Lots of stuff has changed from 1976 to 2017 and not the least of which is the local Gainesville, Florida area where the Gatornationals are held. Still a massive college town, it comes off a lot busier these days than it does from the 1970s footage featured the video below. This is the broadcast of the race from 1976 that would have appeared on whatever television network NHRA was paying to air it back then. The event was a good one and there were records set along with barriers being broken like Gary Beck rocketing to a then unheard-of 5.92 elapsed time in his top fueler. Pro mods will qualify about a tenth and a half quicker than that this coming weekend to give you some perspective.
One of the neatest parts of the video is at the beginning and we are using one of them as the lead photo above. That’s the famed “Golden Gator” that Chase Knight drove in Pro Comp eliminator. A Supercharged and turbocharged Hemi powered the rear engine dragster and while it was not a world beater, it was competitive and did rack up some race wins in its career. We had never seen video of the machine before watching this one the other day.
Winners from the event include Don Prudhomme, Ken Veney, Bob Glidden, Larry Torres, and Butch Leal. Interestingly, Jerry McClanahan from California who would be a stock world champion in his career is the patriarch of a racing family that has produced some great sportsman racers over the years. Pretty neat when you see names from this era and then see their kids racing today.
This was a great weekend with a packed house. Lots of cool cars, personalities, and Budweiser.