Don Gatlin's drag racing season got off to a bit of a rocky start. He set some high standards after winning two championships in the past four years, so even after winning races in Bakersfield and Sonoma, he said he was off to a slow start.
44-year-old Don Gatlin, from Bakersfield
Drag Racing's Don Gatlin collects his $1,000 check.
"Honestly, I've been a little disappointed with my driving so far this year," Gatlin said. "The last two weekends have turned it around a little bit. We've been in two finals in two weekends, so we've been better. I fully expect to win the track championship in Bakersfield. I'm pretty confident we'll win at least one Big Bucks race back East. From there, try to get out there and keep competing for wins."
Gatlin, a 44-year-old driver from Bakersfield, has been racing in the Summit Drag Racing series at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. In his first two races at Bakersfield, he won one and lost to the eventual winner in the third round in the other.
One would never guess Gatlin took a nearly 10-year hiatus from drag racing from 1998 to 2008.
In his first races at Sonoma, he won one of the four he entered. He made it to the third round in one and the fourth round in another.
But after five races in the Fontana Summit Drag Racing Series, he is 13th in the Super Pro standings.
Gatlin won the SCEDA Electronics championship and the Famoso Super Pro championship in Bakersfield last year.
"The first three (races), the car was perfect, the driver was not," Gatlin said. "I red lit it in the first round three races in a row. Got a little more conservative. We went four rounds in races four and five."
Gatlin has two dragsters, one on the West Coast and one in Indiana for races in the Midwest. He is planning on racing the car in Indiana, a 2007 Mullis, at tracks in Kentucky and Tennessee primarily.
"We're leaving that out in Evansville, Ind.," Gatlin said. "The whole purpose of having that car back there is there's really good and profitable bracket racing in that part of the country. That car will be racing in the K&N sponsored Spring Fling 20s which is over at Bristol, the Jeggs sponsored US Open in Bowling Green."
Gatlin took a nearly 10-year hiatus from drag racing from 1998 to 2008. He said he left drag racing because he thought he couldn't invest enough money and resources into his cars to be competitive.
"We were running super comp in the ‘90s," Gatlin said. "At the time I just didn't think I could afford to compete. I've since changed my mind. I think anybody can be competitive. I took some time off. Cars have always have been my passion. Tried playing with street cars and all kinds of other stuff and it led me right back to the drag strip.
"I'm back into it and back in pretty heavily. We're having fun. We've had some success, but we're having a lot of fun as well."
Gatlin won the SCEDA Electronics championship and the Famoso Super Pro championship in Bakersfield last year. Winning two championships surpassed the goal he set for himself at the start of the season. He wanted to win only one championship.
"We've won two different championships, four in two years," Gatlin said. "Two years ago (my goal) was to win a championship. We exceeded that by winning two championships. Last year I picked a number that we wanted to win more races than the previous year. We accomplished that. This year, my goal was to win a bracket race that pays $20,000 or better. The level of competition when you win one of those is very important."
Using K&N products in his cars has been one of the reasons for his success in recent years. He said he wouldn't even think of using anything else.
"With or without their support, that's all I use," Gatlin said. "I haven't used anything else because I trust them. I know it's a solid product. It's well-engineered. It's race-tested. We just have too much money in these engines to allow dirt to get in the carburetor. I've never used anything but K&N. I have so much trust and faith in their stuff, I've never used anything else."
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