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Wilkerson, B. Torrence and Enders Race to Provisional No. 1 Spots at Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals

Funny Car rookie Daniel Wilkerson put himself in position for his first career No. 1 qualifier on Friday, racing to the provisional top spot at the 64th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the second of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.

In a full-time ride for the first time in his career, Daniel Wilkerson made the most of his opportunity on Friday, taking the top spot with a 4.014 at 314.31 in his 11,000-horsepower Scag Power Equipment Ford Mustang. That puts Wilkerson in line for his first career top qualifier, which would be a huge moment in his career. He stepped into the driver role this year, with his father, Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson, calling the shots as crew chief. On Friday, it worked out wonderfully for the father-son duo.

“It was a little squirrely but I got it to the end,” said Wilkerson, who will be competing for NHRA Rookie of the Year honors this year. “It got a little loose coming out of the middle of the track and I was almost yelling at myself steering the car. But it worked out and I was happy with it. All of this, it almost hasn’t set in yet, but it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Jeff Diehl took the second spot on Friday after going 4.050 at 306.81 and Chad Green, who won in Pomona last year to end the season, is third with a 4.110 at 302.96.

In Top Fuel, Billy Torrence powered to the top on Friday, going 3.745 at 330.47 in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. If that holds, Torrence would earn his sixth career No. 1 qualifier, as both Torrence cars made strong runs during the lone qualifying session of the day. His son, Steve, is currently second after the four-time world champ went 3.750 at 328.30, giving the team plenty of momentum for the weekend. They also meet tomorrow in the opening round of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.

“I was very impressed with that run,” Torrence said. “I thought we could make a good run on the track. The guys have worked really hard on that setup and I really thought Steve would sneak around us and pick our pocket, but he just missed us. Performance-wise, I think the cars are really close. I think we’ve got a good set-up for a solid year.”

Former world champ Brittany Force is in the third spot thanks to a run of 3.783 at 330.30 and Gainesville winner Shawn Langdon is right behind with a 3.788 at 318.24.

A strong start continued for reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders on Friday in Pomona, as she went 6.556 at 211.69 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/Scag Power Equipment car. If it holds, it would give Enders her second straight No. 1 qualifier to start the season. Enders, who also won in Gainesville, is after her 50th career national event victory this weekend, which would add another incredible milestone in her stellar career. Two years ago, Enders won at the Winternationals in what was the 900th race in Pro Stock history.

“It was a little bit of a hairy ride. It made some big moves, but I’m thankful for all the runs I have in these cars,” Enders said. “We’re big on numbers and going after that 50th win is very important to us. Winning my first Winternationals two years ago for the 900th Pro Stock race was pretty spectacular and we’re glad to be back here. Coming off a win at the Gatornationals, we’re just going to try to carry that momentum, but we definitely have a good racecar right now.”

Matt Hartford is currently second with a 6.568 at 210.31 and Jeg Coughlin Jr. is third with a 6.573 at 211.20.

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Qualifying continues at 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.

This story was originally published on March 23, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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