As the No. 3 qualifier at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Tim Wilkerson outpaced all but two nitro Funny Cars after three rounds of qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway. In the final session the Levi, Ray & Shoup Summit Racing Equipment Ford Mustang posted the second quickest run collecting two qualifying bonus points and moving Wilkerson from the No. 6 spot to the No. 3 position. He opened qualifying with a 3.932 second run so confidence was high for the team that last week won the most prestigious drag race in the country.
In the first round Wilkerson drew a tough opponent, the surprise No. 12 qualifier John Force, who struggled throughout qualifying. The team knew that would have to make another great run to advance to the quarterfinals. The conditions were comparable to qualifying and Wilkerson conferred with car chief Richard Hartman on a first round tune up he felt confident would get the job done.
Running behind No.1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon who was on a bye run due to a short field, Wilkerson and Force raced one of the closest Funny Car races of the day. Force was first off the line but Wilkerson quickly pulled up beside him as each 11,000 horsepower Funny Car hit half-track within two seconds. Both race cars were hitting on all eight and Wilkerson crossed the finish line 3.892 seconds after he hit the throttle. It was one of the quickest runs of the first round but unfortunately his opponent was making the quickest pass of the event, 3.875 seconds. There was nothing wrong with Wilkerson’s run but the veteran driver just fell victim to tough racer luck.
“When you qualify No. 3 you don’t expect to race someone like John Force in the first round,” said Wilkerson. “We only had 13 race cars here and that will mess up the ladder. We just ran into some bad luck that they figured out their racecar in the first round against us. That was the run I was looking for, maybe a little off, but no one over here is hanging their head.”
With six more Countdown races on the schedule including next weekend’s DeWalt NHRA Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Levi, Ray & Shoup Summit Racing Ford Mustang will be back on the track. Wilkerson is No. 9 in the Funny Car points and will have the chance to reel in the cars in front of him beginning with the first round of qualifying on Friday night at zMax Dragway.
Q1: 3.932 sec, 390.82 mph; Qual. 6
Q2: 7.392 sec., 90.28 mph; Qual. 6
Q3: 3.884 sec., 332.67 mph; Qual. 3
Bonus Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Tim Wilkerson 3 .129 3.892 322.84
John Force 12 .059 3.875 334.65 (W)
Camping World Funny Car Countdown Top Ten
1. John Force 2172
2. Matt Hagan 2167
3. Ron Capps 2157
4. J.R. Todd 2133
5. Robert Hight 2121
6. Bob Tasca III 2106
7. Cruz Pedregon 2083
8. Alexis DeJoria 2063
9. Tim Wilkerson 2048
10. Blake Alexander 2032
Tony Fay PR