50 Years of the Gatornationals

Part 10: 2015-2018

Words and photos by Steve Gruenwald


This is the final part of Steve Gruenwald’s trip down memory lane at the NHRA Gatornationals. Thanks, Steve, for all the great photos and all the great memories of the past 50 years!

At the 2015 Gatornationals Larry Dixon reached new heights on Saturday morning during a qualifying pass. He walked away!

Joe Santangelo won Stock Eliminator in 2010 and came back in this sharp looking roadster to win Comp. in 2015

2015 saw David Rampy in the winner’s circle again, this time in Super Stock. He won Super Comp in 1997 and Super Stock in 2012.

Ulf Leanders won TAFC in 2015.

Karen Stoffer won her second Pro Stock Bike final in 2015. The first coming in 2007 and this win over the best in the class here at Gainesville, Eddie Krawiec.

Spencer Massey gave team owner Don Schumacher his second double at the Gators in 2015 by taking out his son Tony in the final round, after Ron Capps won Funny Car.

The late Ronnie Davis won Top Sportsman at the Gators in 2015 just a few short months before his untimely death.

Robert Hight won his third FC title at the Gators by stopping Ron Capps in the final here in 2016.

Rich McPhillips again wins TAD in 2016.

Jeff Strickland doubled up at the 2016 Gators by winning both Super Stock and Top Dragster.

Brittany Force scored her first Top Fuel victory in Gainesville with a win over Terry McMillen in the 2016 finals.

It was pretty cool to see sponsor “Papa John” race Leah Pritchett at the 2017 Gatornationals in the car he owned as a youngster.

Jonnie Lindberg would get a runner-up to John Force in the Funny Car final in 2017.

The Sarge won his fifth Gators Top Fuel title in 2017, shutting down Antron Brown in the final.

Always great to see this Cobra running in Super Stock – 2017.

Shane Gray would precede his son by one year winning Pro Stock in 2017 over Bo Butner.

Good shot of Kevin Rivenbark at speed in his Corvette Pro Mod at the 2017 Gators.

David Barton won Factory Stock in 2017.

John Force won his eighth Funny Car title at the Gators with a win over Jonnie Lindberg in the final in 2017.

Steven Whiteley joined his mother, Annie, in the winner’s circle this year by driving his Cadillac Pro Mod to a win over an always tough Mike Castellana.

Annie Whitley was right behind her son with a convincing win over 2013-14 Gators TAFC winner Dan Pomponio.

Two-time Gators TAD winner and car owner Randy Meyer tuned Justin Ashley to a win in his national event debut at the 2017 Gatornationals.

Jeffrey Barker qualified second with a fine 6.376/223.51 and won the 2017 Top Sportsman final with a double breakout win over the blown entry of Casey Spradlin.

Jacob Elrod was the Super Comp champ at the 2017 Gators.

It was national event win No. 93 for David Rampy as he got the win in Comp Eliminator in 2018.

On Friday morning first qualifying session in TAFC, Kris Hool stood it up real nice for me. Not so nice for him as he came down hard enough to bend the chassis. This put him out for the rest of the weekend last year.

Last year Chris Demke celebrated with car owner Jerry Maddern after winning his third TAD trophy at the Gators. TAD was his in 2011-12 when he went back to back. Maybe he can do it again this year.

Richie Crampton gave the Kalitta team plenty to cheer about with his Top Fuel win at the 2018 Gators.

John Force blew up another body on Friday during qualifying last year.

Steve Torrence would go onto become the 2018 Top Fuel Champion. He has never won the Gators!

Night shot of Top Fuel Harley rider Doug Vancil last year.

Leah Pritchett would win the 2018 Championship Factory Stock,but not the Gators.

Jack Beckman finally put a Gators Funny Car Wally in his trophy case after his win in 2018.

First 200 mph run in Pro Stock Bike goes to Hector Arana, Jr. Another first at the 2018 Gators.

Clay Millican had quite a year in 2018 Top Fuel competition. Almost number one, he ended up number two.

The Sunday crowd last year was huge.

Terry McMillen is always a crowd favorite to win his sponsor's race. He came closest in 2016 when he lost to Brittany Force in the final round.

Joe Costello interviews last year’s TAFC winner Sean Bellemuer. Car owner Tony Bartone won TAFC here in 1996 and TAD in 2003..

Tanner Gray won Pro Stock at the 2018 Gators just like his dad had done the year before. He went on to win the championship and has left drag racing to drive in NASCAR. 


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Part 8


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