The Florida heat and humidity rolled into Gainesville like a Saint Patrick’s Day morning after hangover. The cool air temps that had all the classes setting records during the qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday were long gone by Sunday. The race fans grabbed their sun block and earplugs and found their spot on the grandstands to watch some of the best drag racing on the east coast – the 49th annual NHRA Gatornationals.
During Funny Car qualifying, Jack Beckman’s Mopar Powered Charger R/T led the field with a 3.911 ET at 332 mph. During Sunday’s eliminations, the Charger R/T Funny Cars had almost run everyone out of town as three of the DSR supercharged HEMI® Dodge’s advance to the semi-final rounds at the NHRA Gatornationals.
The march to the finals did have its fair share of carnage as Matt Hagan’s Dodge//SRT//Mopar sponsored machine blew the body off in the lights during round two. Within a matter of milliseconds, Hagan’s Funny Car suffered engine failure and the concussion sent the lightweight carbon fiber shell catapulted off the chassis and sailing 70-feet in the air before floating back to earth like a wayward kite.
By the semi-finals, the lone brand X competitor was eliminated it was a pair of Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars pulling to the line. Two-NHRA World Champ, Matt Hagan in the Dodge//SRT//Mopar sponsored machine, and Jack Beckman, 2012 NHRA World Champ in the Infinite Hero Foundation race car. They might be teammates, but when they’re racing each other, the gloves come off and it’s winner take all.
As the Christmas tree blinked green, both drivers had nearly identical reaction times and blasted down the quarter-mile. With eight-foot flames coming out of the headers, the Charger R/T Funny Cars where side-by-side both Hagan and Beckman had their foots firmly planted on the accelerator with neither one of them giving an inch. When the tire smoke and clutch dusted cleared, the scoreboards on the top-end of the track told the tale. Beckman got the win with a 4.035 to Hagan’s 4.034. Even though Hagan ran quicker, Beckman had a better reaction time (.051 to .062). Both cars also ran nearly identical speeds (323 to 322).
“The Gatornationals came on the schedule in 1970 when NHRA went from four races to seven. That was the Super Season, the first year they crowned a Funny Car champion. 1970 was a big year for our sport, and it’s been at this track ever since then, and I’ve never gotten close. It was such a bucket list thing (to win here),” said Jack Beckman.
It’s a long season and the Gatornationals is only the third stop in a 24-event schedule that’s grueling on the team and the equipment. The next stop for our Mopar DSR Funny Car and Top Fuel teams will be the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway April 6-8.