GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Florida Sports Wire) – In less than a month, the hallowed grounds of Gainesville Raceway will come to life with the incredible sights and sounds of 11,000-horsepower, 330-mph racing action when the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series opens its 2023 season on March 9-12 at the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Along with that comes a full slate of special events and celebration as the 72nd NHRA season kicks off in style at the legendary facility. Fans will see thrilling racing from all four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the NHRA stars look to open the season with a victory, and there’s plenty of additional entertainment to keep fans excited all weekend long.
Leading into the race, a special Gatornationals Fan Fest will take place on Wednesday, March 8 from 6-9 p.m. at Josh Hart’s Burnyzz Speed Shop in nearby Ocala. The Top Fuel standout will host an event featuring a car show, live music and a driver autograph session from 7-8 p.m. A special championship press conference and season kick-off event follows the next day at the Hilton University of Florida in Gainesville, honoring 2022 NHRA world champs Brittany Force, Ron Capps, Erica Enders and Matt Smith, and also featuring Hart, John Force and legendary driver “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.
Garlits will be featured guest throughout weekend and six of his historic dragsters will be included in a special “Swamp Rat Alley” section inside the Hot Rod Junction, giving fans the unique chance to check out the cars that made history. Garlits will also be on hand for autographs with fans and he will be making an exhibition pass during the race.
More NHRA legends will be part of a special autograph and Q&A session in the Top Eliminator Club on Saturday, while all fans are invited to the first-ever Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more.
In addition, the Gatornationals will set the field for the first #2Fast2Tasty Mission NHRA Challenge. The semifinalists from Gainesville will rematch during qualifying on Saturday at the next event in Phoenix, with bonus money and points on the line as part of the special new program for 2023.
The Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout returns in 2023, pitting eight standouts against each other in a unique, big-money specialty race that takes place on Saturday, March 11. It’s a marquee, can’t-miss attraction to help kick off the new season, and a definite highlight of famed Gatornationals. Reigning world champion Brittany Force, defending Callout winner Steve Torrence, Justin Ashley, Mike Salinas, Doug Kalitta, Josh Hart, Austin Prock and Clay Millican make up the eight-car field for the one-day shootout, with selections being made on Friday at 12 p.m. in the Top Eliminator Club.
In 2022, Tripp Tatum (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all picked up victories during a record-breaking weekend in Gainesville. Hagan earned the first-ever victory for Tony Stewart Racing, and Stoffer made the quickest pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle history at 6.665 seconds en route to the win. Tatum earned his first career victory, as a first-time winner picked up the victory for a second straight year in Top Fuel.
Brittany Force is after her first Top Fuel win at Gainesville, going against a loaded field that also includes Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher and Leah Pruett, while Hagan is after back-to-back victories in Funny Car. He’ll contend with the likes of Capps, Robert Hight, J. Force, Bob Tasca III, J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria.
Enders will also try to win in Gainesville for the first time, facing off against Pro Stock stars Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Glenn. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith has his sights on a third Gatornationals victory, but he’ll have to get past Eddie Krawiec, Angie Smith, Jerry Savoie, Steve Johnson and Joey Gladstone.
The Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, along with the season debuts for the NHRA Pro Mod Series and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Total Seal Tech Talk will take place on Friday and Saturday in Matt Hartford’s pits, while an autograph session will take place on Friday at the Dodge Display with Dodge-sponsored drivers. Fans can also look forward to the exciting cacklefests taking place at the Hot Rod Junction on both Friday and Saturday.
Race fans at Gainesville Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in Gainesville. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the season-opener.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Gainesville. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 10, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 11 at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 12. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10:00 a.m. ET. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday, leading into live eliminations on FOX at 12 p.m. ET.
The opening round of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place on Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET, with the semifinals to follow at 2:45 p.m. The finals are slated for 4:25 p.m., and the callout will be given a featured broadcast on FS1 at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the 2023 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information on NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.