By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
Ever since buying out Don Schumacher Racing late last summer, Team Owners, Joe and Cathi Maynard of JCM Nitro, have been looking for their first career victory in the Funny Car class with Tim Wilkerson who joined the team earlier this year.
With the NHRA Camping World Series returning to Route 66 Raceway for the first time since 2019, many competitors were also looking to get that elusive victory of the 2023 season. After all four rounds of competition, the ultimate victory went to Tim Wilkerson and the SCAG PowerEquipment Funny Car after Wilkerson joined the team earlier this season.
In the final round, Wilkerson squared off against familiar foe and competitor Ron Capps in the NAPA Racing Toyota Supra. In what was going to be a fierce round of competition, the race was over before it started. When the two Funny Cars raced off the starting line, Capps had a quicker reaction time of .053 compared to Wilkerson’s 0.101.
Despite the faster reaction time, Capps’s parachute came out at the 500 feet mark and Wilkerson’s Funny Car went on by for his first career win of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Season. Wilkerson won with a time of 3.966 at 325.14 mph to secure his 23rd career win of his career.
“I’m trying to keep my emotions in check, but I’m so excited, I’m about to cry. To be this close to home, we have so many people with us this weekend, we’re not going to have a big enough lens for our winner’s circle photo, but it’s very exciting,“ joked Wilkerson, a lifelong resident of Springfield, Ill. “All my grandkids are here, and my wife, and my kids. We have about two dozen close friends here and it was just a great day.
“Randy Gloede, the President and CEO of SCAG, is here and they brought a huge group of several hundred employees out to support us this weekend, so it feels really good to deliver a win for them at this race in particular,” added Wilkerson of his Mayville, Wisc.-based partner.”
The longtime Funny Car driver started out as the No. 5 qualifier and faced Blake Alexander. According to NHRA stats, the qualifier was Wilkerson’s best qualifying spot for the first time in the past 20 races. Wilkerson won the match-up with a 3.980 at 316.60 mph over Alexander’s 4.139 at 277.26 mph. The cylinders went out on Alexander’s machine after leaving the start line allowing Wilkerson to move on by.
Heading into the quarterfinals, the Springfield, Illinois native paired up against Alex Laughlin after Laughlin had a big victory over Matt Hagan in Round 1. In this round, it was the first time ever in both drivers’ careers they had faced each other. Both were similar in reaction time with Wilkerson cutting a light of 0.111 and Laughlin’s 0.114.
Even though both drivers’ had close reaction times, it was Wilkerson who won with a pass of 4.010 at 320.36 mph after Laughlin got off the gas during the race.
With Wilkerson getting another round win, he had a tough opponent in the semi-finals of John Force. Force won over Mike McIntire Jr and teammate Robert Hight in E2. For this match, Force had the advantage heading in with a 45-25 record. Despite having the better record, Wilkerson won again after Force went up in smoke immediately which gave him an automatic shot into the finals and the eventual victory over Capps.
For Capps, he was the runner-up for the third time this season after being the winner of the 2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday afternoon. Capps won over Terry Haddock, Bob Tasca III, and Chad Green before falling short with a pass of 4.110 at 261.83 mph.
“Everybody struggled here. It was tricky,” said Capps, now a three-time runner-up this season. “We’re going to see these kinds of conditions throughout the summer months, so I’m very proud of what our guys did to win the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. That gained us extra points, which was huge. Going to the final round in one of the trickiest days we’ve seen was also huge. Very smart crew chiefs had issues getting down the track for a lot of teams. ‘Guido’ and ‘T-Buck’ and the guys did such a great job all day.
“Heartache not winning in the final, but I’m very pumped to see these next few races and really get ready for the summer months,” Capps added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun with our race team.”
Official NHRA Funny Car Results
- Tim Wilkerson
- Ron Capps
- Chad Green
- John Force
- Bob Tasca III
- Robert Hight
- Cruz Pedregon
- Alex Laughlin
- Terry Haddock
- Blake Alexander
- Matt Hagan
- Dale Creasy Jr
- Alexis DeJoria
- J.R. Todd
- Bobby Bode
- Mike McIntire
Official NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car Points Standings
- Matt Hagan, 468 points
- Ron Capps, -13
- Robert Hight, -40
- Alexis DeJoria, -62
- Tim Wilkerson, -87
- Chad Green, -91
- Bob Tasca III, -117
- John Force, -132
- Cruz Pedregon, -161
- J.R. Todd, -230
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will head next to the New England Nationals, scheduled for June 2-4 with Fox Sports 1 broadcasting the eliminations at Noon eastern time.