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The latest update as of March 10, 2021

AMALIE Oil NHRA Gatornationals

It's a little hard to believe, but the first national event on the 2021 NHRA schedule is set to begin in less than 24 hours at Gainesville Raceway. In a way, it's actually been going for nearly a week already, with the "Baby Gators" last weekend, followed by two days of testing earlier this week. The bigger show starts tomorrow morning with Sportsman qualifying, then the Pro and Semi-Pro teams begin qualifying on Friday morning. The weather outlook is excellent, with very little chance of rain, and plenty of sunny Florida skies, accompanied with high temperatures around 80 F (27 C) each day. Almost perfect racing conditions, and if the elapsed times and speeds already recorded over the past week are an indication, it's going to be QUICK and FAST.

The Top Alcohol cars have run two regional events already, with last weekend's Eastern Regional at Gainesville, and the previous weekend's Central Regional in Belle Rose, LA. While the car turnout at the Louisiana race was a little low, with just five Funny Cars and eight Dragsters, the quality of competition was high. And last weekend's Gainesville race saw 14 Dragsters and nine Funny Cars. Showing how tough the competition was this early in the season, the bump spot for the funnies was 5.662, while the bubble for the dragsters was a fairly stout 5.317, with the first alternate at 5.365.

While there are a total of 18 Dragsters (three blown and 15 injected) on the entry list for the Gatornationals, there are just nine Funny Cars on the list. Although the quality of the nine entries is fairly high, the non-participation has got to be worrying for the class. Yes, there are numerous reasons why a lot of cars are still sitting at home, from the pandemic, to the economy, to the uncertainty of the schedule(s). Even though there are strong signs that the worst of the pandemic is over, and restrictions on "normal" life are being, or soon will be, lifted and/or eased, it's still a tough ask to haul a car a long way to a race with all the uncertainty surrounding the sport at the moment.

That said, it's time to deal with what's happening now and enjoy the start of a new season of serious drag racing. We'll bring you a synopsis of what lies ahead in the fuel and alcohol categories over the next two days, then get into the results from Gainesville as they start coming in on Friday morning. Stay tuned!