Evan J. Smith
March 21, 2018

This past weekend the 2018 NHRA Mello Yellow drag racing tour moved east to Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida for the 49th Annual Amalie Gatornationals. NHRA national events get you up close and personal with the cars and the stars of the sport in a variety of classes from Stock Eliminator to the extreme 300-plus mph fuel burners in Funny Car and Top Fuel.

On-track action lasted four days under blue skies and the pits were filled with hustle as teams worked on and refined their cars for maximum performance. Mustang-360.com was there to capture it all, with a focus on the production-based cars in Stock, Super Stock and the School of Automotive Machinists Factory Stock Showdown.

Ronnie Proctor claimed his first NHRA Top Sportsman win behind the wheel of his 6-second Jerry Haas Mustang. The Ford is powered by a 706ci Ford Performance engine and it consistently runs mid-6s at nearly 210 mph.
“Yo” Ken Miele scored a Runner-up finish in Stock Eliminator. Miele drove his Micro Strategies CJ into the 8s but came up a tad short in the final.

Dozens of Ford racers competed and a few took home the coveted Wally trophies during Class competition, where Stock and Super Stock racers go heads-up within their own categories. Former MM&FF freelancer “Yo” Ken Miele had a spectacular showing, as he took a Runner-up in Stock Eliminator. Miele masterfully drove his Micro Strategies-backed 2008 Cobra Jet into the high 8s, lasting until the final where he was defeated by Jeff Taylor. Other notables were Vic Guilmino (Stock) and the father-and-son team of Drew and Bill Skillman, who lasted until the semi-finals in Super Stock.

The lone Ford win belonged to Ronnie Proctor, who proved victorious in Top Sportsman behind the wheel of his Ford Big-Block-powered 2009 Mustang. Proctor ran deep in the 6s at over 200 mph to capture his first national NHRA Top Sportsman title.

Stock Eiminator is filled with old and new muscle. This is Bill Hawk’s perfect 1967 Shelby GT500 that fits into B/SA.
Drew Skillman wheeled his Grabber Blue CJ to a semi-final finish in Super Stock.

“This was my 6th final, but my first win,” said the elated Proctor. “It was fantastic, especially being the only Ford in the class. It was the ultimate, my wife Karen and I work really hard at this and we finally got it.”

Amazingly, the win came in anti-climatic fashion when his competitor Lester Johnson rolled through the beams after staging, essentially handing the win to Proctor. “I backed up from the burnout and Johnson was already pre-stated,” he said. “I’m thinking, just stay calm, do your thing and go in. I pre-staged, then he staged and I followed. I set the [transbrake] button and he rolled through the beams—I couldn’t believe it. I waited for the green and took the win,” Proctor told us. “I’m still really excited. It’s something you seek and then it finally happens.”

Proctor’s Mustang was built by Jerry Haas Race Cars and is powered by a 706-cube Ford Performance engine with C460 heads prepared by Oakely Motorsports. C&C Motorsports machined the short-block and Proctor assembled the big-inch mill with a Hogan intake and twin Holley Dominators by Don’s Carbs. For extra performance, he relies on a two-stage NOS Fogger system, though he used only one stage in Gainesville.

Drew’s father, Bill, also lasted until the semis in Super Stock with his 7-second 2017 Mustang Cobra Jet.
Brent Hajek brought out his incredibly rare 1968 Cobra Jet to put on display. This is the very CJ that Al Joniec drove to victory at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
Making the moment extra special, Al Joniec (left, pictured with Brent Hajek) was on hand to see the car and greet the fans and to check out his old mount.
This is the colorful CJ of New York’s Gary Richard.
Kevin Skinner (near lane) stages against Randy Eakins during School of Automotive Machinists Factory Stock qualifying. Skinner make the 16-car field running 8.15 at 165 mph. Eakins was unable to make the show with a best effort was 8.30 at 164 mph.
Ronnie and Karen Proctor were proud to capture the Top Sportsman championship and the coveted NHRA Wally trophy. Proctor drove the only Ford in the TS field.
Vic Guilmino on a wheels-up charge in his 429-powered 1971 E/SA Mustang.
There are quite a few Cobra Jet combinations, this one, a Three-Valve with a stick shift is driven by Charlie Downing in FS/J. Downing was able to claim the Class championship against Bill Dyer.
John Stock got everyone’s attention with his EFI-equipped 352-powered Cobra. The open-cockpit Shelby runs in Super Stock.
Chuck Watson Sr. had the best run of any Ford driver in the SAM Factory Stock Showdown. Watson Sr. went a couple of rounds running a best of 8.14 at 168 mph.
We had a great time talking Fords with Mike Delahanty of Ford Performance (left) and racing legend Al Joniec.

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