Upsets rule in Pro Stock class at NHRA's Gatornationals

Chris McGaha unexpectedly plowed through the first two rounds of Pro Stock eliminations at the NHRA's Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Fla. (Photo By Ron Lewis)

Upsets marked the first round of Pro Stock eliminations Sunday at the Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Fla.

Chris McGaha, the 17-year Comp Eliminator class veteran who was making just his third Pro Stock start, advanced as fellow Texan Erica Enders had a red-light disqualification.

"There was a lot more on the line than people know. I felt good, and when I let the clutch out, I felt clean. I thought, 'This guy is going home,' " she said. "As I put my eyes high to shift, I saw his win light on. I felt like it was a good light, a clean hit, and it ended up being on the wrong side by three-thousandths."

Enders ran a competitive pass in the Cagnazzi Racing Chevy Cobalt of 6.537 seconds at 210.80 mph – the third-best run of the round, but McGaha was the winner at 6.571, 209.33 in his Harlow Sammons of Odessa Dodge.

"It sucks to throw away a really good race car, especially on a day when all the heavy hitters are out first round," Enders said. "When it's your day, you can't screw up. Today wasn't my day, so on to the next one." That's the March 30-April 1 Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders said "the performance is back" in her car: "We're consistently good going down the race track. That first win will happen soon."

Meanwhile, Canadian Mark Martino came from 15th in the lineup to eliminate No. 2 starter Jason Line. It was a bit of retribution, as the KB / Summit Racing tandem of Line and Greg Anderson beat him in the first rounds of each of his two races in his 2011 debut season. And it was a whole lot of reward for his DeSantis Crane Service crew.

"This is huge for us," the Stoney Creek, Ontario, resident said. "We had a rough week. Our rig broke down on the way down here. We got here Thursday, and the car was in a million pieces. So hat's off to my crew."

Rickie Jones came to Florida as a tune-up for the American Drag Racing League's Dragpalooza VIII later this month at Baytown, Texas. As the No. 11 qualifier, he won by about two feet over No. 6 Vincent Nobile, who was 3-2 in five finals rounds in his rookie 2011 season but hasn't gotten past Round 2 so far this year. So a little more was at stake for Nobile Sunday than was the case when these two hot shoes, as young boys, raced their Hot Wheels together at the racetrack for fun.

Larry Morgan spoiled top qualifier Allen Johnson's day, edging him by .0176 seconds (about five feet).

In the second round, McGaha ended any notion of another upset for Martino, who was making his first appearance of the year.

Rain postponed eliminations after the second of four rounds Sunday. The race is scheduled to resume Monday morning.

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