GAINESVILLE, Fla. (September 28, 2020) – Gainesville Raceway seems to be flirting with nitro Funny Car pilot Tim Wilkerson. The historic racetrack held the 51st rendition of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals this weekend, and in nearly an exact replica of last season’s events, Wilk qualified in the No. 2 position and raced his charging Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang all the way to the final round. Like last year, though, he came up just a touch short of earning the trophy.
Wilkerson and Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps squared off in an incredibly fast, incredibly close race in which Capps tripped the final timer first, winning on a 3.937-second pass at 323.12 mph to Wilk’s 3.945, 325.92.
“Our Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, wow, what a great car,” said Wilkerson, who narrowly missed claiming the pole with one of the quickest and fastest cars on the property. On raceday, he was dishing out sub-4 second runs like candy on Halloween, dropping a 3.987 on Terry Haddock in the first round and following up with a crisp 3.945, 325.22 to squelch Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Gainesville dream.
The semifinals brought about an all-Ford Performance round, with Bob Tasca III and his Ford Mustang in the opposite lane. In a stunning side-by-side race, Wilkerson and his LRS Ford kept just ahead of his opponent to win the round by .001-second, 3.955, 324.51 to 3.958, 325.61.
“That was sure fun, getting to race our fellow Ford-campaigner over there,” said Wilkerson. “It gave us some momentum going into that final round. It looks like our car is going to keep doing what it’s doing, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Although ultimately pleased with the outcome of the weekend, Wilkerson is ready to end the dry spell that has carried on since the spring race in Charlotte in 2016. The Gainesville final was the 45th of his career that he and Team LRS were hoping would bring in his 21st career nitro Funny Car trophy.
“I was seriously unhappy when we got back here, because I really thought we were going to win,” said Wilkerson. “But I’m pretty excited about what the next few races are going to look like. Hopefully, we’ll go to the next one and beat one of them stinkin’ Schumacher cars. It’s fun though; we’ve got nothing to prove. We’re a one-man band with a bunch of guys just doing their best. Richard Hartman [co-crew chief] is such a god-send. I’m lucky to have him and all my guys. On to the next.”
The next event on the current NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule is the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. (St. Louis), October 2-4, 2020.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang
R1: Tim Wilkerson defeated Terry Haddock, 3.987-second at 314.83 mph to 12.070, 88.12
R2: Wilkerson def. Tommy Johnson Jr., 3.945, 325.22 to 3.957, 318.84
R3: Wilkerson def. Bob Tasca III, 3.955, 324.51 to 3.958, 325.61
R4: Ron Capps def. Wilkerson, 3.937, 323.12 to 3.945, 325.922020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Standings
(after the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals)
1. Jack Beckman, 569
2. Matt Hagan, 656
3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 512
4. Ron Capps, 486
5. Tim Wilkerson, 448
6. Bob Tasca III, 434
7. J.R. Todd, 420
8. Alexis DeJoria, 296
9. Cruz Pedregon, 266
10. Paul Lee, 258
**Full results at DragRaceCentral.com**
– Tim Wilkerson, 20x NHRA Nitro Funny Car Winner –
Photo Credit:Auto Imagery, Driver photo courtesy of NHRA