Delayed Gatornationals worth wait

Updated: March 13, 2012, 7:04 PM ET
By John Oreovicz |

For the second time in less than a month, a major motorsports event in Florida was disrupted by inclement weather.

Rain stopped the NHRA Gatornationals in the semifinals at 4:20 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon. But spectators who returned to Gainesville Raceway when eliminations resumed at 10 on Monday morning were rewarded with near-record times and speeds.

In Funny Car, John Force Racing's Robert Hight claimed his second Full Throttle event in as many weeks to boost JFR's winning streak to six events dating to last October. In Top Fuel, Morgan Lucas claimed his first win of the season while shutting down Don Schumacher Racing's dominant run, extending Tony Schumacher's winless streak to more than a year.

Meanwhile, Mike Edwards took advantage of a holeshot to score the 33rd Pro Stock race win of his NHRA career, and Eddie Krawiec scored a perfect 150 points to open the defense of his 2011 Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, coming within a whisker of making a 200 mph pass.

Here's a recap of what went down:

Top Fuel

Don Schumacher Racing ran 1-2 in the two 2012 events preceding the Gatornationals, but a near record-breaking effort by Lucas put an end to DSR's hot streak.

Lucas overcame a career-best ET by Doug Kalitta by running a 3.746 second/321.50 mph pass to advance to the final against Schumacher. The seven-time champion had a slight advantage off the line, but soon slowed in a plume of smoke as Lucas uncorked a 3.743-second pass that was the second fastest ever in the 1,000-foot era. His speed of 326.87 mph ranks sixth.

"I've always said you have to ride the wave when it's up, and right now, we're doing that," Lucas said after his fifth career win. "This team has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but I honestly love where we are now.

"I knew we were going to get this eventually. What an awesome day."

Schumacher now has gone 26 events without an overall win but remained upbeat.

"We do have the points lead," he remarked. "They were running better than we were, obviously. We knew they were going to go fast, but nobody could have predicted they'd run a 3.74 with the sun out. They went out and got a great win.

"The important thing is to lead the points at the end of the year," he added. "They give the championship to the driver with the most points, not the most wins. We've done it both ways -- with 15 wins and with one win. I'm not sure I want to do it with zero wins, though, so we're going to get after it."

Funny Car

Hight's victory over Johnnie Gray in the finals wasn't pretty, but he still carted home a Wally trophy.

Both drivers smoked the tires, but Hight recovered faster and better, crossing the lines first after 4.866 seconds.

"He did a great job reeling it in," commented Hight's crew chief, Jimmy Prock. "We missed the setup there, but it's a great win."

Hight's closest call came in the semifinals, when he defeated Jack Beckman in a controversial and closely contested race.

Beckman vehemently denied that he red-lighted, and his DSR crew chief Rahn Tobler said onboard telemetry indicated Beckman made a pass in the 4.04-4.05 second range, not the 4.22 recorded by the NHRA.

Hight's run was timed at 4.044 seconds and his Ford Mustang crossed the line about a foot ahead of Beckman's Dodge Charger.

"It was a malfunction of the staging beam, plain and simple," Beckman said in a team statement. "When you hear them say it only happened twice in 1,500 runs this weekend, that's two times more than it ever should happen."

Meanwhile, Hight was delighted to bounce back with his second consecutive race win after losing in the first round at the season opener at Pomona.

Like Prock, he dedicated his Gatornationals win to former JFR driver Eric Medlen, who was killed in a 2007 testing accident at Gainesville.

"This is so huge," he said. "There was so much pressure and it was like two first rounds today."

Pro Stock

Edwards' superb 0.003-second reaction time was the difference as his 6.566-second run got him across the line before defending Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson's 6.538-second effort with a 0.070 RT.

"When you get to my age, you gotta beat them off the tree every time," joked Edwards. "But hats off to my guys. We came out here and won a race on Monday."

Pro Stock Motorcycle

The 200 mph barrier remained unbroken, but Eddie Krawiec wasn't complaining.

"If you'd have asked me at 9 o'clock this morning when we had no headwind, I would have said yes, definitely," he said. "The headwind came back around, but more importantly, we put two Harley-Davidsons in the final."

Krawiec overcame a 0.023-second deficit in reaction time to defeat his Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines with a 6.822-second pass. The speed of 194.94 mph was well down on his best runs of the weekend, which produced speeds of 199.14 mph in Sunday's second round and 198.64 mph earlier Monday in the semis.

"This was like the perfect weekend," said Krawiec after his third consecutive Gatornationals Pro Stock Motorcycle triumph. "I said before the weekend if I won the event and went 200, I'd retire. Can't top that, but I guess I was not meant to retire.

"I had a great bike from the time we rolled it off the truck," he added. "We had low ET of every round except one. It was also a great way to roll out our new redesigned bikes, which are based on the 2012 Harley Night Rods."