Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – NORWALK, OH – If Tim Wilkerson is looking for a boost to finish this four-race stretch, the Funny Car veteran might just find it at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
Summit Racing Equipment is one of Wilkerson’s sponsors on his 11,000-horsepower Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, and he always holds the annual visit to the popular track in Norwalk in high regard, picking up his last win at the facility in 2010. Coming off a stretch of three straight races that haven’t gone his way, Wilkerson, who is eighth in Funny Car points, hopes the friendly confines of Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park will change his fortunes as the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season hits the halfway mark.
“We have a lot of fun at this race. Anytime you get to go to the Bader family’s track it’s like going to the circus,” Wilkerson said. “That makes it fun and interesting. He does such a good job it’s hard to top it every year. You go to this race and there’s always something interesting. That’s why I always like going there. It’s always fun. You can never say he doesn’t put on the greatest show there is. You’re going somewhere you like to go and you always know you’re going to see some fireworks.”
Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 23. It is the 12th of 24 races in 2019, and as far as fireworks go, Wilkerson can catch them on Friday following a Primetime nitro session starting at 7:45 p.m. and a trio of jet cars.
What would make it a perfect weekend would include Wilkerson picking up his first win of 2019, especially as this weekend finishes off a stretch of four straight races. He has just one round win in the first three, a frustrating turn of events that also included touching up his new Mustang body in Chicago. After three final-round visits earlier in the year, including one last month in Atlanta, Wilkerson knows he’s close to turning things around and he’s motivated to do it in Norwalk.
“We usually do really well in one of these four-race swings and we’ve not had a good three races so far,” said Wilkerson, who has 20 career Funny Car wins. “I’ve only gotten to the second round once and hit the wall in Chicago, so it hasn’t been a vintage Tim Wilkerson performance so far. Hopefully this Norwalk race in Summit’s backyard will be the perfect place to do something good.”
To do it, he’ll have to get past the likes of points leader Robert Hight, who has four wins this season, defending world champ J.R. Todd, Ron Capps, Bristol winner Bob Tasca III, Tommy Johnson Jr. and John Force, who is seeking his 150th career win. Being a single-car team adds another layer of difficulty for the veteran, but that’s an aspect he enjoys. He has thrived in that role for years and it continues to push Wilkerson as he remains a title contender in the loaded class.
“I’ve got a good car,” Wilkerson said. “We’re out there on an island a little bit, but that really doesn’t bother me. I keep my nose down and focus on our car, and that’s the cool thing about (co-crew chief) Richard Hartman. He does the same thing. We don’t get worried about what happens at other places. We just try to work on our car and make it go.”
Top Fuel defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence will try to add another win against the likes of Bristol winner Mike Salinas, Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force.
Summit Racing’s Greg Anderson has three Pro Stock wins in Norwalk and he’ll look for another against teammates Bo Butner and Jason Line, as well as Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin.
Eddie Krawiec can tie teammate and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Andrew Hines for the most wins in class history at the track with four going up against Matt Smith and Hector Arana Jr.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its eighth of 12 stops in the 2019 season. Three-time world champ Rickie Smith will look for a repeat win against the likes of points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular jet cars from Hanna Motorsports, including the “First Strike” Funny Car driven by Rich Hanna, the “Top Secret Eastern Raider” Funny Car driven by Ken Hall, and the “Eastern Raider” jet dragster driven by Josh Graham. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Additionally, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello on Sunday. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 21 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 22, at 1:00 and 4:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 23.