Two of the most anticipated races of the 2019 NHRA season both take place this weekend in Gainesville, Florida.
The first race is the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the third national event of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
And then there’s the second race – a race within a race, you might say. Called “Unfinished Business,” the race will bring eight of the greatest legends in drag racing history out of retirement and back to the starting line in equally-prepared race cars through the course of the weekend.
The single-elimination format kicks off Friday with the following match-ups as determined by a vote of drag racing fans worldwide:
• “Big Daddy” Don Garlits vs. Shirley Muldowney
• “The Professor” Warren Johnson vs. Terry Vance
• Kenny Bernstein vs. Joe Amato
• Don “The Snake” Prudhomme vs. Ed “The Ace” McCulloch
The winners will advance to the semifinals on Saturday. And the two semifinal winners will race for the championship on Sunday as part of the overall Gatornationals eliminations.
The legends are pumped to be back behind the wheel again. While the only prize will be bragging rights, that’s more than enough incentive for them. Here’s what the competitors have to say about challenging the quarter-mile again:
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits: “The record between Shirley and me is at 5-5. I plan to tip that scale in my favor this weekend. All people look at is the last race you ran so this one has got to count. There’s a lot on the line.”
Shirley Muldowney: “I’m coming to Gainesville just like before, loaded for bear and it’s gonna take every bit of that to take care of business.”
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme: “It’s going to be a real competition. I’m gunning for every one of them out there. It’s gonna be a fun time for the fans.”
Ed “The Ace” McCulloch: “This is going to be fun. Snake’s always been hard to beat but we’re gonna get it done this weekend. He’s so old, he’s gonna have to use binoculars to see the (starting line) tree!”
Kenny Bernstein: “I’m just excited to go down that quarter-mile again. My plan is the same as it’s always been – to do the best I can. If that gets me a win, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, then I won’t be happy.”
Joe Amato: “It’s going to be exciting to line up against these drivers again. Bernstein and I may have to have a golf rematch to square the deal depending on who wins!”
Warren Johnson: “We’re all going to be at a bit of a disadvantage. They won’t have their superchargers and nitro; and I won’t have my five-speed! But in reality, this is where I started – match racing like this. So it’s like ‘Back To The Future’ for me.”
Terry Vance: “I’m not gonna get beat on a holeshot, I can tell you that. I’ll red light if I have to, because if I’m late on the tree, that proves I’m an old man. And I’m not ready to prove that to anyone!”
Instead of driving the kind of vehicles that made them famous – either Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars, Pro Stock cars or Pro Stock Motorcycles – all eight competitors will square off against each other in identically prepared Toyota Camrys that will carry distinctive wrappings to emulate looks inspired by some of the drivers’ favorite rides of their careers.
NHRA fan favorite Darrell Gwynn will serve as the honorary starter for Unfinished Business.
“It’s going to be interesting to see these old-timers get back on the track,” Gwynn said. “To say they’ve got a lot of mileage on them is an understatement! But they are just as fiery and competitive as ever, so it’s going to get heated out there. The NHRA fans did an awesome job of selecting the first-round match ups. It’s going to be an exciting weekend.”
Follow the hashtag #UnfinishedBusiness on NHRA’s social media pages and NHRA.com for Unfinished Business updates throughout the weekend.