Seeing eight different winners through the first nine Pro Stock races of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is enough to convince Drew Skillman about the impressive parity in the class. It’s also motivation for Skillman to try to become the next in the winner’s circle at this weekend’s Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.
The seven-time event winner is one of a handful of standouts who are looking for their first win of the 2018 season, and Skillman knows he has a car and team capable of grabbing a victory at Virginia Motorsports Park, which is hosting its first NHRA event since 2009. It hasn’t happened yet in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro, but Skillman believes his time is coming soon.
“It’s time for us to get our stuff together,” said Skillman, who is currently seventh in points. “I know darn well we’re too good not to win. This team has some of the best guys in the country and these guys have all worked together for years. If you look at our car at the beginning of the season, it was fantastic and the driver did not do his job. We had a car that could have won several races and we just didn’t do it. But we typically get hot this time of year, so I expect us to get on track.”
The stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will try to pick up wins at a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday. It is the 10th of 24 races during the 2018 season and also the second of four consecutive races. After a first-round loss in Chicago last weekend, Skillman is ready to make amends.
Skillman has been close, advancing to three semifinals, but he also knows that the competition level has been incredible in 2018. Vincent Nobile is the only two-time winner this season, while standouts like Erica Enders, Tanner Gray, Chris McGaha, Jeg Coughlin Jr., who won in Chicago, Matt Hartford, reigning world champion Bo Butner and Deric Kramer all have one win. Skillman is part of a talented group that includes points leader Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Alex Laughlin who have yet to win a race this season, but Skillman predicts that winner’s list will grow.
“I’ll tell you right now, there’s going to be 12-13 different winners,” Skillman said. “I guarantee it. There’s too many good people with too much good power and any of them could win any weekend. If you’re not fast and consistent, you’re not going to do anything. There’s no lucky rounds out there. You see people losing with great reaction times, so you better have it together. You already have to start thinking about (Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship) positioning.”
The best way for Skillman, who won four events a year ago, to move up is to start winning races, and a victory in his first race at Virginia Motorsports Park would do that. With a new track surface and plenty of anticipation regarding the NHRA’s return to Virginia, Skillman is excited to make his own debut at the facility and hopefully make a sizeable impression in the process.
“I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend,” Skillman said. “They redid the entire track and I’m excited to see it. It’s nice to mix it up and go to some new places. I’ve talked to the guys who have raced there and they said it’s a beautiful area, so I’m pumped and expecting this to be a pretty good weekend. This deal is supposed to be fun and we’ve talked a lot about that, not banging our heads against the wall. We’re going to keep working hard and still have fun.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, June 8, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, June 10.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.