The semifinals are set for the super classes at the 52nd annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, and the racers in the hunt for the first Super Comp and Super Gas titles of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series are each looking to add to a story that’s already pretty cool. Read on to get a little background on each of the semifinalists.
Ray Miller III vs Dave Dahlem
Last March, the pandemic shut down the Gatornationals shortly after the Sportsman portion of the event began. Pro racing was halted, but the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitors already at Gainesville Raceway snuck in under the wire and were permitted to finish. Ray Miller III, of Spring City, Tennessee, was declared the Super Comp winner in a final-round battle with Ken Moses.
Miller, who was the Super Comp runner-up at the Division 2 opener in Orlando, is a five-time North Central Division titlist and the 2019 Super Comp Lucas Oil Series national champion. He has eight national event wins heading into Sunday at the Gatornationals, including the Wally he scored at this race last year.
Tremont, Illinois-based Dave Dahlem’s first NHRA win was a division trophy scored in Super Gas on the hallowed grounds at Indianapolis. Dahlem’s story is one of longevity and patience on the national tour; his first win was in 2001, and although he reached the final round several times, he didn’t raise the Wally again at a national event until 2019. That year, Dahlem defeated Megan Strassweg at Chicago’s Route 66 Raceway.
Allan Ackles vs Jason Kenny
The Gainesville race is a hometown affair for Thonotosassa, Florida, racer Allan Ackles, and he arrived at this season’s rendition of the Gatornationals wearing a badge of honor as the facility’s most recent Super Comp national event winner. His victory here last year was his first national event win in his first final round.
Ackles will square off with Jason Kenny, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, in the semifinals. Kenny, whose most recent victory was at the JEGS SPORTSNationals in Epping, has five division championships – three in Super Comp and two in Super Gas – and is part of a family of racers with a streak of success on the drag strip. His sister, Samantha Coughlin, has a national event win from the 2015 race in Norwalk, and his father, Al, has reached 21 national event finals and claimed eight trophies for his efforts. Al Kenny’s most recent national event win was at Gainesville in 2017 in Top Dragster, and he was runner-up at the 2006 Gatornationals in Super Gas, which could make for a neat note if his son was able to make his way to the final round and then seal the deal.
Jonathan Anderson vs Frank Altilio
Williamson, Georgia, resident Jonathan Anderson has something of a kinship with Gainesville Raceway and reached the final round here twice in 2020. Anderson won Super Gas over Greg Slack at the spring event and came back to runner up in Super Street to Jimmy Daniel in the fall. In all, Anderson – who is here racing a ’67 Corvette roadster – has five national event wins; in addition to his Super Gas triumph here last season, he has been to the winner’s circle four times in Super Comp.
Frank Altilio and his ’99 S-10 will be in the lane opposite Anderson, and the Longwood, Florida, veteran drag racer will surely have his 1992 Gatornationals win on his mind as they go toe-to-toe in the 9.90 class. Altilio has been a regular division winner since he picked up the hardware in 1990 at Palm Beach International Raceway, which was then known as Moroso Motorsports Park.
Larry Bernshausen vs David Morris
It would have been hard to miss the bright yellow ’77 Chevy Vega wagon driven by Larry Bernshausen at the Gatornationals this weekend, and he will be giving the crowd another glimpse or two on Sunday as he attempts to reach the final and secure the third trophy of his career. Bernshausen is right about 70 years young, and he’s been at this racing deal since the 1970s, when he dipped into AHRA competition. He has a couple of division wins, but the significant (and super cool) thing here is that his first national event victory came 24 years ago at the 1997 Gatornationals. His most recent win on the national trail was in 2009 over Ray Connolly in Norwalk.
Check out this feature on Larry Bernshausen from 2009: Bob Frey – From The Tower
The 2017 Bristol Thunder Valley Nationals Super Gas winner, David Morris, will race Bernshausen in his attempt for a ticket to the Gatornationals final. Morris knocked out John Labbous Jr. to snatch his first Wally at Bristol Dragway two years ago, and the racer who hails from Clover, South Carolina, will bring his ’69 Camaro to the starting line with the hope of reaching the second final round of his career.
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Eliminations for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals will resume on Sunday at 8:30am ET at Gainesville Raceway. You can watch live on NHRA.tv.