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Zizzo, Hight, Butner and M. Smith Current No. 1 Qualifiers At 50th Gatornationals

Part-time Top Fuel racer T.J. Zizzo sits atop of the field after qualifying on Friday at the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 provisional qualifiers in their respective categories at the third of 24 events on the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Zizzo piloted his Rustoleum dragster to a 3.762-second lap at 323.35 mph to earn the provisional No. 1 spot. The part-time team made its debut of the 2019 season in Gainesville.

“Our guys worked really hard on our race car,” Zizzo said. “I realize that I haven’t raced since the U.S. Nationals. Some part time teams, they park their car for an extended period of time then they kind of get it out of the woodwork and run their car just to run it. We don’t do that. We really race hard. I choose to spend time away from my family so I better make it worthwhile.”

Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta is second in the category with his time of 3.776 at 321.50 in his Mac Tools dragster while 2017 world champion Brittany Force sits in the third position.

In Funny Car, Hight currently sits No. 1 with his time of 3.928 at 305.15 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Hight qualified No. 1 at the first two events of the season and looks to carry his momentum throughout the weekend.

“Honestly when I made that run, I said it would be top five,” Hight said. “I really thought someone would run in the .80’s and run better. There’s more left in it, Conditions are going to get better tomorrow.”

Bob Tasca qualified second with after his 3.953 at 316.67 lap in his Motorcraft Ford Mustang while Ron Capps sits third with a 3.965 at 308.14 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Butner is the Pro Stock provisional No. 1 qualifier when he powered his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro to a 6.556 at 210.73. The 2017 world champ qualified No. 1 at the event in Phoenix two weeks prior while winning the season opening race in Pomona.

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“Well, I can’t complain,” Butner said. “Our Chevy Camaro was pretty awesome. It has been all season. It’s just been very consistent. We made two rounds today within a (thousandth of a second). So that’s pretty impressive. I think we’re going to have a good weekend.”

The two-time world champion Erica Enders is second in her Melling Performance / Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro with her run of 6.560 at 210.41. Greg Anderson is third with a 6.563 at 210.24.

Defending world champion M. Smith took the top spot after driving to 6.753 at 200.95 run on his Elite Performance/DENSO Auto Parts/Stockseth EB during the first qualifying pass of the day. Smith did not qualify for this event in 2018 and seeks to change history at the season opening event for Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“I’m just glad (the success from last season) is carrying over,” said the three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champ. “Sometimes, you do stuff at the end of the year and it doesn’t carry over in to the following year. But, we worked really hard. We made two more identical bikes to what mine is. We’re working the little bugs out of them for Angie (Smith) and Scotty (Pollacheck). Then hopefully we can get two more of these bikes just like mine and where we can have a three bike and a pretty awesome team.”

Eddie Krawiec qualified second in the field with a 6.792 at 199.91 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod while his teammate Andrew Hines rounds out the top three.

Qualifying for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals continues today at 12:00 p.m. ET at Gainesville Raceway.

This story was originally published on March 16, 2019. Drag Illustrated

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