2000 Gators champ Toliver to debut new car
Gainesville, pre-race: Jerry Toliver will be behind the wheel of a new race car at this weekend's NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., the third of 24 races on the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule. The driver of the Rockstar Energy Drink Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car tested two days this week with a new chassis at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta, Ga., in advance of this prestigious event.
The 2000 Gatornationals Funny Car winner made several shakedown runs down Valdosta's quarter-mile in the new Murf McKinney chassis on Sunday and Monday. The Rockstar Energy Drink team then packed up and headed to Gainesville.
"I think it's going to be a good race car," said Toliver on Monday from Valdosta. "We made a couple of planned shut-off runs to half-track, but after that the track kind of went away so we never made a full pull. The car seems to handle well and the crew did a miraculous job getting it ready. The Rockstar Energy Drink crew received the chassis late Tuesday in Indianapolis and had it ready to go here in Valdosta on Saturday morning. So hats off to the crew. It helps when you have guys that have 110 percent of their hearts into the deal, and that's what we've got over here. We made some good squirts here in Valdosta, now we're off to Gainesville."
Toliver began his first season with Don Schumacher Racing by qualifying the Rockstar Energy Drink Dodge second at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., with an impressive 4.790-second elapsed time, which tied him for No. 1 (Tim Wilkerson claimed the pole with a faster speed). At the second season race in Phoenix, Toliver recorded a respectable 4.865-second lap to qualify 13th, but was ousted in the first round for the second straight event.
"We have a much better race car and program than what the points are saying," explained Toliver, who is currently 14th in the standings, just one round win out of the top 10. "Unfortunately, we went out during the first round in Pomona with a broken clutch arm. But we ran low E.T. there with a 4.79, so that tells you we've got a good hot rod. We went to Phoenix and we struggled a little bit, but we got in the show and once again went out first round. It's very early in the season and with this new points format it's not as bad as it used to be if you got off to a slow start. Not that we're off to a slow start. One good race and we're right back in the top five.
"We've got a great team and a good race car. With the support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Don Schumacher Racing and my other teammates, I think we'll be in some winner's circles this year and hopefully in the Countdown to the Championship. I couldn't be happier with the crew chief and team that I have right now."
When Toliver won the Funny Car title at the Gatornationals in 2000, he defeated current DSR teammate Ron Capps in the final round. The last time Toliver competed in Gainesville was in 2004, where he posted a quarterfinal finish.
"There are highlights on the tour and Gainesville certainly ranks way up there," Toliver said. "I think you've got Pomona, Gainesville and Indy. Not in that order, but I think those three are probably three of the most important races. Not that any race is more important than the other as far as the points go, but those are huge races. The Southeast crowd comes out for the Gatornationals in droves - we get humongous crowds - and they love drag racing. It's always a good time going to Gainesville.
"I was fortunate to win the Gators in 2000 and I've done well in Gainesville. It's a great race track, a great facility. Any time you win an event it becomes one of your favorite tracks, so Gainesville Raceway is one of my favorite tracks."
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