By Tony Schumacher
January 20, 2005

The United States Army NHRA Drag Racing Team is headed for Gator Country this weekend. It's time for the NHRA's annual trip to Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway for the history-filled Mac Tools Gatornationals.

Each year, I look forward to our only appearance in the Sunshine State. The crowds that come out are overwhelming and we usually put on a good show for them given the track conditions.

Gainesville Raceway has long been considered one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA circuit. It was at this facility that the first 260-, 270- and 300-mph Top Fuel runs were clocked. Also, during the 2000 Gatornationals, eight of 10 national records were set in the professional classes. So, as you can see, there can be some real exciting racing down there.

This year in Gainesville, we may be in for more of the same type of action, if not better. Following last season's event, the track's management immediately put into place some significant renovations. The concrete launch pad at the starting line was extended to the 675-foot mark, while the rest of the racing surface and shutdown area was repaved. It could only improve things, especially, if the weather cooperates.

Not only will the U.S. Army Top Fuel team compete in Gainesville this weekend, but my teammates on the Pro Stock Bike side, Angelle Savoie and Antron Brown, will as well. It's the Pro Stock Bike class season opener.

While I'm sure both Angelle and Antron want to get off to fast start to the season (no pun intended), the U.S. Army Top Fuel boys will be looking to return to victory lane.

After capturing the season opener in Pomona, Calif., we ended up losing in the semis two weeks ago at Phoenix. While most would consider the Phoenix result a nice accomplishment, we were disappointed. We felt we had the car to beat that weekend. But a dropped cylinder in the semifinal run against eventual winner, Brandon Bernstein, cost us. Hopefully, we won't have those issues this weekend.

While we go to Gainesville holding a slight lead in the Top Fuel standings, we know the race for the Top Fuel world championship is going to be a war all season long. As a result, we'll be taking each race as it comes. So, next up, it's "The Gators."

It's time for "The Sarge" to extend his group salute. Until we convene again just before the next race at Las Vegas in two weeks, please stay well. Remember -- keep our soldiers in your hearts and prayers.

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