Tim Wilkerson’s nitro beast comes alive in final qualifying at the NHRA Gatornationals

photo credit: Auto Imagery

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2019) – Tim Wilkerson and the Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang brought their A-game to the table in the final qualifying session for the 50th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Wilkerson blasted to one of the quickest passes of his career to narrowly miss the top qualifying position and score a start from the No. 2 spot. He will race Dave Richards in round one on Sunday.

Amiable Wilkerson’s nitro Funny Car was only getting started in the early qualifying rounds with three passes in the 4-second zone. Entering the final session at Gainesville Raceway, though, Wilk had fresh thoughts on how to approach the racing surface.

The 20-time Funny Car winner laid down a brilliant 3.875-second pass at 327.27 mph to launch up to the top of the pack. He was only displaced by Robert Hight in the final pair.

“That was what it was supposed to do,” said Wilk, referring to the very fast and quite clean blast down the racetrack. “The first run today, it was trucking along real good, it just came loose. After I stared at it awhile, I realized it was too much, and I was trying too hard. Believe it or not, I just changed the whole thing, and there you go – 3.87. I was like, holy moly.”

With a different set-up rumbling ferociously in the heart of his trusty Ford Mustang, Wilkerson got a glimpse of heaven. The tremendous stride only made him more excited for the future.

“This chassis is just different than the one we had last year,” he explained. “It gives me a lot of free wheel speed between 200 and 400 feet that I didn’t have before. Hopefully, it works when it gets hot outside, but it sure is fast, and it reacts well.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the new Ford Mustang bodies, because I’m hearing from Bob Tasca that they drive really nice. As fast as this car is, if this new car gives me anything, we’re going to be a barnburner. Anyhow, we have something for them tomorrow. We always do. If we can keep our head on straight, we’ll be good.”

Final eliminations for the 50th Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals are set to begin at 11am ET on Sunday at Gainesville Raceway.

Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang

Final qualifying position: No. 2
Wilkerson’s results:
Q1: 4.672-second at 172.61 mph (No. 5)
Q2: 4.019, 284.95 (No. 10)
Q3: 4.602, 176.12 (No. 11)
Q4: 3.875, 327.27 (No. 2, +2 bonus points)

Round one opponent: Dave Richards

Race Info
50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.
March 14-17, 2019

Run Schedule (all times local)
Sunday, March 17
8:30 a.m. – Lucas Oil Series Sportsman eliminations
11:00 a.m. – Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro eliminations begin
eliminations for all categories continue

#NHRAonFOX Television Schedule (all times ET)
Qualifying / Saturday – 9-10 PM ET / FS1
Finals / Sunday – 7:30-11 PM ET / FS1

2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car Standings
(after final qualifying for the NHRA Gatornationals, race 3 of 24)

1. Robert Hight, 250
2. Matt Hagan, 195
3. Jack Beckman, 185
4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 171
5. Bob Tasca III, 163
6. John Force, 160
7. J.R. Todd, 159
8. Shawn Langdon, 143
9. Ron Capps, 126
10. Cruz Pedregon, 119
11. Tim Wilkerson, 105

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