SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (September 23, 2020) – Tim Wilkerson, the pilot of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, made his nitro Funny Car debut at Gainesville Raceway in 1996, and he’s eager to return this weekend for the delayed 51st annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Wilkerson, now in his 25th season in a fuel Funny Car, raced to victory in Gainesville in 2010. A decade later, he’s looking for another trophy from the venerable event on the heels of a runner-up recorded there last season.
It’s been a bit of a dry spell for Wilkerson, who last claimed an NHRA Wally trophy at the 2016 Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. However, the gentleman who wears three hats as team owner, crew chief, and driver knows he is sneaking up on success.
By the conclusion of the most recent event, the DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Wilkerson’s LRS Mustang was steady and happy. He was the No. 3 qualifier and rocketed to the semifinals with a car that was quite capable of winning the event, and he determined that it was time to turn his attention to some pretty precise details in order to see the results he’s after.
“I’m going to go back and work on everything,” said Wilkerson, after ‘going in shallow’ in staging for the semifinals in an effort to sacrifice reaction time for as much elapsed time as possible. He came up just .007-second short against Jack Beckman at the finish-line stripe.
“I’m looking at my thoughts, my hand brake, my foot,” Wilkerson explained. “Now that my car is running like it’s supposed to, you’ll see me focus on this part for the next few weeks. How I sit, where my arm is compared to my foot, if my hand is a little too far back. I’ve already got some thoughts in my head about changing my brake, and I’m on it. I don’t get concerned on big crazy stuff – there are a lot of things out of our control – but the little things can make a difference. It wouldn’t have taken much of an improvement to win that round, so I’m fine tuning.”
Currently No. 7 in the Funny Car standings with just five events remaining to finish out the abbreviated 2020 schedule, Wilkerson is determined to stay hyper-focused rather than pondering what could or should happen leading up to the Las Vegas finale in November.
“Gainesville Raceway is a good track, and the surface is usually smooth,” he said. “But we just don’t know how that track is going to be in September; that will be a surprise for all of us. I’m optimistic, and our Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang has made a lot of nice runs this year. I’ve had two teams tell me that I’m the last guy they want to see beside them. I think that’s good.”
Notes & Quotes
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang
Car No.: FC10
Current points position: 7
- The 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will mark the 25th season as a nitro Funny Car driver for Tim Wilkerson, driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang
- Tim Wilkerson made his nitro Funny Car debut at Gainesville Raceway in 1996
- Wilk drove the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang nitro Funny Car to victory in Gainesville in 2010 and was low qualifier there in 2004
- The LRS Ford Mustang reached the final round at Gainesville Raceway last season
- Wilkerson is one of two Funny Car drivers currently campaigning the new Ford Mustang Funny Car body. He made the move to Ford Performance in 2009 and since that time has acquired 10 of 20 NHRA Wally trophies as a Ford ddriver. The only drivers to have more wins in a Ford Funny Car are John Force and Robert Hight.
- Team Summit driver Wilkerson, who is also the tuner and team owner of the LRS Ford Mustang Funny Car, is an independent driver. His was the only single-car team in the category to finish in the top 10 in each of the last two seasons
- The early portion of Wilkerson’s career included a successful run as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver. He earned eight division trophies, one national event win, and was the Division 3 Top Alcohol Funny Car champ in both 1994 and 1995 in the Lucas Oil Series before stepping up to the Pro ranks in Gainesville in 1996.
Wilkerson in Gainesville
1 win in 2 final rounds
Runner-up 2019 (Robert Hight)
Won 2010 (defeated Bob Tasca)
No. 1 in 2004
Last year at this event: Qualified No. 2; final round
Wilkerson’s career stats following the 2020 U.S. Nationals
(most recent event)
24 runner-up finishes
44 final rounds
20 No. 1 qualifier awards
Career round wins (nitro Funny Car): 418
Career best e.t.: 3.844 (2017 Phoenix)
Career best speed: 333.74 (2016 Topeka)
Tim Wilkerson on social media:
2020 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
51st annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.
September 25-27, 2020
Run Schedule (all times local)
Friday, September 25
11:00 a.m. – Lucas Oil Series Sportsman eliminations begin
5:30 p.m. – SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown qualifying
Saturday, September 26
9:15 a.m. – Lucas Oil Series Sportsman eliminations
11:45 p.m. – Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro qualifying session 1
2:45 p.m. – SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown round 1
4:00 p.m. – Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro qualifying session 2
Sunday, September 27
11:00 a.m. – Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro eliminations begin#NHRAonFOX Schedule (all times ET)
Qualifying / Saturday – 5-7 PM ET / FS1
Eliminations / Sunday – 2-5 PM ET / FS1
**Full results at DragRaceCentral.com**
– Tim Wilkerson, 20x NHRA Nitro Funny Car Winner –
Photo Credit:Auto Imagery, Driver photo courtesy of NHRA