BROWNSBURG, Ind. (September 7, 2020) – Tim Wilkerson and his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang Funny Car rebounded from a disheartening early exit three weeks ago by racing to the semifinal round at the biggest race on the NHRA tour, the 66th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Wilkerson collected pleasing passes in qualifying to secure the No. 3 position, tying his best start of the season to date. His lofty perch came with a first-round meeting with part-time campaigner Dave Richards. With the higher qualified car, Wilkerson earned the right to select where in the run order they would meet, and as he has done in the past, the eager driver/tuner opted to be the first pair out.
Wilk left first and never trailed, clocking a victorious 3.915-second pass at 328.62 mph that was one of the quickest of the round. Richards slowed to an 8.079, 84.91.
Again, Wilkerson elected to be first pair out for the second round. There he was to meet longtime Funny Car campaigner Bob Bode, and the two were delayed just before the waterbox as they watched NHRA’s Safety Safari refresh the racing surface after an earth-shaking pedalfest performed by the last two Top Fuel dragsters.
The wait did not fluster the seasoned driver, and Wilkerson nabbed a starting-line advantage over Bode as soon as they were given the go, .077 to .105. Wilk needed the edge at the stripe as he put up a winning 4.011, 312.78 to his opponent’s 4.005, 318.62.
The 20-time Funny Car winner’s day came to an end in a very close semifinals match with Jack Beckman, the eventual race winner. The two were just .008-second apart as they left the starting line, and Beckman tripped the final timer first with a 3.915, 329.10 to 3.914, 324.59. The margin of victory in his opponent’s favor was just .007.
“I don’t like getting beat at the biggest race of the year, but I’m pretty excited about how our Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford is running,” said Wilkerson. “That last round was so close – you’d almost rather smoke the tires than lose a race that close. But the crew chief in me is glad it didn’t end that way. At least I had a chance to learn something.
“We sure have a good car. That run was low e.t. of the round, and it would have beat any other car than the one we raced. But it’s okay. If we keep tapping on the door, one of these days it’s going to open up.”
The next scheduled is the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, September 25-27, 2020.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang
R1: Tim Wilkerson defeated Dave Richards, 3.915-second at 328.62 mph to 8.079, 84.91.
R2: Wilkerson def. Bob Bode, 4.011, 312.78 to 4.005, 318.62
R3: Jack Beckman def. Wilkerson, 3.915, 329.10 to 3.914, 324.592020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Standings
(after race 6, the NHRA U.S. Nationals)
1. Jack Beckman 517
2. Matt Hagan 482
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. 460
4. J.R. Todd 387
5. Ron Capps 376
6. Bob Tasca III 355
7. Tim Wilkerson 348
8. Alexis DeJoria 241
9. Cruz Pedregon 234
10. Paul Lee 225
**Full results at DragRaceCentral.com**
– Tim Wilkerson, 20x NHRA Nitro Funny Car Winner –
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery, Driver photo courtesy of NHRA