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The latest update as of March 6, 2023

Monday Morning Musings

It was quite a weekend of racing with three races on two coasts. One NHRA Heritage Series event (Bakersfield, CA), an NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Eastern Regional (Gainesville, FL), and the much ballyhooed $100K to win "World Series of Pro Mod" (Bradenton, FL). Two of the three races were completed yesterday despite some weather challenges. Saturday was a near total washout for the Gainesville event, on Friday afternoon there were high winds at Bradenton that held up proceedings for a few hours, but the real whammy was delivered at Bakersfield. Rain on Saturday evening persisted until Sunday morning before final eliminations got off to a late start. That lasted through three pairs of Nostalgia Funny Cars before the rain started again, finally causing the plug to be pulled for the day.

The "sportsman" (Group 1 & 2) racers are scheduled to complete their eliminations this morning, and the weather forecast shows minimal chance of rain, but the "Pro" cars (Nostalgia Funny Car, AA/Fuel Altered, and Nitro Pro Comp) will complete their eliminations at date(s) to be determined. It has been announced that Nostalgia Top Fuel will run their entire eliminations at the California Hot Rod Reunion in October. After all the machinations of the weekend, seeing their 16-car field cut to 8-cars, then seeing a 4-car "consolation" field created at the last minute for the quickest four (9 - 12 on the list) non-qualifiers, the Top Fuel racers must be heading home with a very sour taste in their mouths.

It will be interesting to see how the events - and non-events - of the 65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet play out in the coming days, weeks, and months. And how it's going to affect - or not - the rest of the 2023 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule. Stay tuned for more news on that. The most positive news to come out of Famoso was the full grandstands on Friday and Saturday, and pit areas full of racers eager to start their season.

The "Baby Gators" at Gainesville Raceway

Despite the rain on Saturday, the Top Alcohol racers all stayed for the Sunday eliminations, under sunny skies. An over-subscribed field of dragsters - 19 in all - tried to qualify into the 8-car field which closed with a 5.317 bump spot, and the first three alternates in the 5.30's. Even if they expanded the show to 16 cars, the bubble would have been a decent 5.619 e.t. Interestingly, the field was the largest since the 2016 Norwalk event. Sadly though, the ratio of injected to blown cars was 18 - 1, with Dan Dietrich being the only supercharged entry on the grounds. He finished as the 7th alternate with a 5.617 best in qualifying.

The Funny Car field was much slimmer, with just seven cars showing up. Despite the much hyped addition of injected nitro as an induction option for the 2023 season, participation in the class seems to be still declining. With just a few hours remaining before entries close for this week's Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, there are still only nine cars on the pre-entry list. Compare that to the 20 Top Alcohol dragsters on the list, again with a preponderance of nitro-burning entries: 17 injected versus 3 blown cars.

Taking the wins at the Gainesville regional were Julie Nataas in her Randy Meyer Racing entry, with low e.t. and top speed in the final round, at 5.202 - 280.89 to show that the team is serious about finishing much higher than last year's #6 in the world championship standings. The Meyer team will have two full-time racers this year, with Hunter Green and Nataas both running full schedules. They'll be facing some tough competition with the McPhillips gang fielding three cars, as last year's #3 finisher Jasmine Salinas is back, along with Matt Cummings, and "rookie" Tony Stewart in a brand new car. All three racers are running a full schedule which is going to keep Rich McPhillips Sr. (Pops), and Richie very busy in 2023. While Stewart and Cummings both lost in the first round on Sunday, Cummings took the top qualifying spot with a very good 5.223 - 276.73 effort.

The Robin & Tony Samsel team has a new driver this year, with Cody Krohn at the wheel of their hot rod and early indications are that they will be another team to watch, as Krohn went all the way to the final round against Nataas. He qualified #3 with a 5.238 - 271.41, then stayed in the .20's until slowing to a 5.318 - 262.59 to lose a close race for the wally.

Much more to come on this and other stories tomorrow. For now, we're anxiously awaiting news and photos from Saturday's action at Bakersfield. Stay tuned.