GatorNationals Sand Drag Racing!
Imagine yourself planted on your ATV, feathering the clutch to nudge your quad carefully forward to stage at the drag strip’s timing lights. In the lane next to you is your competitor, just as eager and excited for what’s to come. The staging’s yellow lights in each lane are now lit, indicating you’re both lined up perfectly at the starting line. You stab the throttle and boost your engine rpm to where it sounds like the motor might come apart. All you can do is hold on tight to the bars and ready yourself.
Without warning the three yellow lights flash for a split second and it’s green. You’ve already released the clutch. A 30-foot-high dirt roost sprays behind you from your clawing paddle tires as they blast you down the 300foot dirt track toward the finish line at an eye-blurring 100 feet per second. This unique mingling of fun, horsepower and adrenaline—and that 3–4-second full-power trip down the track—is what draws ATV sand-drag racers to our sport and to races like the Pro Sand Drag Association’s (PSDA) GatorNationals ATV race in Gilbert, Louisiana.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Held every spring, the GatorNationals is the Super Bowl of our sport. It pulls together some of the fastest racers in the USA and their machines to compete and hone their racing skills. This year was no exception, with racers from just about every state in the USA and Puerto Rico registering 190 bikes for four days of heads-up and bracket racing. Fortytwo individual race events kept the racing action lively from mid-morning till past midnight each day of the GatorNationals.
Heads-up race classes included Single Cylinder, Twin Cylinder, 3 Cylinder, 4 Cylinder, Limited, Unlimited and Open, all based on motor size. Competitors race in these classes for trophies and national records. Heads-up index racing was based on elapsed times (e.g., 3.80–3.99), rewarding the first and second-place winners of each index race with a 70-percent/30-percent payback from entry fees. The schedule even included a Full Plastic Knobby race, a Top Fuel Knobby race and a UTVonly race, but one of the main events was the Big Bracket race with 74 entries competing for a $2000 first place purse and $1500 going to second place! The PSDA gives all sponsor and class money back to the racers as purse winnings.
All GatorNationals race events are open to racers of any level of racing expertise—from novice to pro. GatorNationals also attracts “builders,” many with “jockeys” riding their latest, cutting-edge engines, and chassis designs competing for elapsed-time/speed records in the big-bore classes. Motors ran up to 1325cc. A bike that made a big stir this year was the all carbon fiber 916cc Yamaha Raptor designed and built by Stewart Brothers Racing/ Ebarb Racing/Racers Edge. Raceready weight was just 206 pounds. It won a record with a 3.68-second pass at 82 mph in the Stock Frame 771cc+ four-stroke race. Another impressive record went to Ricky Carroll’s Four-Cylinder Limited ridden by Charlie Smith, turning in a 3.214-second run at 101.82 mph! Jeff Guillot’s 1000-plus-horsepower, nitrous-fed monster—“Wild Thing”—didn’t break its own 2.54-second record set in 2013, but came close with a 2.60-second pass clocked at 127 mph!
FUN FOR EVERYONE
Sand-drag races aren’t only about competition, they’re also about camaraderie. BBQs, socializing, making new “fast” friends, comparing notes on products and go-faster ideas, and checking out firsthand what’s new in our sport around the country are just a few of the perks of the event. GatorNationals is a huge opportunity for sand-drag racers to come together for the fun of the sport all while dining on catfish, crawdads, shrimp, and Louisiana sausage. I even ate alligator for the first time!
Racers Ryan Jones, Mark Herek and Jeff Guillot founded the Pro Sand Drag Association in 2011 with a clear mission: “We are dedicated to promoting the very best 300-foot sand-drag racing in the USA. From Top Fuel to ATV Bracket racing, two-strokes, four strokes and everything in between, we are here to take sand-drag racing to the next level.” The PSDA is run by a board of directors comprised of racers and is supported by a large roster of sponsors in the ATV industry. The PSDA has sponsored or promoted races at tracks in Michigan, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Missouri and Alabama, as well as the North East Louisiana Sand Drag Track where the 2016 GatorNationals will be held in the spring. Check the PSDA site for the date and mark your calendar. The racing and friends you’ll make are well worth the trip! For information about PSDA, the GatorNationals record sets and more, visit www. prosanddrags.com. For more photos and videos of the race, visit “ATV Drag Racer” on Facebook