50 Years of the Gatornationals

Part 2: 1976-80

Photos by Steve Gruenwald

In 1976 the Gatornationals program saw Don Prudhomme's Army Monza burning to a third win in a row. After winning in 1974 with his Army Cuda, the Snake won in 1975-76 with his popular Monza.

Cotton Perry first won Modified Eliminator at the Gatornationals in 1976 with this car painted white. Driving the “Pocket Rocket” H/MP, 6 cylinder Chevy II, he would win again in 1979 painted like this. In 1978 he won Super Stock in Jim Daniel's SS/L 66 Chevy II.

In 1976 Ken Veney would be the only BB/FC to win Pro Comp while it was contested from 1974 through 1980. Then he won the first TA/FC title in 1981 when NHRA divided the classes.


1976 saw the T/F team of Warren and Coburn win the March meet at their home track in Bakersfield, then head across the country for the Gatornationals the very next week. Their first East Coast appearance ever! They won again and would earn the cover for the 1977 Gatornationals program.

I always thought it was cool to see the West Coast fuelers come east to the Gators. In 1977 Jerry Ruth had won the Winternationals and decided to try his luck in Gainesville. He was sent home to Washington in the first round by Paul Longnecker.

Gordie Bonin was 28 when he won his first FC title in 1977 by stopping Roger Lindamood. Lindamood was in his first final since Indy 1964, where he took Top Stock. Sadly for Roger, he destroyed a motor in his semifinal win over Don Prudhomme's red light. Bonin got a single. Gordie liked odd years in Gainesville because he would win again in 1979 and 1981.


When NHRA put the 1978 program together with Dale Pulde's beautiful Trans Am Funny Car on the cover, they had no idea that Dale would be the next 28-year-old to win his first Funny Car Wally after two prior runners-up.

In 1975 Joe Williamson would win Comp in his “Trouble Maker” 6-cyl. E/A. He would repeat in 1978.

Frank Iaconio would also be a first-time Pro Stock winner in 1978 at the Gators when Bob Glidden red lighted in the final round. He would win Pro Stock again in 1981.


This is a shot of Don Garlits trailer door at the Gators in 1980. What causes tire shake? Quite the list!

Jeb Allen won T/F in 1980 with his quickest and fasted run ever, 5.80 at 247.25 mph over Gary Beck in the final.

Steve Evans (far right) and Diamond P were cutting edge in 1980, as was Dick LaHaie's Top Fueler.

Don Prudhomme (left) and Don Garlits (red cap). Snake would win Funny Car for the fourth time in 1980. His Army Arrow would run a great 5.98-238.09 to stop Raymond Beadle in the Blue Max. Garlits would loose in the semis to eventual winner Jeb Allen.


Walt Weney drove his S&W A/F to a Pro Comp win in 1975.

Frank Ogelsby ran this Mello Yello-sponsored AA/FC Mustang for two years 1979-80. 


Part 1


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5



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