The Snake team hopes to make its presence felt in the Land of the Gator.
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car), who race for team owner Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, reached the finals at the CSK Nationals in Phoenix, Ariz., on Feb. 23. This weekend, they will try to capture the NHRA Gatornationals in their respective classes.
Dixon is looking to become the first Top Fuel driver to claim three consecutive victories. He placed fourth in Friday's opening qualifying sessions.
"Would I like to make it four (overall)?" Dixon said. "Of course, but I don't think the competition is going to lay over and let us do that. We have to go out there and earn our spot, both car and driver. I am just going to try and do my best to hold up my end of the deal and see how the chips fall."
The 32-year-old has been the hottest driver since the beginning of the 2002 season. He drove his dragster to nine victories and a record 14 final-round appearances last season en route to his first points championship.
Dixon won the season opener in 2003 and was runner-up at the second race in Phoenix. He has been atop the points standings for 25 consecutive events.
"I think there's a lot of good things that have happened in my career so far and a lot of them have happened in Gainesville," Dixon said.
The first time Dixon got in an open-wheel car was at Frank Hawley's school in Gainesville in 1990. He got his license in Prudhomme's car while still working on his crew in 1994, then came back in 1995 and won the Gatornationals.
Since the Gatornationals are the first big races of the year, Capps is happy to be going in as the points leader. That honor came for the Camaro driver with a win at Phoenix.
"Being as fast as that (Gainesville) track is, you always kind of tighten your belts a little bit more," said Capps, 37. "Because you never know what the crew chief's going to throw at the car and you better be ready to hang on."
Capps is in the running for a coveted spot on the International Race of Champions (IROC) circuit. It's an honor never bestowed on a drag racer.
"They always kind of thought that all drag racers just kind of know how to go straight," Capps said. "You can't blame them in a sense, but they'll kind of throw me to the wolves."
The Skoal Racing headliner has been invited to test drive an IROC car before IROC races at Talladega Superspeedway in April and Chicagoland Speedway in July. If testing goes well, Capps hopes to become one of the 12 drivers selected to run the four-race series, possibly as soon as next year.
"I think it's a big tribute to what NHRA has been doing with the sport," he said. "For a circuit like IROC to follow what drag racing's been doing and see what I've been doing, it's a big honor."
But first things first. Capps lost in the semifinals at Gainesville last year and wants to improve. He was 13th in qualifying Friday.