Tuesday, June 11, 2013


BRISTOL, Tenn. – Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson has done just about everything but win a race through nine events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Wilkerson, who is currently sixth in points, has advanced to one final and grabbed four semifinals finishes in the loaded Funny Car class, making him one of the highest drivers in points in the class without a victory.

The driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang hopes to change that stat and break into the win column for the first time this season at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 14-16 at legendary Bristol Dragway. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2HD.

Wilkerson has continued to build momentum in his 8,000-horsepower Funny Car, qualifying fourth or better at four of the last five races. That hot stretch has also included all four semifinal appearances and a trip to the finals at Houston in April, allowing him to steadily move up the points standings.

Now, the Springfield, Ill. native, looking for his first win since 2011, hopes to finish the job in Bristol.

“I guess that says something about us being good overall lately, but we haven't gotten the prize yet this year,” Wilkerson said. “As for being next in line, I never really feel that way. So many little things can trip you up out here and get in the way of a win, in any round not just the race, it's hard to look ahead and say we're next in line. I'd like to think we're always in line, and if you are then one of these days it might happen for you.”

In terms of picking a venue to score his first win of the season, historic Bristol Dragway would rank near the top of the list for Wilkerson. He has never won at the state-of-the-art facility which is nestled in the rolling hills of Northeast Tennessee. He lost in the 2010 final round to that season’s eventual world champion, John Force.

“It's a great place to race, more than anything else,” Wilkerson said. “A great track, great fans, and one of the more scenic places you'll ever see with a drag strip running down the middle of it. We've had some success there, and we felt like we probably should've won in 2010, but we had a little glitch that shut the car off and put out the 'chutes. I'd sure like to win there, that's for sure.”

A victory in Bristol would also keep Wilkerson on the heels of current Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan, giving the team a definite boost heading into a grueling stretch of four consecutive race weekends.

Defending Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman and Wilkerson are the only drivers in the top seven without a win, a nod to how competitive the class has been through nine events.

That being said, another strong finish in Wilkerson’s recent surge would ensure he remains in the mix for the 2013 Countdown to the Championship.

“The class really is competitive and what we've seen at some of these recent races, where we only got two qualifying runs instead of four, was that everyone stumbles from time to time and everyone can run fast too,” Wilkerson said. “When you only have two (qualifying) sessions, you get kind of a snapshot of what everyone did that one day, instead of over two days, and we had great cars scattered from 1 to 16. With all that in mind, you better believe it's important to earn every single point you can get. After that nerve-wracking 'late inning rally' we put on last year in Indy, I'd prefer to not have to go through that again.”

Other pre-race favorites in Funny Car are two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, multi-time Bristol winner Capps, 2012 rookie of the year Courtney Force, and past Bristol winners Robert Hight and Del Worsham.

All of the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be competing for a victory on Father’s Day weekend at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.  

In Top Fuel, seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, who has won five times at Bristol Dragway and broke a 32-race winless drought with his win at the storied track last year. There are plenty of championship contenders in the class, including points leader Shawn Langdon, who became the first driver in the class to pick up three wins this season. Other standouts include defending world champ Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Bob Vandergriff and veteran driver Doug Kalitta.

In Pro Stock, red-hot points leader Mike Edwards, a four-time defending event winner in Bristol, looks to keep up his remarkable pace at the track and during his 2013 season. Edwards enters the race with three event victories and eight No. 1 qualifying positions this season at the controls of his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Local favorite Allen Johnson, the defending Pro Stock world champ who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, hopes this is the year he wins a race at Thunder Valley in front of his family and friends after losing the 2012 final to Edwards in what was the closest race of the NHRA season. Along with Jeg Coughlin, who is currently second in points, others to watch in Pro Stock include Erica Enders-Stevens, Shane Gray, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Vincent Nobile.

As always, every ticket purchased for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is an exclusive pit pass, allowing spectators to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their sophisticated hot rods between rounds. Fans can also meet many of the drivers in the pits and get autographs.

Fans also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway. On Saturday evening following qualifying, a special Fan Fest will be held in Nitro Alley, where more than 25 of the top NHRA Mello Yello Series stars will be available to meet fans in one of the largest autograph sessions on the circuit.

Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, June 14 with the first session at 5:30 p.m., followed by another session under the lights at 7:30 p.m. When 8,000-horsepower nitro machines blast off from the starting line with their header pipes full of flames during night qualifying, the scene provides one of the most sensory-filled experiences for any race motorsports fan. A spectacular fireworks show is planned to finish off Friday’s night racing.

The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 15 at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, June 16.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will be showcased during the event, featuring exciting side-by-side racing action at more than 250 mph.

To purchase tickets for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this Father’s Day weekend, please call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679 or visit www.thundervalleytix.com.   For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.

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WHAT: 13th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, the 10th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE: Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. From Interstate 81 North, take Hwy. 11E. Take the Virginia Exit 3 and Hwy. 11E will take you directly to the dragway. From the I-81 South, take Tennessee exit 69 and go south on Hwy 394 directly to the dragway.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 14-16

FRIDAY, June 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, June 15 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m.; First round of eliminations at 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, June 16 - Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon.

Saturday, June 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of coverage starting at 1 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of coverage starting at 11 p.m. (ET).

SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):      
Friday, June 14, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Saturday, June 15, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Sunday, June 16, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C       
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.

2012 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Mike Edwards, 4, PS; John Force, 3, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC.

TRACK RECORDS:            
Top Fuel - 3.796 seconds by Shawn Langdon, June ’12; 324.98 mph by Spencer Massey, June ’12.
Funny Car - 4.047 seconds by Robert Hight, June ’11; 316.45 mph by Hight, June ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.633 seconds by Mike Edwards, May ’09; 207.94 mph by Greg Anderson, May ’09.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679. Tickets also available at www.thundervalleytix.com.   

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GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel: 1.  Shawn Langdon, 746; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 742; 3.  Antron Brown, 626; 4.  Spencer Massey, 615; 5.  Khalid alBalooshi, 544; 6.  Doug Kalitta, 510; 7.  Brandon Bernstein, 445; 8.  Morgan Lucas, 441; 9.  Bob Vandergriff, 415; 10.  Clay Millican, 396.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 689; 2.  Johnny Gray, 645; 3.  Cruz Pedregon, 639; 4.  Ron Capps, 544; 5.  Jack Beckman, 543; 6.  Tim Wilkerson, 534; 7.  Courtney Force, 522; 8.  Robert Hight, 483; 9.  Del Worsham, 476; 10.  John Force, 437.

Pro Stock: 1.  Mike Edwards, 853; 2.  Jeg Coughlin, 701; 3.  Allen Johnson, 698; 4.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 586; 5.  Jason Line, 582; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 538; 7.  Shane Gray, 517; 8.  Greg Anderson, 455; 9.
V. Gaines, 435; 10.  Rodger Brogdon, 388.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Hector Arana Jr, 417; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck, 266; 3.  Hector Arana, 265; 4.  Michael Ray, 260; 5.  John Hall, 243; 6.  Eddie Krawiec, 226; 7.  Matt Smith, 212; 8.  Steve Johnson, 200; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 194; 10.  Shawn Gann, 187.