NHRA Teams Head to Norwalk Raceway Park

By NHRA

Greg Anderson Eyes Another Pro Stock Sweep In Norwalk

Last year Greg Anderson said he “took every nickel they had to give” when his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP team swept the big money weekend of Pro Stock racing at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

Anderson used the momentum he gained from winning the event Pro Stock title and the bonus K&N Horsepower Challenge in what he called at the time “beyond a dream weekend,” to fuel his run for a fourth NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championship title.

Pro Stock Champion Greg Anderson
Pro Stock Champion Greg Anderson

Photo by: Ted Rossino

Anderson returns to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park looking to catch lighting in a bottle once again at the Fifth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 23-26, which also will feature the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge. In addition to Anderson (Pro Stock), other defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

Anderson enters this event in third place in the point standings with his one victory this season coming at his home track in Charlotte, N.C. While he’s certainly solidly in the mix to make the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs, Anderson says he and all of his teammates at KB Racing always circle this date on their calendar very early, as it is certainly like a “Super Bowl” weekend for Pro Stock racers.

With its spot on the schedule during the final seven races of the regular season, it’s a pivotal race where a team can start a hot streak just in time for the playoffs. Anderson is well versed in how that strategy works.

“We’re definitely ahead of where we were last year at this time, and we have so many things going well as a team that I just know we are going to get better as time goes on, hopefully hitting our stride when we get to those final six races,” Anderson said. “To be honest, I have a lot more confidence than I did last year. We’re showing more consistency, with more opportunities for success than we did a year ago at this time, and I think we’re on to a few things that will make this race team better over the next few months. It’s certainly not a gimme by any means, but I like our odds.”

No matter the outcome of the race, Anderson is assured of having a blast at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, home of the famous “B Guarantee,” that includes a pound of ice cream for a buck, among other fan-friendly ammenities. Not to mention the fact that the event will be populated with plenty of folks wearing Summit Racing Equipment shirts, just like Anderson.

“For us, racing in Norwalk has a home town feel because of all the Summit people who will be there,” Anderson said. “It’s just a beautiful facility, and the Baders (track owners) put so much into the racetrack that you just enjoy going there. You know everything will be taken care of, allowing you to focus on running your race car.

“You can see why Summit jumped on board and put their name on the event and on the racetrack – they like to associate themselves with people who go the extra mile. The Baders do everything to make sure it’s a first class event for both the racers and the fans, making it a very special race. We love going there, and love the Bader family for what they’ve done.”

While Anderson tries to claim his second win of the season and back-to-back wins at one of his sponsor’s title events on the circuit, one of the main opponents he’ll have to beat in order to get the job done is his teammate, current points leader Jason Line. Line has raced to three victories this season and sits atop the series standings. Line won this event in 2009 but has never won the K&N Horsepower Challenge.

“He’s been a pain in my side all season, and I’d probably feel a lot better about my season if it wasn’t for him (laughs), but from a team, standpoint thank God he has,” Anderson said. “He’s done great, not only for himself, but for KB Racing, and he’s going to continue to do well. I feel good about that, because every week he proves exactly what kind of potential we have. The fact that he is doing so well makes me happy, because I know we are going to get my Summit Pontiac turned around and performing as well as he is. It would be a lot worse if both our cars were running poorly, but with his car performing as well as it is, I know where I can be.”

Line won’t be the only driver he’ll have to contend with. He’ll face Valvoline Chevy driver Ron Krisher in the opening round of the K&N Challenge and plenty of other talented drivers all weekend, including Bristol finalists Mike Edwards and Erica Enders, Greg Stanfield, hotshot rookie Vincent Nobile, national record holder Rodger Brogdon, Topeka winner Shane Gray and 2008 Challenge winner Allen Johnson.

“I know it’s a cliché, and I say it every year, but the competition just gets tougher every year,” Anderson said. “Just as happened in NASCAR and just about every form of motorsport, ten years ago you had two great teams who knew what it took to win. Five years ago you had four great teams, three years ago you had six until this year where you have twelve teams all capable of winning. It just progresses every year, and I don’t expect it to change moving forward. As time goes on, everyone works harder and gets smarter, and, as a result, you have more players in the field.”

In Top Fuel, the Al-Anabi Racing tandem of Del Worsham and defending world champ Larry Dixon – who won his first race of the season last weekend at Bristol – hold down the top two spots. Spencer Massey and Antron Brown have won two races each this season and Morgan Lucas has won once. A few top drivers are patiently waiting for their first wins of the season, including Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein.

In Funny Car, Mike Neff is leading the way by pulling double duty as both driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Already a two-time champ as a crew chief in past seasons, Neff is trying to earn his first as a driver. His teammate, Robert Hight, is a four-time winner this season and looks poised to claim a second world championship title in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Others to watch in the 7,000 horsepower category include Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps and 15-time world champ John Force.

***

Tim Wilkerson Looking For More Norwalk Magic As Full Throttle Countdown To The Championship Looms On Horizon

With only seven races remaining in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season, many teams are starting to take inventory of their status as a top 10 points finish becomes the primary goal in order to land a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoff.

Tim Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson

Photo by: Ted Rossino

While the competition is tight in all four classes, as many as eight drivers could find themselves in a heated battle for the final four spots in the Funny Car top 10.

Veteran racer Tim Wilkerson is one driver who is currently attached to the dreaded 11th spot, on the outside looking in.

However, the Springfield, Ill. racer can draw some confidence from the fact that it was about this time last year when a victory at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals provided the spark to move him out of the cut zone and into the playoffs.

Wilkerson hopes to summon the same magic this weekend and turn around the fortunes of his season at the Fifth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 23-26 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. Joining Wilkerson (Funny Car) as defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

“That was a pretty big deal, because we had won Gainesville in March but then went a whole bunch of races without doing too much,” Wilkerson said. “The race before Norwalk, in Bristol, we got to the final and lost to (John) Force when we had an engine malfunction, so we felt pretty good going into Norwalk but you never know if the success you had the week before will follow along with you or leave you stranded, if you know what I mean. To run so well there, and to beat John in the final was a big deal to us, and really got us into the thick of the Countdown thing. Before then, we were sort of hanging on by our teeth to stay in the Top 10.”

So far Wilkerson’s best effort this season behind the wheel of his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang has been a final round effort at the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. Lately some really strong qualifying efforts – including a second at Houston, third at Englishtown and fifth last weekend at Bristol – have been very encouraging for the team. However, on race day, bizarre things have been happening, resulting in more than their share of first round losses.

Wilkerson knows that he’ll need to turn his qualifying excellence into race day excellence to gain the points he’ll need to jockey with the competitors who are also hungry to grab one of those top 10 spots, including Johnny Gray, Ron Capps, Jim Head and Tony Pedregon to name a few.

“Well, nobody is going to back up and hand us a spot, so we’re going to have to run a little better on Sunday to make it, and I think we're about ready to do that,” Wilkerson said. “Other than in Atlanta, we’ve been qualifying really strong lately, so that tells me we have a fast race car. On Sunday, that fast race car wants to get over-center on me every now and then, so we’re working on calming it down so we can win some rounds. Last year, the win in Norwalk really got us going, so maybe we can do that again.”

At Norwalk, for the second consecutive race, Wilkerson will have a teammate. His son Dan, who raced alongside him on Father’s Day in Bristol, will drive his Summit Racing Equipment Ford Mustang in Ohio. Dan qualified 16th at Bristol and lost in the first round to top qualifier Bob Tasca when his car broke after performing the burnout.

Wilkerson says while it adds a bit of stress and pressure to his tuning responsibilities during the race weekend, it’s really cool to have his son driving one of the team’s cars.

“It’s very special, and it’s something we’ve talked about and aimed for since he was a little kid,” Wilkerson said. “The first time we put him in a Junior Dragster, he went out there like he’d been doing it his whole life and was just cool as a cucumber. It might’ve only been a Junior Dragster, but the way he handled himself told me, right then, that the kid’s a racer. He's been that cool every step up the ladder, and just last weekend he went bracket racing, just for fun, and worked his way through six rounds to win the race in Havana, Ill. Can you tell I'm a proud papa? It’s a great deal to be able to race with Dan. I’m really proud of him.”

He looks forward to the day when Dan will be a full-time driver and join the ultra-competitive ranks of Funny Car, where it can be difficult to make the Countdown to the Championship. A host of strong frontrunners are leading the way this season including points leader Mike Neff, four-time winner Robert Hight, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon and last season’s championship runner-up, Matt Hagan. You can never count out defending and 15-time world champ John Force, who currently sits eighth in the standings without a win. Wilkerson realizes the category is stacked with talent.

“Right now, we have 15 or 16 really strong teams, and then some regional teams that come in and keep us honest,” Wilkerson said. “The thing is, the best teams out here now are better than ever, and that makes it tough. When we show up and start qualifying, the first thing on your mind is making sure you get in the show. There are no sure things.”

In Top Fuel, the Al-Anabi Racing tandem of Del Worsham and defending world champ Larry Dixon – who won his first race of the season last weekend at Bristol – hold down the top two spots. Spencer Massey and Antron Brown have won two races each this season and Morgan Lucas has won once. A few top drivers are patiently waiting for their first wins of the season, including Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein.

Jason Line is leading the way in Pro Stock with three victories behind the wheel of his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. His teammate Anderson is the defending race winner as well as the defending winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, which is contested at this event. The 2009 world champ, Mike Edwards, is back to his winning ways, while Greg Stanfield has been a strong runner for several seasons. Rookie Vincent Nobile, national record holder Rodger Brogdon, Topeka winner Shane Gray and Bristol runner-up Erica Enders are all looking for more success in the 200 mph category.

***

SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: Fifth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 10th 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: Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, Norwalk, Ohio. The track is located at 1300 State Route 18, half way between Cleveland and Toledo; just an hour and a half north of Columbus. The Ohio Turnpike is less than 10 minutes away.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, June 23-26.

SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, June 23
LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.

FRIDAY, June 24
LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m.

GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

SATURDAY, June 25
LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations continue at 8 a.m.

GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 10:30 a.m. and first round of eliminations at 1:40 p.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:40 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.

K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:50 p.m.

SUNDAY, June 26
Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:
Saturday, June 25, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, June 26, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 2, TF; Greg Anderson, 2, PS; Andrew Hines, 2, PSM.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.780 seconds by Larry Dixon, June ’10; 320.43 mph by Dixon, June ’10.

Funny Car – 4.032 seconds by Ashley Force Hood, June ’10; 313.15 mph by Del Worsham, June ’10.

Pro Stock – 6.592 seconds by Jeg Coughlin, June ’10; 209.30 mph by Allen Johnson, June ’10.

PS Motorcycle – 6.929 seconds by Steve Johnson, June ’10; 194.49 mph by Andrew Hines, June ’10.

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: For tickets, call (419) 668-5555 or purchase online at www.summitmotorsportspark.tix.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $12; Junior (6-12 years), free. Friday: Adult, $32; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday: Adult, $45; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $45; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Children five years and under admitted free to general admission and pit areas each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $42; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years & under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $55; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years & under), $10. Sunday: Adult, $55; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years & under), $10

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Rodger Brogdon , Matthew Smith , Steve Johnson , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , Shane Gray , Vincent Nobile , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey
Tags funny car, nhra, pro stock, top fuel