SKILLMAN THRILLED TO BE NHRA FACTORY STOCK SHOWDOWN SEASON CHAMPION
Throughout his NHRA career in the Sportsman and Pro Stock ranks, Drew Skillman has never been a world champion.
That’s not the case anymore.
Skillman, who left Pro Stock after the 2018 season, captured the SamTech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class 2019 world championship Oct. 20 following the final event ran in conjunction with the NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
“It was a very interesting switch,” Skillman said. “It was a good decision, obviously, for my father (Bill) and I. My father won the NMCA EFI Factory Super Cars title and I won the Factory Showdown. It’s great to be a world champion.”
Drew finished the season with 571 points to defeat runner-up Arthur Kohn with 506 points. Bill Skillman (498), Stephen Bell (481), and Bo Butner (435) rounded out the top five in the Factory Stock Showdown points. Drew and Bill drove Ford Cobra Jets during the season
Drew, a former Pro Stock standout had a stellar season in the Factory Showdown class. He won three races in Gainesville, Fla., Richmond, Va., and Norwalk, Ohio. Bill Skillman won in Charlotte, N.C. Drew competed in all eight of the Factory Stock Showdown races. Bill missed the Dallas race because he was Europe on a pre-planned trip.
“There were two huge factors,” said Drew about the keys to his success. “One thing, Ford built a fantastic race car. These are Factory race cars and then we massage everything we possibly can within the rules to get them to go a little bit faster. They did a great job giving us a great base. My crew chief Tomi Laine and Dave did an awesome from working on everything from the transmission to converter technology, gear ratios, we went through the gamut this year, especially with all the rule changes.
It has been a marathon of work to try and keep up with all the rule changes with parody and it has been a ton of work.”
And, Drew said putting in the extra hours was never an issue for he and his family and their race teams.
“We’re definitely not scared of work,” Drew said. “There’s no one in my family who is afraid to do it. That’s all we do really. So, when we had a challenge in front of us, it was exciting because it was new. This class is so young and the thing I loved about Pro Stock is how refined everything was. If you screwed up at all, you were slow when you were two hundredths slow. Here (in Factory Stock Showdown) you can be five or sixth hundredths faster than everybody else. That’s incredible in a heads-up class. You knew the harder you worked you were going to see more gains quicker, which is gratifying. If you go and work, you’re a** off three days testing somewhere, you show up at the next race and you’re two hundredths faster. What would a Pro Stock guy do to pick up two hundredths? It’s like a dream come true. I view this the same as Pro Stock as far the way I approach it and the mental capacity, just with a much-better schedule.”
Drew finished third in NHRA’s 2018 Pro Stock points standings behind Tanner Gray and Jeg Coughlin Jr. Drew has competed in 94 Pro Stock national events, winning seven Wallys. His Pro Stock elimination round record is 121-87.
Skillman said the transition from being behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car and a Factory Stock Showdown Ford Cobra Jet wasn’t that hard.
“Luckily with both of them, you leave with your left foot, so that didn’t change too much,” Skillman said. “I am first and foremost a Stock Eliminator racer that’s my favorite class of all time. At the end of this deal in my racing career, I ‘m just going to race Stock. It is my favorite and I’m a bracket racer. The rules (in Factory Stock Showdown) are extremely close to Stock Eliminator rules. I already know how to play in that world and now you get to actually use all your power without getting your hands slapped as much as you do in Stock.”
Skillman said he and his father are planning to compete in NHRA’s Factory Stock Showdown class again in 2020.
“You can’t walk away on top,” Drew said.
The last two years in the Factory Showdown class NHRA professional drivers Leah Pritchett in Top Fuel and Skillman in Pro Stock were the Factory Stock Showdown world champs in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Pritchett finished ninth this past season in Factory Stock Showdown class.
“It speaks volumes for the mentality of the class,” Drew said. “That’s kind of what is exciting about it. It’s like Pro Stock in the 1970s again. We can develop our own technology so much quicker than having to wait on the UPS man to bring it. It’s just exciting. A lot of the pro guys are coming this direction. You have the Nobiles who left Pro Stock and they are entering this class and you have AJ (Allen Johnson) who is running in this class, and then you have the Stanfields (Greg and Aaron) who are building engines. There are a lot of professional-caliber people really paying attention to this class and there’s a reason for it because of the excitement of it.”
Drew said the eight-race Factory Stock Showdown slate is especially to his liking.
“I do enjoy the schedule the best,” he said. “It’s really hard to be part of a business and race. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to something, you need to dedicate yourself to it. So, I was gone 32 to 33 weekends a year with Pro Stock in between testing and actually racing. Unfortunately, that’s just not feasible for someone who is in a business that requires you to be here almost all of the time.”
Drew is sales manager at the Used Car Super Center for Ray Skillman Ford in Greenwood, Ind.
“This is my favorite job that I have ever had,” Drew said. “I absolutely love the car business.”
Drew and his wife, Brittany were married in 2015 and they have a five-week old daughter, Sophia.
“Life is awesome,” Drew said.
Mike Hepp, an NHRA Northeast Division Super Comp driver, has a unique story. He is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who is using racing to help a Road to Recovery program that he and his crew member Glenn Moore founded. - https://t.co/McbUw8q2xJ pic.twitter.com/ekdOEhsHCu— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) October 23, 2019