50 Years of the Gatornationals

Part 5: 1991-95

Words and photos by Steve Gruenwald

In 1991 Tom McEwen showed to drive Jack Clark's T/F entry. Here he is qualifying next to Dick LaHaie during the first weekend.


Ed McCulloch was on the cover in this 1991 supplement to the Gainesville Sun. After winning Funny Car here in 1972 and 1986, he repeated in 1989 and 1990. He was hoping for three in a row in 1991 but that did not happen.

Mark Oswald won Funny Car in 1991's week-delayed race after rain washed out the final qualifying session on Saturday afternoon and did not let up on Sunday.

In 1991 I was on my two step-ladder shooting my friend Mike Gratton's dragster in the far lane during Super Comp qualifying. Zoomed in on Gratton's car I could not see the car in the right lane. Gratton left the line, I took a shot and pulled my camera down just as Robert Knaack's roadster came by me oh so close to the wall. As he steered away from the wall the car hooked left and this is what I got just before he slammed into the left guard wall. You can barely see the top of Gratton's wing above the left side top of the car. I thought he was going to run over Mike!

This is how the 1992 Gatornationals started. As you can see, the Army parachutist ended up in the parking lot behind the northside bleachers!

This is the 1992 run that etched Kenny Bernstein's name in the record book as the King of Speed. On Friday afternoon's qualifying session Bernstein ripped off a 4.82 at 301.70. Dale Armstrong was surprised because he said it dropped a cylinder, which you can see on the far side of the engine. This was shot from the top end grandstands which used to be there when they ran 1320 feet. Kenny would lose the final to Eddie Hill who ran the quickset ET to date with a 4.801 in the semis.

Chris Karamesines in some hot action at the Gators 1992.

Remember when Ken Koretsky drove Top Fuel? This was also in 1992.

This was the scene on Sunday morning in 1993 about 9:30 a.m. If you were coming from the north this was about 2 miles away from the track. At a standstill! I was not driving and thought I would miss first round. So I walked all the way to the track and got there just in time for the start of the show.

It was wild this year in Funny Car action as Gary Bolger in Dale Creasy's “Tyrant” alongside Cruz Pedregon during qualifying pushed out a head gasket!

Don't miss qualifying! Also in 1993, the Top Fuel dragster of Jack Ostrander went on this wild ride when his chassis broke going through the lights. He was uninjured, but the car was junk.

Chuck Baird won T/AD at the Gators in 1993. Shown here alongside Blaine Johnson in qualifying he would also win in 1996.

Rain delays pushed the 1993 finals into darkness. This is the Funny Car final. Force wins his second straight FC title at the Gators as Al Hofmann had to lift. Force won the Gatornationals in 1992, ’93, ‘94, ‘95, and ‘96. Five years in a row, at the same event -- that's got to be a record!


Looking down on “da Grump” from my two-step ladder on the starting line during Pro Stock qualifying 1994. Jenkins himself won Pro Stock at the first Gatornationals in 1970 and his driver Larry Lombardo won in 1976.

Bob Glidden and Rickie Smith have a chat in the staging lanes -1994.

John Myers wins over Dave Schultz who red lighted in the semi-finals of Pro Stock Bike 1994. Myers would go on to defeat Michael Phillips in the final. Myers had won in 1990 and would win again in 1995.


In this 1994 shot of Linda Vaughn and Warren Johnson, the Professor tells Linda how he is about to win his 6th Pro Stock race at the Gators. After winning in 1984, ‘85, ‘91, ’92 and ‘93. After a number-one qualifying spot and Low ET and Top Speed, he did in fact win over a red lighting Darrell Alderman. WJ was not done winning at the Gatornationals as he would win three more times in a row in 1998, 1999 and 2000. If you guessed that Warren Johnson is the winningest driver in Gatornationals history, then you are right! His total of nine victories gives him one more than John Force and Frank Manzo who each have eight. In my opinion, WJ is the King of the Gatornationals.

Would you believe that Jim Dunn's Mooneyes Funny Car with driver Kenji Okazaki qualified number one at the 1994 Gatornationals with a 5.063 at 293.59 mph!

Connie Kalitta defeated his son Scott in the first ever father/son final at the Gators in 1994.

This final round shot in 1995 shows Larry Dixon, in his rookie year, defeat Blaine Johnson and win Top Fuel at the Gatornationals. It would be his first of four as he would win TF in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

Jay Payne's nose art on his TAD which he won the Gatornationals with in 1995. He likes Gainesville as he won TAD again in 1997 and TAFC in 2001. Not done yet as he would win Pro Mod in 2005.  


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4



official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2019 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy

fficial ponsors