50 Years of the Gatornationals

Part 9: 2011-2014

Words and photos by Steve Gruenwald

If you started your Gainesville trip by going to the Ale House on Thursday night of the 2011 race, then you got to see Bobby Lagana stun the crowd by rapping the throttle on his Top Fueler in front of the popular eatery. Everyone went nuts!

Whoever thought you would see Big Daddy and Darrell Gwynn race against each other again? In 2011 that happened with these two specially prepared electric dragsters.

I really liked this shot of Capps' FC at the Gators in 2011.

Mike Neff won Funny Car at the Gators in 2011 by defeating former Gators champ Cruz Pedregon in the final.

Sal Biondo, who has won Super Stock here in 1993 and 2010, stepped up and won Comp in 2011.

Peter Biondo, Sal’s brother, made the family proud by winning Super Stock in 2011. The many-time Gators champion has won six times throughout the years. Super Stock in 1994, 2001 ,2006 and 2011, and Stock in 2007-08. Pretty impressive.

Khalid al Balooshi was the Pro Mod winner in 2011.

Mickey Ferro won TA/FC for the first time in 2007. Then he would win two in a row starting in 2011 and backing it up in 2012.

Charlie Fitzsimmons was your 2012 Stock Elim. winner in Larry Griffith's Hemi Challenger.

Robert Hight won Funny Car in 2012 by defeating Johnny Gray in a smoke-filled final round. Both 2014 and 2016 found him back in the winner’s circle again.

A cool shot of Antron Brown at the 2012 Gators.

Hillary Will gets real close to the wall on the top end during TF qualifying in 2012.

Just a few pairs later Courtney Force exploded a blower and found herself also in touch with the wall!

Morgan Lucas, believe it or not, not only won this round but recorded the second quickest ET in history (at the time) of 3.743 to beat an up-in-smoke Tony Schumacher to win Top Fuel in 2012.

Eddie Krawiec won Pro Stock Bike in 2012 for the third time in row.

After a runner-up in the Funny Car final, Johnny Gray stopped 2004 FC winner Del Worsham at the 2013 Gatornationals and would earn a spot in the winner’s circle with teammate Antron Brown.

Stig Neergard had this fire during TF qualifying in 2013.

Brittany Force and her chauffer dad John Force in front of the 2013 crowd.

Troy Coughlin, Jr. won Super Gas in 2013.

As fate would have it, Rich McPhillips would win his first of two in 2013 at the Gatornationals. He would get his second win in TAD in 2016 before hanging up his driving gloves and turning the reins over to Troy Coughlin, Jr. in 2018.

2013 saw Antron Brown gets a second Don Schumacher car in the winner’s circle for the second time at Gainesville. Tony Schumacher won TF in 2007 and Ron Capps took home the FC trophy the same year.

Steve Johnson won his second Pro Stock Motorcycle crown at the Gators by def. Scotty Pollacheck in the finals. His first win came in 2005.

Jerry Gwynn (Darrell’s dad) leads the track walk on Sunday morning at the 2014 Gatornationals. Jerry was the NHRA 1969 Super Eliminator World Champion in his restored "Baby Huey" AA/A.

Not many people get to see this mural on the wall of first floor office in the Gainesville track tower.

Rickie Smith shows off his 2013 Pro Mod jacket and his World Championship ring at the start of the 2014 Gators.

The winningest TF driver at the 2014 race with five: 2004, ‘07, ‘08, ‘10 and lastly in 2017.

Mike Castellana's 2014 Pro Mod event winning Camaro.

Doug Kalitta was the Top Fuel champ at the 2014 Gators by stopping 2013 winner Antron Brown in the finals.

The ensuing mosh pit on the starting line after a Kalitta is as sight to behold!

Keith Fulp in his bad ass ‘58 Ford Super Comp all 615 ci. with no throttle stop. The way it should be. 


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