Winning the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in any class is tough, but to outlast a 32-car field of the sport’s toughest Factory Stock Showdown cars require a herculean effort and that describes how Bill Skillman claimed his second-career victory in the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown at “The Big Go”. Throughout the four day, five-round marathon, Skillman and his Skillman Auto Group crew, put together all the necessary elements of skill, talent, and a bit of good fortune, to claim drag racing’s most coveted title.
In the sort of classic Ford vs. Chevy final round that defines the Factory Stock class, Skillman wheeled his supercharged Cobra Jet Mustang to a narrow win over Arthur Kohn’s COPO Camaro, 7.888 to 7.918. Kohn, last year’s third-place finisher in Factory Stock, had a slightly quicker reaction time, and came up .009-second short at the finish line. Skillman is well known throughout the Indianapolis area as the radio and television pitchman for the Skillman Auto Group, the family run chain of successful auto dealerships, the importance of winning the sport’s marquee event couldn’t be understated.
“This is awesome; this is our home race, and it was a marathon,” said Skillman. “With all the delays we had with rain and fog and mist it was very unusual. We had to wait and then run five rounds on Monday, but my crew gave me a heck of a car this weekend. In the final, I have to admit that I took a little peek over once I went to third gear and I didn’t see Archie but then I did see him but then I saw the win light come on. That’s a great team over there and they do a great job with their Greg Stanfield Engines. It was a great race in the final."
Skillman, the father of current Factory Stock points leader Drew Skillman, won his first Factory Stock title earlier this season in Charlotte. He was also the runner-up to Drew at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk last June. Skillman’s optimism for an Indy win was tempered by a recent slate of rules revisions designed to address parity in a class with rapidly evolving technology. A total of 29 cars attempted to qualify for the expanded 32-car Indy field and after qualifying, Skillman was ranked 20th with an 8.038, well behind the seven-second pace set by the qualifying leaders.
“My car was okay in qualifying,” Skillman said. “We tried to play the [ladder] game to be where we thought we needed to be at the end. We had a run that was thrown out because we were five-points light. We changed ECUs and we probably had ten pounds difference in that, and we weren’t smart enough to drag it to the scales. That made things tough on us. I had to run David Barton in the first round. He was good on the tree and we outran him. I got lucky. I won several races where I got Treed. I was .008 in the semi’s and I was pretty pitiful the rest of the time. Everything just worked out perfectly.”
Skillman’s crew continued to refine the team’s Chris Holbrook-powered Cobra Jet in eliminations, and Skillman was able to get around former series champ and past Indy winner David Barton in the opening round. Skillman topped Leonard Libersher and then stopped David Janec, 7.956 to 8.017. Skillman punched his ticket to the final with a7.949 after Doug Hamp fouled in the semi’s.
Kohn, who uses engines supplied by former Pro Stock racer Greg Stanfield, stopped another former Pro Stock racer, low qualifier Mark Pawuk in the quarterfinals. Kohn cut a .016 light against Pawuk and parlayed it into a 7.95 to 7.94 holeshot victory. Kohn survived another close encounter in the semifinals against teammate Steven Bell, 7.936 to 7.941. Kohn was a runner-up to Bell earlier this year in the final round of the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka.