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:
* 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.