After four National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events were held consecutively in Indianapolis following the mid-July restart of the revamped 2020 season, the championship battle now moves to Florida this weekend for the 51st annual NHRA Amalie Oil Gatornationals. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar® Dodge SRT® race cars were headed to the staging lanes at Gainesville Raceway when the pandemic brought a sudden halt to competition, but even a six-month delay hasn’t lessened the anticipation and excitement that comes with competing at the historic event.
Ron Capps has put his DSR Dodge Charger in the winner’s circle at the Gatornationals three times, including back-to-back Wally trophies in 2006-2007 and a victory in 2015, Jack Beckman won in 2018, and Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr. are hoping to be first-time winners. Leah Pruett is also looking for her first Gatornats event win in either Top Fuel or Factory Stock Showdown competition.
Also returning to the drag strip is the “Demon-possessed” Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye-themed DSR race cars of Hagan and Pruett. For a fifth straight event Hagan’s Funny Car and Pruett’s Top Fuel dragster will feature the fierce-looking red, black and chrome paint scheme in tribute to the new 797-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, the most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world.
Adding to the anticipation of competing at the Gatornats this weekend is the opportunity for the DSR quartet of Dodge Charger Funny Cars to extend a nine-event winning streak that dates back to the October 2019 FallNationals at Texas Motorplex with Hagan’s victory aboard the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. All four DSR Dodge entries have contributed to the continuous string of victories with Hagan leading the charge with four wins, Beckman adding three, while Johnson and Capps each providing a Wally trophy to the count. Three of those occasions featured an all-DSR Dodge final round battle for the win.
The only previous time in series history that a team swept 10 consecutive race wins in a single NHRA category was during the 2017 season when the same lineup of DSR Funny Car drivers contributed to that streak. Capps posted six of those 10 wins, with Beckman adding two, while Hagan and Johnson had one each.
The chance to claim a 10th consecutive win in the Funny Car category at the GatorNats comes after the team achieved an unprecedented milestone of 350 NHRA national event victories at the U.S. Nationals with Beckman’s winning drive behind the wheel of his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. It also comes with just five national events left to fight for the 2020 NHRA Funny Car Championship title and all four DSR drivers in a fierce battle atop the top five positions in the standings. Beckman leads with a pair of wins and has Hagan on his heels with a 35-point deficit and two victories of his own. Johnson stays close in third place just 22 points behind Hagan, while Capps rounds out the top five.
Battling for a championship title in the Top Fuel category is Pruett, who has positioned her Mopar dragster in second place between competitors Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrance. She is challenging for the lead based on her runner-up finish at the U.S. Nationals and while she hasn’t yet hoisted a Wally trophy yet this season, she has won a round at every event this year, something that points leader Kalitta can’t say.
Pruett is pulling double duty again this weekend as she will compete in the SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) class aboard her Mopar Drag Pak alongside teammate Mark Pawuk, with qualifying scheduled to begin on Friday. Pawuk comes into Gainesville Raceway second in points with four events left after driving his Empaco Equipment Mopar Drag Pak to a No.2 qualifying effort and runner-up finish at the U.S. Nationals. NHRA qualifying highlights will be broadcast on FS1 on Saturday, September 26, at 5 p.m. ET, while television coverage of the elimination rounds, including LIVE finals at Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, will air on Sunday, September 27, on FS1 beginning at 2 p.m. ET.