FYI WIRZ: NHRA's East Coast Gem Is Gatornationals Spring Race in Gainesville

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIMarch 19, 2013

Jeg Coughlin Jr. does a burnout before his run at Gainesville.  Credit: Gary Larsen
Jeg Coughlin Jr. does a burnout before his run at Gainesville. Credit: Gary Larsen

When winter winds are still howling in northern states, the lure of balmy air and abundant sunshine in Florida in spring is the reason the Sunshine State is so populated. It’s also a great reason to go NHRA drag racing for a weekend before your beach time.

That works for locals and tourists.

The result at Auto-Plus Raceway, home of Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, is robust crowds and the energy of early season potential. It’s great air to mix with Nitromethane.

Sportsman and professional NHRA Mellow Yello drag racing teams rush to Gator territory where winning is a huge part of nearby University of Florida's turf and strong on the drag strip as well.

Low sea level and forests of Southern Pine provide great air and tuning conditions for hungry NHRA engines.

The season may be in an infant stage with only three races done of the total 24 venues across the U.S., but drivers and teams are gathering data and logging experience.

More top speed will be coming throughout the long and fast NHRA Mello Yello season, but for fans, sometimes comments by drivers after a big race can have good meaning and provide entertainment as well.

NHRA’s Gatornational standouts Antron Brown, Johnny Gray, Allen Johnson, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Hector Arana Jr. had thoughts to share.

The 2012 Top Fuel Dragster champion is first in this quote journey and is rarely at a loss for words.


Antron Brown (Top Fuel Dragster)

“It’s a great team effort,” Brown said. It felt good to bring that win home and hopefully we can put Pomona behind us and keep moving forward.”

“To win you have to have every piece of the pie. It was important to be consistent and as fast and quick as you can be. Every round was tough. It’s a great win for this team. It gives you great confidence as a driver to see the car running like this and come out and win after what happened in Pomona.”

Although Gray has announced his retirement from driving after this season, he seems thrilled to be a part of Don Schumacher Racing.


Johnny Gray (Funny Car)

“Don has been great to me and to be a part of that it’s an awesome feeling for everybody down the line who has contributed to this, which started with Don winning the first one,” Gray said. “To be a part of his organization is unbelievable.”

The 2012 Pro Stock champion, Allen Johnson, has merged his team with fellow Dodge Avenger drivers Vincent Nobile and  Coughlin Jr. to share data and resources. That move seems to have helped all involved.


Allen Johnson (Pro Stock Car)

“Everyone asks me why I would hire two assassins,” Johnson said. “They make me better. Vincent challenges me and it’s the same with Jeggie; I knew I would have to do my ultimate best to beat him. I hope we have to go head-to-head like that a bunch more.”

Coughlin Jr. is a four-time Pro Stock champion and hopes to add more trophies to his extensive record. After struggling last year the move to align his team with those in Allen Johnson’s proficient camp has been productive.


Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock Car)

“We've been to three races—made it to two finals,” Coughlin said. “We'd like to be on the good side, but haven't yet. We'll keep giving it a go.

“When A.J. and I put this deal together, it truly was to have one team with two cars. Today couldn't have exemplified that more. I was happy for him to win. Of course, I wanted to, but it went his way today. Maybe next time it'll go mine."

Arana Jr. learned motorcycle drag racing from a past NHRA champion, his dad Hector Arana Sr., and now they race each other for top prizes. This race, the first for Pro Stock Motorcycle in the 2013 season, belonged to junior as he sped his way up the ladder to nab the win light in the Gatornational finals.


Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle)

“I am looking forward to a very competitive season and some close racing this season,” Arana Jr. said. “This is a step in the right direction. When my dad won his championship he won the Gatornationals, and Eddie Krawiec has done that the last two years. I hope to keep that trend going this year as well.”


FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.