Some name it “the roar,” whereas others say it is “the scream.”
However for D.R. Chapman, the sound of revving High Gas dragsters washing over the Gainesville Raceway is “the thunder.”
Pressed up in opposition to the fence simply toes away from the explosive machines, Chapman’s felt the thunder quake in his chest for the previous 11 years. He and 4 of his mates trek to Gainesville from West Palm for a style of what 135,000 followers flock to yearly — the smoke, the velocity and, above all, the sound.
“Your complete physique rattles,” Chapman mentioned. “If you happen to bought dentures, they fall out.”
The thunder rumbled all via Saturday on the 54th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the place spectators from throughout the nation packed the Gainesville Raceway bleachers to catch a glimpse of the quickest vehicles on the planet dashing down the stretch. Saturday’s contests noticed qualifying rounds in High Gas, High Alcohol, Humorous Automobile, Professional Inventory and Professional Inventory Bike classes to arrange Sunday’s championships.
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Gatornationals kicks off an eight-month NHRA season that culminates in a November nationwide championship in Ponoma, California. The one Florida occasion on the schedule, Gatornationals places the attraction of drag racing inside attain for followers like Chapman and Gainesville native Caleb Bersad.
Bersad, 13, attended his first Gatornationals along with his dad, Randy, looking for the growl of the engines. High Gas vehicles quadruple the sound of the NASCAR automobiles he’s used to, he mentioned.
“I just like the sound,” Bersad mentioned. “I’ve been to a variety of NASCAR races, and that is very totally different.”
High Gas vehicles are amongst racing’s quickest and loudest, and lots of followers regard their races as the primary occasion. The competition solely spans 1,000 toes and solely eclipses 5 seconds on a subpar run, however with 11,000-horsepower dragsters that may crack 300 mph, it packs a punch.
A stadium-wide prayer and the nationwide anthem set Saturday’s High Gas qualifying races in movement, the place fan-favorite drivers Brittany Pressure and Austin Prock posted prime occasions in early rounds. Ocala native Josh Hart walked away with an $80,000 bonus because the callout spherical champion, a particular occasion that sees High Gas drivers go head-to-head in opposition to opponents of their selecting.
The early races right here not solely determine the qualifying order for Sunday’s championship — additionally they set up a pecking order for the following eight months of racing.
As the primary occasion of the yr, Gatornationals units the tone for the remainder of the season for drivers and their pit crews. Jesse Snyder, automotive chief for High Gas driver Clay Millican, mentioned the occasion is likely one of the sport’s most profitable trophies.
“It’s an iconic monitor,” Snyder mentioned. “Everyone needs to win it.”
Snyder and his staff are accountable for protecting Millican’s automotive in prime situation. The pit crews for Millican and different racers line the outskirts of the stadium, testing and fine-tuning the vehicles earlier than and after every race to seize an ideal stretch.
The height of this course of comes with a take a look at of the automotive’s crowning jewel — the engine. Followers collect across the tents for the machine’s defiant rumble, cheering because the smoke clears and the rumble echoes throughout the aisles.
It’s what followers like Michael Brooks, who made the journey with three of his mates from south Georgia for the weekend, got here to listen to. The foursome hasn’t missed a yr since 2008, Brooks mentioned. The journey has turn out to be custom, he mentioned, and the joys of the race is addicting.
The group listened to the early roars exterior the stadium from their makeshift tailgate. The distant rumbles have been solely a preview of the facility to return, and Brooks was prepared for a present.
“Pure horsepower, feeling that rumble via the stands, High Gas dragsters getting it down the monitor,” he mentioned. “That’s superior.”