That event featured a milestone win for veteran racer Tim Wilkerson who drove his Levi, Ray & Shoup Nitro Funny Car to victory at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowe’s Foods. That win marked Wilkerson’s second win of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series — and his 20th career win.
Wilkerson came into race day qualified No. 8 with a 3.970 E.T. at 319.07 mph. This is his first Four-Wide Nationals win and an accomplishment he is proud of.
“I got this off my bucket list,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve been in the finals twice here, so I am really happy to get it done,” said Wilkerson. “The whole year has really been exciting; especially with the new TV package and the way everything has been going for us. The Four-Wide is really a neat deal, especially since I won.”
Wilkerson powered past the competition in the final round with a performance of 3.967/315.56 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. He was followed across the finish line by Cruz Pedregon with a 3.995/313.37,and then Ron Capps and Matt Hagan coming in third and fourth.
Wilkerson’s machine was the top Funny Car on race day, finishing first in all three quads he raced. He opened with a win against Jeff Diehl, top qualifier Alexis DeJoria and series points leader Robert Hight. In the round two quad he outran Pedregon, Courtney Force and Jeff Diehl.
“We were the fastest car out there every round and I was pretty proud of that,” said Wilkerson. “I told my guys: that’s one thing you need to be proud of. You got money running out your ears at those two big camps over there, but you guys were the fastest dogs out there every round. You need to be proud of that.”
This is the best start to a season Wilkerson has experienced and he credits his crew and their hard work ethic.
“We work hard. I have a great bunch of kids on my crew. The other teams may out-spend us, but they will never out work us,” said Wilkerson. “My guys really do try hard and have a lot of heart.”
Wilkerson is one of the few drivers who also tunes his own car. He did double-duty this weekend helping out his son Daniel, who drove Brian Stewart’s Nitro Funny Car.
Also earning Professional level event wins were Brittany Force who raced to her second victory of the season in Top Fuel to became the first female driver to win the unique event, Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Force held off the two-time defending winner of the race, Antron Brown, along with class veterans Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican to take the historic win at zMAX Dragway. Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a final round performance of 3.764 seconds at 319.98 mph, while defending world champ Brown finished second with a 3.779 at 316.75 in his Matco Tools dragster.
“People say winning the first one is the toughest and it came in my fourth season,” Force said. “The second one came easier, but I wouldn’t say easy. Every single guy on this team is the hardest worker I know and I was so happy that we were able to pull it off. It’s insane. I am proud to be teamed up with [tuning consultant Alan Johnson and crew chief Brian Husen] and having a car that’s so consistent builds my confidence going into the season. The season is still getting started, but we are definitely off to a great start.”
Force was also quickest in her first two quads. She beat Brown, Pat Dakin and Leah Pritchett in the opening round and then raced past Brown, Richie Crampton and J.R. Todd in round two. She produced three straight 7.3-second runs to take the victory and extend her series points lead.
In addition to being the first woman to win a Four-Wide race, she’s also the first female to win in a nitro class at zMAX Dragway. She says all of the accolades coming her way are just surreal.
“I keep hearing these things,” Force said. “It’s big enough that we won, but to do it at the Four-Wide where it wasn’t easy for me. It was a struggle. I didn’t sleep last night. I had nightmares coming off [the final qualifying round] and you know you have to clear your mind and come into it. So to be able to overcome that and have a decent light in the final round when we really needed it, it feels good.”
Force, who advanced to seven finals before she finally won her first race last month in Gainesville, Fla., says she’s now ready to go for a third win next weekend in Houston. However, she admits that winning two of three finals in five races this season and leading the points for more consecutive weeks than any other female in a nitro class is beyond her wildest dreams.
“It didn’t seem real until they handed me the Wally,” Force recalled about her breakthrough victory at Gainesville last month. “It’s an incredible feeling and a proud feeling. All those years and all that hard work, it really made it worth it. For the second one to come this quickly it’s just amazing. Standing behind my team they are bad-ass and are capable of doing anything. They put a car together that ran consistently every single run. I am so proud of all of them.”
In Pro Stock, Line won his third race of the season in his fifth consecutive final round, posting a winning time of 6.565 at 211.33 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro and finishing in front of teammate Bo Butner, who trailed with a 6.591 at 210.77 in his Jim Butner Auto Camaro. Drew Skillman and Chris McGaha, also driving Camaros, were third and fourth in the quad final.
It was Line’s first Four-Wide Nationals win and the 40th victory of his career.
“We are taking a lot of pride in it,” said Line, who increased his series lead with the win, about his successful start to the season. “We had more engine changes than anybody else. It’s tough to win at home and I’ve never won the Four-Wide. I consider myself a middle of the road driver, so this race has always been tough for me. So to win this race is pretty gratifying.”
Line made his way to the final by beating Kenny Delco, Vincent Nobile and V. Gaines in the opener and then held off Skillman, Delco and defending world champ Erica Enders in round two.
Hines continued his mastery of the Four-Wide Nationals in Pro Stock Motorcycle and held off top qualifier Eddie Krawiec, Chip Ellis and Matt Smith to take the victory, his third in a row at this event and his sixth zMAX Dragway victory. Hines clocked a 6.844 at 194.42 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, while Krawiec finished in 6.849 at 194.44 on his Harley-Davidson to take runner-up honors. It was points leader Krawiec’s fourth consecutive runner-up finish at this event.
“It’s great to come in here at the Four-Wide and get another win so we have our team going in the right direction,” Hines said. “I’m happy to get a win this early in the season. When you get that off your back you can sit back, relax and focus on racing the rest of the season.”
Hines became the third driver in NHRA history, joining Greg Anderson and Hight, and first in the bike class to finish second in both of the first two quads and then win the race. In the opener Hines finished second to Jerry Savoie, but in front of Brian Pretzel and Jim Underdahl. In round two, Hines trailed Krawiec, but finished in front of Savoie and Michael Ray.
“This race track just agrees with me, I feel very comfortable here,” Hines said. “It is almost a calming effect it has on me with everything that is going on up there because it makes me focus that much more.”
With his 43rd career victory, he is closing in on the 44 official victories that the late Dave Schultz won during his career.
“Thanks to Dave and all that he did for the sport, he was one of the pioneers of it all,” Hines said. “Thanks to him we have a great field right now and all of Pro Stock Motorcycle is very stout. We have bump spots that are setting records. It’s awesome to be involved in the class right now.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues – next weekend (April 29-May 1) with the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston.
Posted with files by Nicole Erickson, NHRA Communications & Bruce Biegler
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Megan Meyer and Kris Hool raced to victory at this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods. Meyer scored her first NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national event win in Top Alcohol Dragster while Hool picked up his third in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
Meyer, out of Spring Hill, Kan., and running for her father and team owner Randy Meyer, advanced to her second final round in just her second start in the alcohol dragster class. The second generation driver recorded 5.20’s and 5.30’s throughout eliminations including a 5.325 second lap at 278.46 mph in the final against Josh Hart who suffered engine problems from the start and is still looking for his first national event win.
Hool, Evansville, Wyo., would face off with defending NHRA Lucas Oil National Champions Jonnie Lindberg in the funny car final taking the early lead and running his best pass of the event for the win and the trophy. Hool motored straight down the track to a 5.557 second, 261.83 mph lap while Lindberg shook the tires and could not recover.
The win was Hool’s third as he took out DJ Cox Jr, Bill Naves, and John Lombardo Jr. on his way to the finals.
Perennial winner David Rampy bagged another win in Comp Eliminator whilst Jeff Harrington and Mark Payne each scored their first Lucas Oil national event win. Rampy took his win total to 90 when he reeled in Randy Daniels for the win with a 7.283, 159.29 mph run. Rampy, Piedmont, Ala., won this event in Super Stock last year.
Harrington, Kathleen, Ga., was better than Michael Brand at both ends of the track in Stock Eliminator, running a 10.129 on the 10.12 dial in his first final round appearance. Payne, Waynesboro, Va., had a nice .010 reaction time to help him win the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RV’s in 6.846, 203.03 over Michael Kaufman.
Mia Tedesco, Pittsburgh, Pa., was pulling double duty running in both Top Alcohol Dragster and Super Gas. She feel to Hart in round 2 of alcohol dragster but advanced to the final in Super Gas where he meet up with defending event champion and former national champion Jim Perry of Niota, Tenn. Both drivers had great reaction times with Perry getting the slight lead with a .004 second start and holding on for the win with a 9.907 to Tedesco’s 9.908. The win was Perry’s fourth on the national tour.
Bryan Worner and Ray Miller rounded out the winners this weekend at zMAX Dragway as Worner, Duncannon, Pa., defeated Herbie Null Jr., in Super Stock with a big holeshot and repeating his win here in 2014. Miller, Spring City, Tenn., won on a holeshot as well beating Danny Waters Jr., LaGrange, N.C., for his fourth national event win.
Photos by: Bruce Biegler – Steve Embling – Gary Nastase