NHRA

NHRA legends Garlits, Muldowney, Prudhomme, Bernstein, 4 more to race again this weekend

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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.

Here’s the designs of the cars the drag racing legends will drive in this weekend’s Unfinished Business in Gainesville, Fla.

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

 

View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!