FUNNY CAR COMPETITION READY FOR ALL-CONCRETE CHALLENGE Texas Motorplex Set to Play Host to Blazing Side-By-Side Action Ennis, Texas (Sept. 16, 2009) -- When Tim Wilkerson earned the Funny Car victory at the 2008 O'Reilly Super Start Batteries...
FUNNY CAR COMPETITION READY FOR ALL-CONCRETE CHALLENGE
Texas Motorplex Set to Play Host to Blazing Side-By-Side Action
Ennis, Texas (Sept. 16, 2009) -- When Tim Wilkerson earned the Funny Car victory at the 2008 O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals, he thought he had the world at his beck and call.
Wilkerson and his Levi, Ray and Shoup Shelby Mustang drove into first place in the Funny Car standings after the Dallas event in '08 by beating Tony Pedregon -- the driver in first place at the start of the 2008 Countdown.
"Well, obviously, (the 2008 Texas Motorplex win) was just huge for us, and we really thought we had the world by the tail just about then," Wilkerson said. "We came into the Countdown in the top spot, then when we won Dallas we felt really good about our chances and kind of allowed ourselves to think that maybe (the championship) was meant to be.
"We went right from there and won Memphis, but we learned a big lesson after that. Like they say, 'it ain't over 'til it's over,' and Cruz Pedregon answered our back-to-back wins and trumped us by winning the last three races to take the championship."
Going into the 2009 Countdown playoff series of six events, Tony Pedregon leads the Funny Car pack.
Wilkerson is in sixth place, hoping to make a similar move up the standings with another victory at the Texas Motorplex when the 24th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals comes for the 2009 stop (Sept. 24-27). The Motorplex is the second of six playoff events in 2009.
Wilkerson won't have to worry about Cruz Pedregon this year --he missed the Countdown cut. But he will have Tony Pedregon, four John Force Racing cars and five other anxious teams to contend with as he seeks his first NHRA Funny Car championship.
Ashley Force Hood, fresh off her victory at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, is in third place in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. John Force is in seventh place with his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Mike Neff (Force Racing Ford Mustang) and Robert Hight (Auto Club Ford Mustang) are ninth and 10th, respectively.
"We are really excited to be returning to the Texas Motorplex for the second race of the Countdown," Force Hood said. "The track is in good shape and since this race falls at the end of September, we are hoping for cool conditions and I think fans will see great times and speed and some amazing races at this event. Every round of the Countdown from qualifying to the finals is critical and we hope to be doing both very well at the Dallas event."
Hight managed to slip into the 10th and final Countdown spot at the U.S. Nationals -- the last of 18 opportunities racers had to qualify for the 10 Countdown positions. Only the top 10 drivers in each professional category are eligible for the playoffs and quest for a championship title.
Hight earned the 2006 Funny Car victory at the Motorplex and believes his team is poised to continue a recent upswing in performance.
"My Auto Club Mustang's performance has really been coming around the last couple of races," Hight said. "Our team earned the No. 1 qualifier in Indy and almost beat Ashley in the final. I am looking forward to getting to some of the tracks that are constructed to be high performance tracks. The Texas Motorplex is definitely one of those tracks with its all-concrete racing surface and great conditions. I have been to the winner's circle there before and I'd like to get back there this year. Billy Meyer (Texas Motorplex owner) was a great funny car driver and to be able to win at his track is a big deal to me."
Waco resident and legendary drag racer Billy Meyer opened the Motorplex in 1986. Meyer had the benefit of a Funny Car racing career to help create the sport's first super stadium that rewarded fans with some of the best seating in racing while equally benefiting the competitors with an all-concrete racing surface that serves up more consistent racing surfaces in both lanes.
He knows the racers look forward to competing on the Motorplex surface and makes sure the Motorplex staff has the quickest and fastest surface possible.
"We built this facility so that both fans and racers win when coming to the Motorplex," Meyer said. "We're proud to provide our fans the best racing at a great facility that does everything possible to make sure racers can put on the best performance possible for the people sitting in the seats."
Wilkerson is hoping to get another serving of Texas hospitality next week when the competition lines up on the all-concrete surface for some heated side-by-side racing.
"Winning at the Motorplex is a great deal because the Texas fans are terrific and it's a unique atmosphere at a great track," Wilkerson said. "We loved winning there, and we'd love to do it again, for sure. This time, if we're in the hunt for the championship, we'll be on a mission to keep it going and not let anyone sneak up on us, right to the end."
Sportsman qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 24. The first of four rounds of professional qualifying is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sept. 25, continuing at 4:45 p.m. that evening. Qualifying wraps up with sessions at 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 27.
Tickets for all four days of racing can be purchased by phone at 800-MOTORPLEX (800-688-6775); www.texasmotorplex.com; or through Ticketmaster.