The U.S. Army Top Fuel team made it back to winner's circle last Sunday at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway. We captured the prestigious Tire Kingdom Gatornationals, which was our first victory since the race at the Texas Motorplex outside of Dallas last September.
The "Gators" is considered one of the major events on the NHRA circuit much like the PGA tour designates certain tournaments as so-called majors. Every driver wants a Gatornationals trophy to put on their shelf before he or she calls it a career.
I've been fortunate to have now won four Gatornationals, which ties me with Joe Amato and Larry Dixon for the most Top Fuel victories down there. I can assure you it never gets old winning in the Sunshine State.
Of course, the path to victory lane was littered with big-time obstacles. I had to get by a very game Terry McMillen in the first round and Doug Foley in the quarterfinals before tackling Dixon, who drives for my former crew chief (Alan Johnson) and team. Fortunately, I was able to get off the line first against Larry and just nip him at the finish line. It was a great race.
In the finals, I squared off with my Don Schumacher Racing/U.S. Army Racing/Matco Tools teammate, Antron Brown. You might recall this was Antron's first race since his horrible crash in Phoenix a few weeks ago. It was nice to see him back in the saddle once again.
We anticipated a very competitive race with Antron. He had lane choice so we knew we had to step it up from the previous round. And, we did just that by posting the low elapsed time for the weekend -- 3.797-seconds.
By the way, we also set the national speed record for 1,000 feet during eliminations at 324.98 mph. That's certainly indicative of how my race car is performing these days. We have one fast hot rod!
With the win in Gainesville, we moved into the points lead. While it's still a little early in the season to be counting points in a serious way, it does feel good to be leading the way. As I have always said, I'd much rather have people chasing me than me having to chase them.
I was particularly happy we were able to get a win in front of two terrific friends of the race program -- Col. Derik Crotts and CSM Dennis King. They're both great guys and truly support us in every which way be it when they're on site or from a distance. They both know we're going to give it everything we have for our Army Strong Soldiers. They also know we will never accept defeat.
With race number three in the books, we can now look forward to something real special down at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. next weekend -- the inaugural 4-Wide Nationals. All the professional classes will run four-wide during qualifying and eliminations.
We got a taste of what 32,000 horsepower feels like during a four-wide exhibition run last fall in Charlotte. I can tell you it will literally shake your body. I really can't wait to get started!
With that, it's time to enjoy a weekend off. "The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll be back with you right after our Charlotte visit. So, until then, y'all stay well and please remember our Army Strong Soldiers in your thoughts and prayers.