NHRA ‘Unfinished Business’ — Muldowney wins; Garlits, Prudhomme and Bernstein upset

Shirley Muldowney defeated "Big Daddy" Don Garlits Friday. All photos courtesy NHRA
1 Comment

Friday’s first round of NHRA’s “Unfinished Business” – which brought eight of drag racing’s most iconic drivers or riders out of retirement for another pass or more down the quarter-mile – turned out to be a day of upsets.

The crowd at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway came there expecting a great show and that’s what they got, watching as the legendary drivers took on each other in the single-elimination matchup in identically prepared Toyota Camry street cars.

Here’s how things played out, along with the schedule for Saturday’s semifinal matchups:

Shirley Muldowney (left) defeated “Big Daddy” Don Garlits in their first-round ‘Unfinished Business’ matchup Friday in Gainesville, Fla. Photo courtesy NHRA.

* Three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney defeated “Big Daddy” Don Garlits in a rematch of their 1982 Top Fuel final at Gainesville. Muldowney now holds a 6-5 all-time record against Garlits.

According to National Dragster’s Phil Burgess, “Garlits surprised many by deep-staging against Muldowney in the battle of former three-time world champs, but her pink Shirley’s Kids Toyota roared away to take a comfortable win, 15.49 (seconds) to 17.41.”

* In another battle between former Top Fuel titans, Joe Amato upset Kenny “The Budweiser King” Bernstein, 16.52 seconds to 17.20.

* Perhaps the biggest upset of the day came when Ed McCulloch narrowly defeated Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, 15.50 to 15.67 seconds.

It was payback of sorts for McCulloch, who came into Friday’s event with a previous career record of 2-14 against Prudhomme during their heated rivalry in the 1970s and 1980s.

* Pro Stock legend Warren “The Professor” Johnson defeated the most successful champion in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, Terry Vance, with a 14.96 (seconds) margin to 17.22.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Muldowney will face Johnson while Amato will square off against McCulloch.

The final and championship round to determine the Unfinished Business overall champion will take place during Sunday’s final elimination rounds of the 50th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at the Gainesville track.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

2 Comments

Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.