For years, one of the NHRA’s most popular races of the season, the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, has been a dry island unto itself.
In other words, the 75,000 or so race fans that come out for the annual race weekend have been unable to toast their favorite drivers when they win because beer and wine sales at Auto Plus Raceway have long been outlawed there by Alachua County officials.
No more. The Gators just got wet, so to speak — and we’re not talking about the heavy mid-March rains that seem to impact the race every year.
According to the local Gainesville Sun, fans attending the 46th edition of the Gatornationals (March 12-15, 2015) will for the first time be able to buy beer and wine after county commissioners voted unanimously to rezone the 452-acre property from alcohol-free “agriculture” to “planned development” that allows alcohol sales.
The Gatornationals have been one of only a few national sporting events that have been unable to sell beer and wine.
With the county’s blessing, beer and wine sales will help the NHRA’s bottom line (you can bet the county will also get its share through taxes, liquor licenses, etc.).
But there appears to be a catch.
Race fans will finally be able to enjoy a cold one at the Gators, but apparently not in the grandstands.
Rather, plans are under way to offer a large beer garden, the only place where fans will likely be able to consume their favorite beverage, according to the Sun’s story.
Still, it’s progress. Maybe if things go well in 2015, beer/wine sales might finally be able to be sold at concession stands in 2016.
In a side note, RV owners will finally be able to come and set up their camp sites two days before the event starts and can stay two days after it ends for the first time. Up to now, RV owners/campers could only come onto racetrack property one day before the event began and had to get out one day after it ended.
Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves made it three consecutive victories in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to close in on the points lead in the DPi class.
After Castroneves started on the pole position in No. 7 Acura, Taylor took the checkered flag by 0.607 seconds ahead of Felipe Nasr’s No. 31 Cadillac.
“I’m just proud,” Taylor told NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch. “Helio did an amazing job at the start, kept his cool. It’s not easy starting on the outside, but he settled in, picked people off and put us in a position to jump the 31 on a stop.
“Then I felt like we were the strongest car on track when we had new tires. It was a real team effort.”
Helio Castroneves picked up Ricky Taylor and carried him several yards down the pit lane in celebration.
“Last year, I had a little issue and lost my cool at the start of the race, and we threw the race away, so this time, if something happens, I know we’re going to come back, and here we are in victory circle.”
With three races remaining this season for the premier class, Castroneves and Taylor have moved to third in the standings, five points behind Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, who finished third in the No. 10 Cadillac at Mid-Ohio.
Ranked three points behind in second is Pipo Derani, who is Nasr’s teammate.
The championship race could have been tighter as Acura Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya passed van der Zande for third after the cars banged together a few times with 10 minutes remaining.
But Montoya spun off course a few minutes later in Turn 1 and handed a podium finish back to the Wayne Taylor Racing car.
“Bashy, bashy right there,” van der Zande said. “Old school NASCAR racing, I guess. I’m not so used to that. He was very aggressive but also very very fast. It was a fantastic race for us.”
The final three races will be held at Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca and Sebring.
“It was a great third place with a lot of pressure from Montoya and Mazda and everyone really,” Briscoe said. “We’ll take the points and keep pushing. It’s so close. Can’t think too far ahead, but we’d love to get another win or two to finish out the season. There’s some really big races coming up, and this team tends to excel in the long races, so we’re looking forward to it.”
🏁 on the Acura Sports Car Challenge at @Mid_Ohio. Retweet to congratulate the winners!
–Corvette Racing scored its first victory at the track in eight years as the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia won from the pole position. Teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished second in a class that featured only four cars because of the pullout of Porsche.
It was the fourth victory this season for the No. 3 and the fifth for Corvette, which also is 1-2 in the points standings with the No. 3 ahead by 17 points.
“It was a perfect weekend for our Corvette,” Taylor told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. “The car rolled off the truck really well. This was one of the tracks where we never tested at, so the preparation by the team really set us up well. … We’ve been so strong on pace and reliability.”
Said Garcia: “It’s a shame that Porsche is not here as we want them back for sure. It was a brilliant job by everyone. Jordan did a fantastic job all day long, getting on pole and then getting a solid lead even if there were a ton of yellows. The C8.R worked perfectly again today.”
–The No. 14 Lexus of AIM Vasser Sullivan won in the GTD class, moving drivers Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth to the points lead. With four races remaining, Telitz trails the No. 86 Acura by two points, and Hawksworth is four points behind.