March 20, 2004
(Photos courtesy Les Welch Color Photography)
Sunday Elimination's: Top Fuel at the Gatornationals was one of "whoever could tame the virgin track", would win scenario. It turned out to be the car favored to be the 2004 world champ, Tony Schumacher. Schumacher, under Crew Chief Alan Johnson's wizardry, prove he not only could tune a car to go fast on the optimum tracks, he could tune a car to get down a fresh surface. With numbers throughout the weekend that looked like they were at Bandimere's mile high track, running a low sixty was all that was necessary for the Army team to get their second win of the year and the teams tenth round win of the year. Tony and Alan can seemingly do no wrong so far and the team is looking alot like Larry Dixon did last year when he went to two finals and a semi in the first three races. Darrell Russell was Tony's final round opponent, a results that the Amato team deserved, and possibly should have been the winner as he was very consistent through qualifying and in the first three rounds, he was one of the quickest. He had the quickest run of the weekend, a 4.593 in the first round. To get to the finals, Tony defeated John Smith Tim Cullinan and surprise semi finalist Scott Weis. Darrell Russell went through Marshall Topping, Doug Kalitta and then the hottest Kalitta Team driver, David Grubnic. In the final, Tony stayed in the sixty's, a great 4.612 to defeat a tire smoking Russell who light em up at 300 feet and pedaled it, but stayed with it for a 4.98
Final Round: (W) Tony
Schumacher (.099rt) 4.612 312.60
Points after 3 of 23 POWERade events.
01 Tony Schumacher 310
Funny Car, also ended up with a repeat 2004 winner. Del Worsham, lead man for the CSK two car team proved that consistency wins in the Funny Car Class. The teams seems to come into a race with a business plan, and that is to not beat ourselves, and it paid off again. Del is doing a great job of leaving on time , and dad Chuck is tuning the car to be safe and just quick enough to give them a chance at every event. Del defeated John Force who was in his first final round of the young season. Worsham got by Gary Densham, Jerry Toliver and part time team mate Cory Lee to reach the final round. Force defeated Ron Capps, Tony Bartone, and Tim Wilkerson in a great side by side semi final that was won on the starting line as both cars ran 5 flat. The final round was also a starting line decision as Del left with a .063 rt compared to John's .083. Both cars went 4.97. Del's win gives him a commanding lead in the standings heading into Las Vegas in two weeks.
Final Round: (W) Del
Worsham (.063rt) 4.979 296.05
Points after 3 of 23 POWERade events.
01 Del Worsham 298*
Pro Stock modeled the top classes in having a repeat winner after only three races in the 2004 season. Greg Anderson overcame a slow start to the weekend and dominated Sunday elimination's culminating with a victory over Jeg Coughlin. Anderson has three # 1 qualifying spots and ten round wins so far this year, and he and the Ken Black team probably silenced the critics who insinuated they were possibly using traction control. His 3-5 hundredths advantage over the field carried through this weekend. He defeated Steve Schmidt, Warren Johnson and "Trickie" Rickie Smith in the semis by a minimum .047 per round. Jeggie got to the final by defeating Barry Grant, Darrell Alderman and Jim Yates in the semis. He too had .05 or more on his opponents. The final saw the two car leave together but the Anderson horsepower slowing pulled him ahead for a 15 foot victory. Anderson leaves Florida with a 70 point lead.
Final Round: (W) Greg
Anderson Grand Am (.045rt) 6.742 204.91
Points after 3 of 23 POWERade events.
01 Greg Anderson 314
Saturday Qualifying was much like Fridays with a bit (but not as much) of improvement in both nitro classes. Leading the way in Top Fuel is none other than David Grubnic who snatched the low qualifier money away from Darrell Russell (who had it all weekend) in the final pair down the track. All Darrell could do was drive beside him and witness it (actually two cars in front of the final pairing of Russell/Grubnic, Brandon Bernstein and Tony Schumacher). Russell sits in the #4 spot but made his final three runs with 3/100ths for his 4.637 best. He was the only driver to make three mid 4.60 laps or three laps in the 60's period. Canadian Todd Paton got bumped out by the final guy that could pass him in the final lap and that was Marshall Topping. Paton was tin the lane beside him and had a ring side seat for the unfortunate festivities. Here is the field for Sunday's finals. Grubnic faces Cory Mac, Bernstein is up against Scott Weis, Schumacher takes on John Smith, Russell gets to battle Marshall Topping, Dixon will be challenged by Doug Kalitta (ouch!), Herbert will try and defeat Tim Cullinan, Scott Kalitta will stare down IHRA hitter Bruce Litton and David Baca will be in the battle of the sexes against Rhonda Hartman.
1. David Grubnic Kalitta Air Dragster 4.623 311.74
Funny Car qualifying was another heart breaker for Whit Bazemore as he had the #1 pulled out from under him in the next pairing which he was a part of. Tim Wilkerson (right) ran a 4.903 to take over the money spot away from Whit's earlier 4.909. Only six car are qualified in the 4's, and only five went over 300mph. Jerry Toliver made the field at this race after his "Hero to Zero" start to the season, but team mate Jim Head is "outside looking in" for the third straight race. Dale Creasy's first event of the year did not go the way he hoped as his 6.80 was a second and a half away from first round money. Don Sosenka's first attempt in the nitro coupes also failed as his 5.86 was short of the 5.377 necessary . The parings for first are; Wilkerson vs Bob Gilbertson, Bazemore vs Cory Lee, Eric Medlen vs Jerry Toliver, Scelzi vs Tony Bartone (left), Force vs Ron Capps, Densham vs Del Worsham, TJ jr. vs Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon vs Phil Burkart.
1. Tim Wilkerson Levi, Ray & Shoup Monte Carlo
1. Greg Anderson Vegas General Construction Gra 6.763
19, 2004 Day one qualifying
(Friday pictures by Paul Songas and Nate Johnston)
Friday was not the usual start at Gainesville for the pros, as the weather has proven to be hot and the new surface has yet to get enough bite on it for big number expected from the pros. Saturday should be alot better, but I think the expectations for 4.40's from the skinny cars (Top Fuel) and low 4.70's or .60's from the flop's are a little too optimistic. What that means though is that the field and the odds are a little closer and a little less predicable. Leading Day on in Top Fuel is Darrell who went 4.64 at 317mph. David Grubnic, left, (I think you will hear alot of that name this season) sits #2 @ 4.657 Only four cars reached 300 mph at the track that started it all. No one was even close to the 50's and the teams wore out the tires with the final 600 feet being run with the hides blistering. Here is the top ten after two rounds. (All numbers courtesy NHRA.com)
1. Darrell Russell Amato Racing Dragster 4.644 317.57
lost the belt at the hit.
In Funny Car, Only two 4 second laps were made as they too blistered the tires either right off the starting line or from the 600 foot mark through the finish line. I think Whit's prognostication of a 330mph funny car lap will have to be carried over to the next event. The track (which was resurfaced this winter) and the warm conditions with pretty high humidity and med-low barometer readings will make it tough. Again this might level the playing field. Whit Bazemore leads with a 4.909 and Eric Medlen is just back with a 4.930. No one went 300 and most had to pedal the car to get down the track. The Creasy's are there with Dale Jr. in the seat and Cory Lee in the other family car. He has a one race deal with 1320 Diecast. Here is the top ten after Friday. Expect big improvements but not the numbers everyone thought would come out of the sea level facility. Tim Wilkerson is in the Montemaro (Monte Carlo) this weekend and the Worsham team is set to debut them at Vegas. Cruz Pedregon and Tony Pedregon are the next pair to receive the new bodies.
1. Whit Bazemore Matco Tools Stratus 4.909 291.82
is still struggling. Rnn
the cool body Bob!JR
and wife MelanieNate and
his girlfriends. Okay!!
Pro Stock did not struggle as much as the fuellies simply because they don't have 6000+ horsepower. Having 1300 gave them the opportunity to run pretty good. Leading the pack after two rounds is not Greg Anderson, but he is not too far back. Larry Morgan sits #1 with a pretty safe 6.764. The top six are in the 6.70's including Anderson who went 6.778. WJ is not in the field yet, neither is Dave Connelly, the CSK runner-up or V.Gaines. Here is the field after Friday's two rounds.
1. Larry Morgan Mopar Stratus 6.764@ 204.03
March 18-21 Gainesville Raceway
ELEVATION: 180 feet
WEBSITE: www.gainesvilleraceway.com; www.nhra.com
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2004 National Event coverage