WILKERSON, HART, KORETSKY AND SAMPEY EARN WINS AT DEWALT NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS
After going winless for five years, Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson now has two wins in the past three weeks, driving to the victory on Sunday at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Josh Hart (Top Fuel), Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also picked up wins at the 15th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the second race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Taking on Cruz Pedregon in the final round, Wilkerson powered to a run of 3.927-seconds at 331.36 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Levin, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, picking up his second victory this month and the 22nd in his career. Wilkerson also moved to sixth in points, taking out three competitors in front of him in the standings en route to the win on Sunday. He knocked off Bob Tasca, No. 1 qualifier John Force and points leader Ron Capps en route to the finals, praising the work of a team that put in an impressive amount of work on a busy day.
“It was tremendous pressure today and a crazy day,” said Wilkerson, who now has two victories at zMAX Dragway. “It was a tough day and we barely made it to the rounds in the semifinals and finals. I’m very proud of my guys. We were thrashing and I’m worn out. Sometimes, there’s too much time to stare at the (car) and make changes. Today, I made wholesale changes and lived with them, and it worked out.”
Pedregon took down Dave Richards, J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria to reach the final round for the fourth time this season, 79th time overall and the second time at Charlotte this season. Capps moved into the points lead, with defending world champ Matt Hagan trailing him by five points. Force is 25 points back after losing in the semifinals against Wilkerson when he hit a timing block.
In Top Fuel, Hart continues to impress in his standout rookie season. He picked up the second victory in his career in just his eighth start, beating points leader Brittany Force on a holeshot in the final round. Hart went 3.770 at 324.12 in his 11,000-horsepower R&L Carriers dragster, which was enough to hold off Force’s 3.751 at 320.05. Hart was a stellar .044 on the starting line, reaching the final round by knocking off Alex Laughlin, Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley. Hart and his team made their quickest run of eliminations in the final round, carrying on a brilliant first year in the class.
“We just planned on getting our feet wet and building the team this year, and that has obviously been accelerated,” Hart said. “The team has gelled together right away and I think the results are showing. I’m glad to be out here and the real magic happens in the pits. The guys are awesome and watching them is like a well-orchestrated symphony, and that’s where the praise needs to go. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (crew chief) Ron Douglas and I’m happy I could return the favor for them in the final round.”
Force, who qualified No. 1 for the eighth straight race, reached the final round for the fifth time in 2021 and 28th time in her career with wins against Artie Allen, Spencer Massey and three-time defending champ Steve Torrence. She now has a 21-point lead over Torrence.
Koretsky denied Greg Anderson a chance at history in Pro Stock and in the process picked up his first career win, going 6.629 at 207.27 in his Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro to beat Anderson’s 6.639 at 208.20 in a battle of KB Racing teammates. Anderson was going for his 98th career victory to set the all-time wins mark in Pro Stock, but Koretsky chased him down at the finish line. Koretsky knocked off Cristian Cuadra, rookie Dallas Glenn, who won the spring race in Charlotte, and Wally Stroupe to reach the final round, and then finished the job in thrilling fashion to earn his first career win in his 21st career start after coming up short in three previous final rounds.
“I’m out here living my dream,” Koretsky said. “KB Racing supplies me with the best power out here and my team just works flawlessly. This is huge and what I’ve wanted my whole life. Pro Stock is the most competitive class out there, and we always looked up to Greg. I just raced Greg Anderson in the final round and picked up the first Wally for my family. It feels great and I needed to get this done.”
Anderson advanced to the final round for the seventh time this season and 165th time overall, defeating Fernando Cuadra, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders along the way. Breaking the tie with Warren Johnson will have to wait, but Anderson did extend his points lead to 65 over Enders. Koretsky moved to third and is 91 points out of first.
After coming close on a couple recent occasions, Sampey broke through with the victory in the final round in Pro Stock Motorcycle, chasing down Joey Gladstone with a run of 6.861 at 196.62 on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Sampey was late on the starting line, but she had enough at the finish line to slip past Gladstone, earning her first win this season and 44th in her career. She took out Ryan Oehler and then teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec to reach the final round, also moving to second in points behind Steve Johnson.
“I’ve struggled this year on the Suzuki. It’s been a rocket ship and I’m getting close to where I need to be,” Sampey said. “This race, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the final. I wanted to win it for my team and I feel like we raced our butts off today. I’m very excited and proud to have my win light come on, and I definitely dedicate this Wally to southern Louisiana.”
Gladstone reached the finals for the second time this year after defeating Jianna Salinas, Cory Reed and points leader Johnson. Sampey pulled to within 17 points of Johnson, with defending world champ Matt Smith 30 points back.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Sept. 24-26 with the NHRA Midwest Nationals at the World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.