Series heads north to Brainerd Int'l Speedway

NHRA

Wilkerson looking for third consecutive final round to boost his countdown to the championship chances


Tim Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson

Photo by: Ted Rossino

It has been a slow and steady climb for veteran Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson, who has clawed his way into position to make the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs. At one point during the season, the Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang driver was mired as low as 14th in the standings.

The Springfield, Ill. driver had a great Western Swing, posting a runner-up finish at Sonoma, Calif. and claiming his first victory and No. 1 qualifying position in more than a year at Seattle. The net result is that Wilkerson jumped to ninth in the standings and now appears solidly in the mix as the final two races of the regular season approach.

For insurance, Wilkerson will focus on moving up another points position or two by trying to keep his final round streak going at the 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 18-21 at scenic Brainerd International Raceway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Bode (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.

Wilkerson realized that if he was going to make a move to get into the playoffs it would need to be during the Western Swing, a part of the season where he’s had some recent success.

“There’s no doubt about it that we got hot at the right time, although this year I think we strung it out a little too far,” Wilkerson said. “We got to the point where it really was ‘now or never’ and that just happened to line up with the time when we were really getting a good handle on the car. It’s been a challenging year, and it was almost like you could throw away a bunch of our early races when we weren’t getting much done. Before Denver, the car was showing what we have now, but we didn’t have any racing luck and that can wear the team down faster than running bad. We had to stick together as a team while we kept the car running strong, and we managed to do that.”

Following a final round effort at the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Wilkerson posted five first round losses over the next seven races. His fortunes started to turn in Denver, when he qualified 10th and advanced to the quarterfinals. He followed that with the runner-up at Infineon Raceway and then won for the third consecutive year at Pacific Raceways.

“We have as much confidence, right now, as we’ve had all year,” said Wilkerson, who enters the penultimate race in the regular season 46 points in front of 10th place driver Bob Tasca. “We’ve got a real good handle on the car, and on things like the clutch that were driving us nuts earlier in the season, so we feel pretty good about our chances every lap now. It wasn’t that way earlier, so that’s a big step forward for us.”

During his back-to-back final rounds in Sonoma and Seattle, Wilkerson knocked off some of the category’s top competitors in head-to-head meetings, including defending world champ John Force, second place points sitter Robert Hight and Jack Beckman, who is currently third in the standings. As an independent team owner, he knows he’ll have to continue to beat the top cars from the John Force Racing and Don Schumacher Racing stables to contend for victories and the championship as the season moves into its latter stages.

“I won’t kid you and say it doesn’t mean anything to us when we knock off the biggest hitters out here,” Wilkerson said. “It means a lot to me, to Dick Levi and LRS, and to our guys. There’s some good mojo in playing the David vs. Goliath thing and coming out on top, and you can see our guys strutting around with some pride right now. They earned it, and that sort of intensity and pride can keep building.”

Wilkerson trails eighth place driver Jeff Arend by less than one round and his goal is to move into that spot before the playoffs kick off. He knows that his LRS Mustang is sitting directly in the sightlines of both Tasca and 11th place Johnny Gray. Tony Pedregon, who won at BIR in 2008 and 2009, will need to create some more “Minnesota Magic” if he’s going to make the Countdown, as he’s in 12th, 119 points behind Tasca.

“Momentum is a funny thing in this sport, because the car doesn’t care,” Wilkerson said. “It’s good for the crew guys, because I don’t think there’s any getting around the fact that they work a little bit better, harder, and with more focus when they’re feeling good about the results. So that’s good, and hopefully we’ll continue to have some success on the track. The thing now is that we have a real chance to move up to eighth if we can keep doing any good, so that’s what we’re after, and after that we just want to feel good about ourselves as we enter the playoffs.”

In Top Fuel, former Funny Car racer Del Worsham has posted six victories in seven finals in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and holds a nice lead over second place Spencer Massey, driver of the FRAM/Prestone dragster. Antron Brown and Larry Dixon have posted wins this season while seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher – a three-time winner at BIR – is still looking for his first victory of the season in his U.S. Army dragster. Those battling on the bubble in Top Fuel include 10th place David Grubnic and Terry McMillen and Bob Vandergriff, who are both less than two rounds outside the top 10.

Minnesota natives Jason Line and Greg Anderson return to their home track at the top of the standings in Pro Stock behind the wheel of their Summit Racing Pontiac GXPs. Line holds the lead with four victories, while Anderson has three victories and trails Line by 27 points. Other pre-race favorites in the 200 mph category include Mike Edwards, rookie Vincent Nobile, red-hot Erica Enders and the always tough Allen Johnson. Several drivers are locked in a tight battle for the final two positions in the Countdown, including Shane Gray, Ron Krisher, Larry Morgan, Ronnie Humphrey and V. Gaines.

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Minnesota natives Line and Anderson have Pro Stock momentum heading into Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals


Jason Line, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP
Jason Line, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Two of Minnesota’s native racing sons will return to the North Star State this weekend, one as the current NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series points leader in Pro Stock and the other as the defending NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world champion.

Yes, two local boys – Jason Line and Greg Anderson – have done good. Very good.

The Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP duo will certainly have plenty of good things to share with the many family and friends who join them at Brainerd International Raceway this weekend. The two past NHRA world champions are multi-time winners this season and are locked in an intense battle for the No. 1 seed in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, as Anderson trails Line by 27 points in the series standings.

They will try to win their hometown race and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the competitors in the 200 mph category at the 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 18-21 at the popular northern Minnesota multi-purpose motorsports facility. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Bode (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Anderson grew up in Duluth, while Line cut his racing teeth in nearby Wright, Minn. Both have since relocated to the Charlotte , N.C. area where their race shop is situated, but each driver looks forward to this date on the racing schedule each season with great anticipation.

“It’s obviously special for both Jason and I to race in Brainerd because our parents, our aunts and uncles, our friends and a lot of people we went to school with still live there,” Anderson said. “It’s the only time of the year I really get to see them, and it’s neat to go back and race in front of them, showing them what we’ve been able to accomplish. I also enjoy racing in Minnesota because it takes me back to when I would go with my dad to the track when he was racing his Hemi Barracuda in B Modified Production. I guess that was the spark that got me started, and being home just reminds me of those days. Besides, knowing there are all those people in the stands pulling for you can be a tremendous morale booster, almost like a home field advantage. It’s an intangible that goes in our corner every time we compete in Brainerd, and why we enjoy racing there.”

Line also looks forward to spending some time with his family and friends. This time around, he’d like to host a celebration on Sunday evening. The track was a big part of his Stock world championship run back in 1993, but he has been shut out of the winner’s circle there during his Pro Stock career, having lost to Dave Connolly in the final in 2006 and Anderson in 2009.

“It’s the one race on the schedule I want to win more than any other, and even though I’ve come close, I’ve yet to make it to the winner’s circle there,” Line said. “Hopefully, we can take care of that this year. As well as my Summit Racing Pontiac has been running, I think we have as good a chance as anyone.”

Line has raced to four victories, including titles at Pomona, Gainesville, Atlanta and Seattle. In three of those final rounds, he beat Anderson. Meanwhile, Anderson has posted victories at Charlotte, Chicago and Sonoma. All of these final round appearances have put the two drivers at the top of the Pro Stock category.

“Having our two Summit Pontiacs fighting for the No. 1 spot in the Countdown is the ideal situation for any two-car team,” Line said. “It just says a lot about this KB Racing team, and their commitment to doing everything to the best of their abilities. In fact, we’d like nothing better than to have it come down to just the two of us battling for the championship at the last race in Pomona. It will take a lot of skill, hard work and luck, but the potential is there.”

For Anderson, who pulled off an emotional championship victory last year as the team had to fight through a huge amount of adversity throughout the season and even after the season, the work the team has done this year is just a credit to their overall tenacity, he says.

“When you consider that we spent most of our off-season rebuilding after our transporter fire in November, the fact that Jason and I are currently 1-2 in the points having won three of the last four races is a testament to the ability and dedication of this KB Racing crew,” Anderson said. “Jason and I are the guys that are lucky enough to drive these great hot rods, but we couldn’t do it without a lot of hard work by everyone on this team. It’s great to see their efforts paying off, but we also know there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of races to be run, so we can’t back off even for a minute, because the competition in Pro Stock is that close.”

That competition includes 2009 world champ Mike Edwards, who has won three times this season behind the wheel of his Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP, and rookie Vincent Nobile, who has won twice in his Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger. Erica Enders, who has been to two finals and claimed two No. 1 qualifying positions, is on the verge of an historic first win, while veteran driver Allen Johnson has been very fast in his Team Mopar Avenger recently after a slow start to the season.

While those drivers are trying to move up in the standings before the Countdown, several Pro Stock drivers are locked in a tight battle to claim the final two positions in the Countdown, including Shane Gray, Ron Krisher, Larry Morgan, Ronnie Humphrey and V. Gaines.

In Top Fuel, former Funny Car racer Del Worsham has posted six victories in seven finals in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and holds a nice lead over second place Spencer Massey, driver of the FRAM/Prestone dragster. Antron Brown and Larry Dixon have posted wins this season while seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher – a three-time winner at BIR – is still looking for his first victory of the season in his U.S. Army dragster. Those battling on the bubble in Top Fuel include 10th place David Grubnic and Terry McMillen and Bob Vandergriff, who are both less than two rounds outside the top 10.

Mike Neff has been pulling double-duty this season in Funny Car as both driver and crew chief for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and has posted strong results as his four victories in seven final rounds have pushed him into the series points lead. His teammate, Robert Hight, is close behind in his Auto Club Mustang, also with four victories. Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and John Force, Jeff Arend and Tim Wilkerson have all advanced to the winner’s circle this season and would like to add another title to their collection. Bob Tasca sits on the bubble in 10th, 95 points ahead of Johnny Gray and 119 up on two-time world champ Tony Pedregon.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class returns at BIR with Karen Stoffer leading the way on her GEICO Powersports Suzuki, followed by two-time season winner Eddie Krawiec on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson and three-time season winner and defending world champ LE Tonglet, who rides the Nitro Fish Suzuki. Defending winner Hines, Matt Smith, Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana and surging Michael Phillips are all among those to watch in the two-wheel category. As many as seven riders are floating around the bubble, including Jerry Savoie, local favorite Jim Underdahl, rookie Hector Arana Jr., David Hope, Chip Ellis, Steve Johnson and Angie Smith.

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LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport’s current stars.

WHERE: Brainerd International Raceway and Resort, Brainerd, Minn. Track is located a few miles north of the Brainerd area off Highway 371. The track is located on the east side of the highway.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 18-21.

SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, Aug. 18 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9:30 a.m.

FRIDAY, Aug. 19 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, Aug. 20 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, Aug. 21 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:
Saturday, Aug. 20, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Aug. 21, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two and a half hours of eliminations coverage starting at 10 p.m. (ET).

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Bob Bode, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 11, FC; Joe Amato, 6, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 5, FC/TF.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.786 seconds by Larry Dixon, Aug. ’10; 320.13 mph by Doug Kalitta, Aug. ’10.

Funny Car - 4.057 seconds by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’10; 306.33 mph by Beckman, Aug. ’10.

Pro Stock - 6.593 sec. by Mike Edwards, Aug. ’10; 209.04 mph by Edwards, Aug. ’10.

Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.904 sec. by Andrew Hines, Aug. ’10; 196.82 mph by Hines, Aug. ’05.

NATIONAL RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.

Funny Car - 4.011 sec. by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10, Reading, Pa.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June ’11, Bristol, Tenn.

Pro Stock - 6.495 sec. by Rodger Brogdon, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.

PS Motorcycle – 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.

TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (866) 444-4455. Tickets also are available online at brainerdraceway.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $20; Child (6-12 years), $10. Friday: Adult, $40; Child (6-12 years), $15; Saturday: Adult, $55; Child (6-12 years), $15. Sunday: Adult, $55; Child (6-12 years), $15.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) -Thursday: Adult, $45; Child (6-12 years), $35. Friday: Adult, $65; Child (6-12 years), $40. Saturday: Adult, $80; Child (6-12 years), $40. Sunday: Adult, $80; Child (6-12 years), $40.

CONTACT: NHRA Communications Department, (626) 914-4761. Scott Smith, (317) 281-5049, cell.

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NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES POINT STANDINGS

Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 14th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel: 1. Del Worsham, 1,256; 2. Spencer Massey, 1,130; 3. Antron Brown, 1,086; 4. Tony Schumacher, 1,061; 5. Larry Dixon, 1,034; 6. Doug Kalitta, 751; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 691; 8. Shawn Langdon, 662; 9. Morgan Lucas, 626; 10. David Grubnic, 550.

Funny Car: 1. Mike Neff, 1,132; 2. Robert Hight, 1,007; 3. Jack Beckman, 994; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 909; 5. Matt Hagan, 861; 6. Ron Capps, 828; 7. John Force, 827; 8. Jeff Arend, 729; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 711; 10. Bob Tasca III, 665.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 1,110; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,083; 3. Mike Edwards, 1,059; 4. Vincent Nobile, 905; 5. Erica Enders, 874; 6. Allen Johnson, 872; 7. Rodger Brogdon, 845; 8. Greg Stanfield, 840; 9. Shane Gray, 637; 10. Ron Krisher, 595.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Karen Stoffer, 633; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 608; 3. Matt Smith, 493; 4. LE Tonglet, 487; 5. Andrew Hines, 475; 6. Hector Arana, 459; 7. Jerry Savoie, 394; 8. Michael Phillips, 388; 9. Jim Underdahl, 371; 10. Hector Arana Jr, 334.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Karen Stoffer , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Bob Bode , Rodger Brogdon , Matthew Smith , Michael Phillips , Scott Smith , Jeff Arend , Ronnie Humphrey , Bob Vandergriff , Steve Johnson , Don Schumacher , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Dave Connolly , Bob Tasca III , Hector Arana Jr. , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , Angie Smith , David Hope , LE Tonglet , Shane Gray , Shawn Langdon , Vincent Nobile , Jim Underdahl , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey , Terry McMillen , Jerry Savoie
Tags brainerd, nhra