The third race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello season will be a big one. The Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, held at Gainesville Raceway, is always a go-to event, as it starts both the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod season and initiates NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle campaign.
2019’s multi-day event, held March 14-17, will be even more extravagant as it marks the 50th anniversary for the mid-Florida racetrack. Originally opened in 1969, Gainesville Raceway’s track is being completely renovated. Construction began on December 10 to effect a brand new concrete racing surface for the quarter-mile, with the top-end asphalt surface also being refreshed.
Track officials expect to have the new surface prepped well in advance of the Gatornationals.
“We are excited to have a new and improved concrete racing surface, just in time for the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals,” said NHRA vice president of track management and operations Kasey Coler. “There’s been so much enthusiasm and anticipation for this historic event,” he went on, “and the new track will further enhance the level of competition that fans – and participants – can expect.”
Gainesville Raceway is the site of the first 300-mph Top Fuel pass in 1992 by Kenny Bernstein, one of the few racers to earn both Top Fuel and Funny Car national NHRA titles. Bernstein returned to the track to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his achievement in 2012.
Michael Yurick, track manager, explained the process being used to renew the track, which was last repaved in 2003.
“Once the existing concrete and asphalt is removed, the base underneath will be reworked to improve drainage. After that is completed, they will pour a new 60-foot-wide concrete track from the water box down past the finish line. Asphalt beyond where the concrete ends will also be replaced,” Yurick said. “The new surface will make for better racing for all our week-to-week events as well as the Gatornationals. When completed, Gainesville Racway will be one of the premier racing surfaces in the country.”
The track modernized its control tower several years ago; updating the racing surface for this very special event could result in new NHRA national records for both Mello Yello and Lucas Oil Sportsman competitors.