COMMERCE, Ga. (May 5, 2019) – Sunday at the 39th annual Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals looked familiar for Tim Wilkerson and the Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang nitro Funny Car team. For the third time this season and the third time at Atlanta Dragway, Wilkerson and company reached the final round. A win did not come to pass on Sunday, but the well-oiled team saw their driver move up in the standings as their momentum continues to build.
The final round was particularly momentous as it marked the 500th nitro Funny Car race of Wilkerson’s career. Wilkerson is one of just four active pro drivers to have raced in 500 or more NHRA national events. Ron Capps has 538 on his scorecard, Cruz Pedregon has 574, and John Force has 767.
“It was a good day,” said Wilkerson, who moved up to No. 6 in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings following the final-round meeting with Capps. “Everybody did a good job, and I’m real proud of the guys. We gave it all we had.”
Wilkerson made the second-quickest pass of the opening round to defeat Pedregon, 3.963-second at 321.12 mph to 5.753, 121.59. For his efforts, he scored a second-round meeting with fellow Ford Mustang campaigner Bob Tasca III.
In their afternoon meeting and in what was one of the most exciting races of the day, both drivers launched their trusty steeds with ferocious intent, but just as they began to pick up speed, both succumbed to tire shake. Wilk and Tasca were on and off the throttle as they tried to calm their racecars yet keep ahead of one other. The pedalfest resulted in a win for Wilkerson, 5.595, 231.79 to 6.885, 128.97.
“That was our lucky round,” stated Wilkerson. “After the good Lord gave us that one, we should have been able to whip anybody – but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
In the semis, Wilk met up with No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight, the Funny Car points leader and the driver who has been the one to beat all season long.
This time, though, it was Wilkerson with the upper hand as he raced across the finish line first with a 4.084, 313.66 in the heat of the day. Hight clocked a 4.182, 258.02 on his way out the door.
At the starting line following the victory, Wilkerson’s right-hand man, Richard Hartman, was elated.
“Wow,” said Hartman, who has been by Wilk’s side for 101 races. “We haven’t beat those guys in a long time. It was our turn, though, and we’ll take it.”
The semifinals victory meant a final round for Wilkerson – making it a trio on the season after a runner-up in Gainesville and then making the four-wide final in Las Vegas.
In the other lane was longtime friendly rival Ron Capps. Again. Wilkerson had been to the final round twice before in Atlanta, and both times it was Capps on the other side of the Christmas tree. Wilkerson won their 2015 meeting, Capps won in 2017, and it could have gone either way this time around, but Capps was the guy that saw the win light flash. He staged deep and recorded a .047-second reaction time to Wilkerson’s .090, and at the top end it was officially recorded as a holeshot win, 4.068, 315.34 over Wilk’s 4.052, 310.05.
“I thought I could take my old Mustang out in style there, but it didn’t quite make it,” said Wilkerson, who tentatively plans to debut a brand new Ford Mustang at the next race on the tour, Richmond. “We’re just trying our best, and everyone is doing a good job. The car is running good. We’ll just go on to the next one and try again.”
The next race on the 2019 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour will be the NHRA Virginia Nationals in Richmond, May 17-19.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang
Car No.: FC5
Current points position: No. 6
R1: Tim Wilkerson (3.963-second at 321.12 mph) defeated Cruz Pedregon (5.753, 121.59)
R2: Wilkerson (5.595, 213.79) def. Bob Tasca III (6.885, 128.97)
R3: Wilkerson (4.084, 313.66) def. Robert Hight (4.182, 258.02)
Final: Ron Capps (4.068, 315.34) def. Wilkerson (4.052, 310.05)
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car Standings
(after qualifying for the NHRA Southern Nationals, race 7 of 24)
1. Robert Hight (3), 663
2. Matt Hagan (1), 472
3. John Force, 470
4. J.R. Todd (1), 456
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 445
6. Tim Wilkerson, 436
7. Ron Capps (1), 430
8. Jack Beckman, 425
9. Shawn Langdon (1), 365
10. Bob Tasca III, 338
**Full results posted at DragRaceCentral.com**