andrew Hines so he decided to do something about it. In one of the most inspired performances of his career, Hines earned his 49th career win at the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Racing teammate and six-time Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec in the final round, Hines powered to a 6.752 to barley edge Krawiec's 6.762. Krawiec had won 15-straight rounds at Gainesville Raceway dating back to 2016. Hines also topped 199-mph numerous times over the weekend, including a career-best speed of 199.94 in qualifying.
PRO MOD FINAL
Steve “Fast” Jackson, far lane, made the quickest pass in E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod history but didn’t get the win light. Jackson’s jaw-dropping 5.643 at 253.95 wasn’t good enough against Todd Tutterow’s quicker-leaving 5.662, 251.86. Tutterow was 0.008 on the Tree to Jackson’s .036 and finished first by just .009-second to collect his first career win.
TOP FUEL HARLEY FINAL
Feedback can be sent to email@example.com
Go to our forums to discuss this article