It was a NASCAR off weekend but a popular speedy weekend at the NHRA Full Throttle Tire Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., when Kurt Busch jumped behind the wheel of his Dodge drag car in the Super Gas Sportsman class.
“We’re here,” Busch said. “We’re enjoying ourselves. It’s neat, the camaraderie with the guys. It’s fun to hang around an off weekend spending time with my guys and all because my wife actually bought me a coupon for the Roy Hill drag racing school.”
Busch was casual about his purpose for going drag racing when he didn't have to race his Penske Racing No. 2 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s a lot of fun to be a part of the laid back atmosphere of NHRA racing, but the seriousness of the fierce competitors out there,” Busch said. “It’s very enjoyable to have the time away from the NASCAR circuit and the high pressure zone that we are always in.
"It’s an open paddock. Fans can walk around and see things from the inside out. In NASCAR it’s tough because the garage is far away from the fans. It’s fun to be a part of this program this weekend.”
Busch raced a car on his off weekend but Michael Waltrip had other reasons to be at the same racetrack.
Waltrip canceled a flight in Daytona, rented a car and drove to Gainesville to join fellow NAPA sponsor teammate NHRA’s Ron Capps. A huge spring crowd welcomed Waltrip who was impressed with the power he experienced track side where fans can’t go as 8000 hp Funny Cars went down the strip.
“It was just amazing the way with the sound gets to you and bounces off of you,” Waltrip said. "I’m so thankful that I’m here. I got a permanent grin on my face. That was incredible.”
NASCAR driver Scott Speed was in town to watch his brother-in-law, Matt Smith and wife Angie Smith race in the 190 mph Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“I’ve loved the whole transition to NASCAR just experience a totally different form of racing that grew up doing,” Speed said. “It’s the same thing here. I get to enjoy something that half my family now does. I really enjoy the learning process.”
Kurt Busch was edged out in his first time trials by veteran pro driver Dave Connolly, but he got down the track on a green light run before 10 seconds expired with a 9.94 elapsed time.
Although Busch was eliminated in his first outing, it appears Busch will be making many more runs without left turns down the quarter mile with spare future time. Whether more NASCAR personalities will be in the fast area then is at the mercy of precious NASCAR circuit spare time.
Photo credit: Gary Larsen @ Racetake.com