Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Event 6 of 21
Route 66 Raceway
May 19 – 21, 2023
Tim Wilkerson Wins Hometown Event in Chicago
JOLIET, Ill. (May 21, 2023) – Tim Wilkerson powered to victory at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Sunday afternoon in Joliet, Ill., the sight of his career-first triumph. It was Wilkerson’s 23rd Funny Car win, and first since partnering with JCM Racing to form Maynard Wilkerson Racing during the 2022 – 2023 off-season. Aboard the SCAG Power Equipment/Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, ‘Wilk’ as he’s known to fans, clocked a winning 3.966 E.T. at 325.14 MPH during the final round to outpace Ron Capps who posted a 4.110 E.T. in the losing effort.
Wilkerson’s Route 66 Raceway victory snapped a 33-race winless streak, which dated back to the 2021 NHRA Carolina Nationals, and he couldn’t have been happier to hoist the Wally trophy in front of a hometown crowd.
“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 driver/tuner’s march to the Chicago winner’s circle began with a No. 5 qualifying effort, his best starting position in 20 events. After going straight down the groove to post the second-quickest pass of Q2 and earn two bonus points, Wilkerson and the SCAG/LRS team stepped it up even more in Q3, recording a run of 3.939 seconds at 326.71 MPH to earn a spot in the top half of the Funny Car field.
Wilkerson’s Sunday outing began with round wins over Blake Alexander and Alex Laughlin, respectively. By advancing to the semifinals, Wilkerson earned a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Funny Car Challenge, slated for the series’ next event in Epping, N.H. The quarterfinal round win also set up a contest between Wilkerson and John Force, Wilk’s final round opponent during the 1999 running of the Route 66 Nationals, where he scored his first career win by defeating the sport’s winningest Funny Car pilot.
“In 1999, one of the Force cars had won every race up until that point, and I’ll never forget that win, and 24 years later, here we are again, back in the Joliet winner’s circle and it feels really good," added Wilkerson of his second Route 66 Raceway win.
Once again, Wilkerson had Force’s number on Sunday, outrunning his fellow veteran racer to advance to the final round for the second time in 2023, and 51st time in his career. In the battle for the Chicago hardware, Capps moved first but Wilkerson’s SCAG/LRS Mustang charged hard down the 1,000-foot stretch to chase down the twice-defending Funny Car world champ and cross the finish line stripe first for the win.
For their efforts, the MWR team earned 116 points over the course of the weekend, moving Wilkerson from seventh up to fifth in the Funny Car point standings. Sunday’s win was the second for the JCM Racing organization, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in late July, and the first Funny Car victory for Joe and Cathi Maynard’s three-car team, which announced the addition of Maynard Ashley Racing on Saturday afternoon.
“The Maynards have been incredible. They’ve added more stability to the team. Dick Levi kept us out here for 20-some years and we’d never be here without him and Levi, Ray & Shoup, and Summit, they’ve been with me a long time. And of course, thank you to our new partners at SCAG. But, I do want to make a shoutout to Cathi – Cathi, we love you and wish you could be here celebrating with us.”
Wilkerson and the SCAG Power Equipment/Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang Funny Car team will look to capitalize on their momentum when the NHRA returns to Epping, N.H., June 2 – 4, for the NHRA New England Nationals.
Qualified: No. 5 (3.939 E.T. at 326.71 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.980 E.T. at 316.60 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.139 E.T. at 277.26 MPH
E2: 4.010 E.T. at 320.36 MPH defeated Alex Laughlin 4.808 E.T. at 171.47 MPH
E3: 4.012 E.T. at 319.90 MPH defeated John Force 9.670 E.T. at 76.53 MPH
E4: 3.966 E.T. at 325.14 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.110 E.T. at 261.83 MPH
Ashley Takes Positives from Busy, Productive Chicago Race
Justin Ashley’s bid to double up a second time, combining a Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win with a Top Fuel race win came up short today at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Through three rounds of qualifying at Route 66 Raceway, Ashley and his Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster were never slotted lower than fourth in qualifying. The 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year picked up two qualifying bonus points for posting the third-quickest runs of the first and second sessions.
On Saturday, Ashley, who announced the formation of a new team Maynard Ashley Racing, picked up the $10,000 cash prize for winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Top Fuel Challenge for the second time. Ashley won the specialty race for the first time at the Winternationals and followed that up with a race win on Sunday. His Mission Foods Challenge win where he bested Antron Brown and Austin Prock gave the seven-time Top Fuel winner confidence heading into race day.
“This sport will humble you very quickly,” said Ashley. “That's why it's important to enjoy the wins when they come. You have to take it one round at a time and one day at a time to give your team the best opportunity to win. I'm really proud of the effort that our Phillips Connect Toyota Racing team put in all weekend. We had a great day on Saturday, winning the Mission Foods Challenge and running well each round.”
In the first round, Ashley was the No. 4 qualifier and drew newcomer Jacob McNeal in the Scott Palmer-owned Top Fuel dragster. This was the first head-to-head meeting for the young drivers. Ashley was nearly perfect off the starting line cutting a .018 reaction time to launch the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster. McNeal was clean off the line, but Ashley immediately smoked the tires. Ashley tried to give his 12,000-horsepower race car a quick pedal to get it to reconnect with the race track, but McNeal was able to hold on for his first career round win.
“We didn't accomplish what we wanted to on race day today, but that's okay,” said Ashley, who has two wins this season already. “We've already learned from it and we're ready to move forward. We have a good race car right now and when you look at the whole year so far, there’s a lot of positives. Mike (Green), Tommy (DeLago), and our entire Maynard Ashley Racing Phillips Connect Toyota Racing team are the best in the business. We are ready for Epping.”
While the outcome was not what Ashley was looking for, he will leave Chicago sitting No. 4 in points and is looking to have another good race at the New England Nationals where he was runner-up in 2022.
Qualified: No. 4 (3.717 E.T. at 332.10 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 4.429 E.T. at 219.08 MPH defeated by Jacob McNeal 3.786 E.T. at 322.65 MPH
Tony Schumacher Struggles to Harness Power in Route 66 Nationals Return
Tony Schumacher is leaving a meaningful weekend back at Route 66 Raceway knowing his SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel dragster is making strong power. Unfortunately, though, the JCM Racing driver couldn’t harness the power and turn it into a first-round win Sunday morning at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Schumacher’s troubles started in qualifying, where he struggled to get down the track in the first two sessions. During the third and final round, Schumacher stepped up to a 3.793-second E.T. at 328.94 MPH to move from No. 18 into the field in the No. 15 spot.
Racing on a hot, challenging track surface on Sunday morning, Schumacher again ran into traction issues in his first-round matchup with Austin Prock. The seven-time Chicago low qualifier pedaled when he lost traction, but he couldn’t recover in time to catch Prock, who led from start to finish.
“The conditions were hotter today than we've seen all weekend, and we’ve got a lot of power right now,” said Schumacher, a class-best five-time Top Fuel winner at Route 66 Raceway. “We’re going to have to go to Indy and test because this is a new level of power that we've got to get worked into this tune-up. I know the (crew) guys, they're all hurt, man. They work so darn hard on this stuff.”
Schumacher noted the positives of the weekend, including the opportunity to spend time with employees and customers from SCAG Power Equipment. Located in Mayville, Wisconsin, SCAG brought out several hundred employees to cheer on the contingent of SCAG-backed drivers competing in the NHRA Camping World Series.
It was also a homecoming of sorts for Schumacher, who grew up in the Chicagoland area but now lives in Austin, Texas. This weekend’s Route 66 Nationals was the first time he had raced at Route 66 Raceway since 2018.
“With the SCAG group coming out of Mayville, there were so many people here with us,” Schumacher said. “It was an awesome weekend. Everyone had a great time. We just need to put some rounds under our belt. We're getting smoked early too many times and we’ve got to get this problem fixed.”
Schumacher and the SCAG Power Equipment team will have a weekend off from competition before the next stop on the 2023 NHRA Camping World tour, the NHRA New England Nationals, June 2-4, at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.
Qualified: No. 15 (3.793 E.T. at 328.94 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 4.298 E.T. at 194.49 MPH defeated by Austin Prock 3.721 E.T. at 332.34 MPH