Tim Wilkerson raced to his second victory in three NHRA Funny Car events Sunday at zMAX Dragway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)
Tim Wilkerson raced to his second victory in three NHRA Funny Car events Sunday at zMAX Dragway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

Wilkerson Strikes Again During Carolina Nationals

CONCORD, N.C. — When Tim Wilkerson won the Funny Car portion of the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend, it was his first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series triumph in five years.

He made sure he didn’t have to wait that long for his next one.

Wilkerson motored to his second Funny Car victory in three races Sunday, outrunning Cruz Pedregon in the final round during the DeWalt Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Josh Hart (Top Fuel), Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in North Carolina.

Wilkerson, piloting his Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang, showed speed when it counted most during the Funny Car final. His 3.927-second pass at 331.36 mph allowed him to outrun Pedregon, who crossed the line in 3.947 seconds at 325.53 mph. 

The veteran Funny Car driver defeated Bob Tasca III, 16-time class champion John Force and Ron Capps on his way to the final. Initially it appeared Wilkerson had been knocked out by Force in the quarterfinals, but Force was disqualified for clipping a timing block and Wilkerson moved on. 

“The same three champions I beat at Indy I beat here,” Wilkerson said. “I think we should just run Matt Hagan for a bonus run just to see if I can beat another one. Call him back. Or J.R. (Todd), either one.”

On top of that, Wilkerson was down several crew members due to various injuries. One crew member was injured Sunday when he took a torque wrench to the side of the head while thrashing to prepare the car. 

“First round I come back and my clutch guy, there’s blood running down the top of his head where the guy taking a cylinder head off smacked him with a torque wrench,” Wilkerson said. “I took him up into the lounge, mopped him all off, superglued his head back together, put a bandage on top of it, he does his job and we win the race.”

Sampey secured an emotional victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle by downing Joey Gladstone in the final round, though initially it looked like it was going to be Gladstone celebrating at the end of the race.

Gladstone got a huge jump at the line with a .030 second reaction time compared to Sampey’s .113 light. Gladstone led almost the entire way, but just as they were nearing the finish line Gladstone’s bike inexplicably lost power. 

“I was late, I took a little nap,” Sampey said of her final round reaction time.

It turned out the kill switch, which is attached to each rider’s wrist incase of emergency, had accidentally come loose and shut down Gladstone’s bike. Sampey was there to capitalize, earning her 44th career victory as a result. She dedicated the victory to her hometown in Mathews, La., which was struck by Hurricane Ida three weeks ago.

“I feel like my race day started three weeks ago when Hurricane Ida hit my hometown,” said Sampey, who earned her first win on the Vance & Hines four-valve Suzuki. “I wanted to win the U.S. Nationals and Eddie (Krawiec) took that from me, I wanted to win the last race (in Reading, Pa.) and Steve Johnson took that from me. Then this race I didn’t really even think I was going to make it to the final.”

Sampey and Gladstone both wanted to win for Cory Reed, who was taken to a local hospital for evaluation earlier in the day after a violent crash in his quarterfinal matchup with Gladstone that saw him fly off his bike after the two teammates made contact after finish line. Reed was awake and alert after the incident. 

“I felt very guilty, especially after what happened with Cory and I know how bad Joey wants this,” said Sampey, who beat Ryan Oehler, Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec on her way to the final. “It was probably the least happiest I’ve ever been to win. I was emotionally torn because I wanted to win it so bad for my friends and family back home. I wanted to win it for my team, I wanted to win it for Vance & Hines and Mission, but I hated to take it away from Joey in that fashion.”

Hart emerged as the winner in the Top Fuel class in a thrilling battle with new class point leader Brittany Force. Hart got the jump on Brittany Force off the starting line and led the entire way, crossing the line to register a 3.770-second pass at 324.12 mph. Brittany Force came up short with a 3.751-second run at 320.05 mph.

“The real magic happens in the pits. It’s not on the track,” Hart said. “Watching them is like a well orchestrated symphony. That’s where the praise needs to go. Happy that I could return the favor for them in the finals.”

The part-time Top Fuel competitor bested Alex Laughlin, Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley on his way to the finals. It’s Hart’s second victory, with his first coming in his Top Fuel debut earlier this year during the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. He’s now made eight Top Fuel starts and won twice. 

Koretsky played spoiler for Greg Anderson, who was attempting to become the all-time Pro Stock class wins leader Sunday afternoon. Instead Koretsky secured his first Pro Stock triumph by running down Anderson after the 97-time race winner got the jump on Koretsky at the start.

At the line it was Koretsky who took the victory with a 6.629-second run at 207.27 mph. Anderson came up short with a 6.639-second pass at 208.20 mph. His first triumph came in Koretsky’s 21st Pro Stock start.

“This is huge. This is all I wanted my whole life,” Koretsky said. “I just raced Greg Anderson in the final and he’s going for a world record, the winningest driver in history, and I just defeated him. I feel bad, but I feel great. This is the first Wally for my family.”

Koretsky bested Cristian Cuadra, rookie Dallas Glenn and Wally Stroupe on his way to his final round showdown with Anderson.

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