HILTON TAKES TOP FUEL AT TULSA – WITTENBERG CLINCHES CHAMPIONSHIP

Tyler Hilton hammered the big-block Chevrolet powered Great Expectations III into the Nitro Nationals winner’s circle with a 6.39 ET at 239 MPH after Runner-Up Pete Wittenberg struck the tires at the hit in the KMA Circuit Breaker.

After posting event Low ET and Top Speed, Wittenberg clinched the 2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship in the season-closing AA/Fuel pedalfest that came down to a margin of victory of just five-thousandths of a second.

The track was cooling down as the two Top Fuel titans staged into the night. The “KMA Circuit Breaker” hemi broke traction first, but Wittenberg wasn’t the only one fighting the balance of power over pavement. Hilton said he felt things get loose a little further down track and rolled into the fearsome big block Chevrolet for the win. “I don’t think the track would have held a quick pedal. It was pretty close at the end, but I was there first.”

Wittenberg quickly recovered from the smokey step and launched the hemi-powered “KMA Circuit Breaker” into hot pursuit, driving out the back door at 246 MPH with an almost but not enough 6.43-second ET. The two-time Bakersfield March Meet Top Fuel winner came into the race in the number one points position and pulled the chutes on the Nitro Nationals as the 2020 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion.

2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Season Champion Pete Wittenberg and the KMA Circuit Breaker crew. Photo: Mary Robinson

More: Hot Rod Heritage Series Championship rundown from the NHRA. Bates, Cottrell, and Wittenberg claim 2020 Heritage Series Championships

The Top Fuel season wrap-up at Tulsa Raceway park saw timing tree trip-ups and mechanical mishaps through two qualifying sessions and eliminations. Brendan Murry overcame qualifying troubles but went out in round one eliminations with a 6.63 to Pete Wittenberg’s winning 6.169. Tim Cullinan’s 5.88 dispatched Jim Murphy, and Tyler Hilton’s 6.05 defeated Paul Schultz. Dusty Green drove Steve Harwood’s “Nitro Hemi” into the semi-final with a 5.89 over Gary Wheeler in the all-new Grand Prix Auto AA/Fueler.  

Wittenberg moved into the final with a 5.89 at 195 after Dusty Green scrubbed with mechanical problems during the warmup, and Tyler Hilton’s 5.83-second 246 MPH win over Tim Cullinan set the stage for the final Nostalgia Top Fuel battle of 2020. In an opening ceremonies move that foreshadowed the outcome, Tulsa Raceway Park impresario Todd Martin recognized three generations of Hilton and Lee family drag racing achievement by presenting Alison Lee with a Lifetime Dedication Award. Jim and Alison Lee campaigned the original “Great Expectations II” AA/Fuel dragster in the ’60s and ’70s. 

With the California Hot Rod Reunion’s cancellation, the Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park marked the end of a tumultuous year for the NHRA Heritage Series drag racing community and the entire world. Head over the NHRA for the official 2020 Hot Rod Heritage Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship points final and mark the calendar for the 2021 March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California.

TULSA BY-THE-NUMBERS

Tyler Hilton in the Great Expectations III at Tulsa Raceway Park

We’ve got Tulsa by the numbers, Top Fuel by the score. With the Nitro Nationals in the recent past and season-closing California Hot Rod Reunion in the near future, we’ve got the numbers. Download the full set of Top Fuel results and incrementals from the 2019 Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park and an NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship season points rundown right here.

NITRO NATIONALS AT TULSA RACEWAY PARK

WINNER: MENDY FRY AND HIGH SPEED MOTORSPORTS

Mendy Fry and Adam Sorokin in the 2019 Nitro Nationals Top Fuel Finals at Tulsa Raceway Park

Mendy Fry drove the High Speed Motorsports dragster into the night and won the Nitro Nationals Tulsa Raceway Park for the second time. Fry took the win with a 5.60-second 258 MPH blast over Runner Up Adam Sorokin, who posted a 5.98 ET at 186 MPH after the automatic shutoff malfunctioned and shut down the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet around the 800-foot mark. The Nitro Nationals was Fry’s fourth consecutive event victory and clinched her second NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship.

Onetime High Speed Motorsports driver-tuners Sean Bellemeur and Troy Green joined the crew and family in honor and triumph for Crew Chief Tom Shelar, who died unexpectedly before the race. Fry’s emotions ran strong from start to finish. “I started crying when I crossed the finish line, and it didn’t stop. Tom won this Championship in absentia. We all knew how to do our jobs. He taught us all very well and put together a Top Fuel dragster that’s an absolute bracket car. He assembled a team that works well together and empowered us to make the right decisions even without him here.”

Sorokin left on Fry with a .017 light and was on an all or nothing charge to the stripe when unseen forces snuffed out the supercharged-on-nitro small block Chevrolet at the 800-900 foot mark. Sorokin could only watch as Fry drove on for the win. “The Leahy device shot the cannon against the throttle, closed it, and shut the car off. I couldn’t push it back. I didn’t even see her until it started to happen and then she went through,” said Sorokin. Crew Chief Tony Bernardini noted the system triggered even though logs showed boost and oil pan pressure parameters well within limits.

The Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway park was the next to last race in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series ahead of the season-closing 28th California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield October 25th-27th.

Scroll down for a reverse chronological order round-by-round Nitro Nationals Top Fuel Qualifying and Eliminations rundown, photos, downloadable results, and more originally complied LIVE from Tulsa Raceway Park September 19th and 20th 2019.


FULL TOP FUEL NITRO NATIONALS EVENT ROUNDUP

TOP FUEL SEMI FINAL

Mendy Fry will battle Adam Sorokin for the 2019 Nitro Nationals Top Fuel title. Mendy Fry took the semi-final round with a 5.61-second 247 MPH blast after Tyler Hilton scrubbed when his Dad and Crew Chief Robert Hilton noticed a broken rear axle mount on the Great Expectations III. Great Expectations III. Adam Sorokin ran clean to the 1000-foot mark and shut it down for a 6.29 ET at 161 MPH on a bye. The pair will square off for the Top Fuel title at Tulsa Raceway Park in a final round rematch of the 2017 Nitro Nationals decider. 

SEMI-FINAL BATTLE SET: MENDY FRY VS. TYLER HILTON AND ADAM SOROKIN ON A BYE

Jim Murphy heats up the hides in the WW2 AA/Fuel dragster.

ELIMINATIONS ROUND ONE

Tyler Hilton blasted around Jim Murphy and the WW2 at the 1000-ft mark and lit up the clocks with 5.89-second 245 MPH in the Great Expectations III. Adam Sorokin pushed the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet past Tim Cullinan and the Irish Car Bomb and took the win with a nitro spud spittin’ 5.91 ET at 205 MPH. Mendy Fry ran the High Speed Motorsports hemi to the 1000-foot mark on a 5.64-second 222 MPH bye. Nitro Nationals Top Fuel Semi-Final is coming right up at Tulsa Raceway Park.

Tyler Hilton in the Great Expectations III big block Chevrolet-powered AA/Fuel dragster

TOP FUEL ELIMINATIONS LADDER IS SET: Session Two Qualifying is a wrap. Eliminations: Mendy Fry on a bye, Tyler Hilton vs. Jim Murphy, and Adam Sorokin vs. Tim Cullinan.

Adam Sorokin and Jim Murphy in Nitro Nationals Session Two Qualifying at Tulsa Raceway Park

SESSION TWO QUALIFYING ROUNDUP

Jim Murphy popped the blower in a 6.03-second 195 MPH wall hugger in the WW2. Tim Cullinan shaved a second off yesterday with a 6.13 ET at 171 MPH in the Irish Car Bomb. Adam Sorokin and Tyler Hilton ran just a few hundredths slower than Q1. Paul Schultz lost fire after the burnout and couldn’t get the Spirit of Tulsa restarted. Further inspection revealed the recently rebuilt magneto internals had come undone. After his Q1 no-time DQ and unable to stage in under power in Q2, NHRA rules dictate that Paul is unfortunately out of the running. Nitro Nationals Top Fuel Eliminations Run Ladder, final Qualifying order, and incrementals right here. Nitro Nationals TOP FUEL Eliminations scheduled for 6 PM at Tulsa Raceway Park.

SESSION ONE QUALIFYING ROUNDUP

Paul “Nobody” Schultz in the Spirit of Tulsa

Mendy Fry runs 5.66-seconds at 222 MPH for Low ET in the High Speed Motorsports hemi. Adam Sorokin cranks out a 5.91 ET at 210 MPH in the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet for the second slot. Tyler Hilton hits 241 MPH Top Speed and grabs third with a 5.94-second big-block Chevrolet blast. Tim Cullinan shuts down the Irish Car Bomb and takes fourth with a 7.31 ET at 138 MPH. Jim Murphy strikes the tires with a pedal and idles through the lights for fifth. Paul Schultz and the Spirit of Tulsa launched out of the box before the lights were active for a no time DQ. Nitro Nationals Session Two Top Fuel Qualifying scheduled for tomorrow at 2 PM CST at Tulsa Raceway Park.

Top Fuel Session One Qualifying results from the 2019 Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park

Pre-qualifying Top Fuel Test and Tune Preview

Four Top Fuel dragsters ran a 4 PM Test and Tune shakeout ahead of Session One Qualifying at Tulsa Raceway Park. Mendy Fry posted a 6.10 ET at 168 MPH in the High-Speed Motorsports dragster in an emotional first pass since the tragic loss of Crew Chief, tuner, and patriarch Tom Shelar. Jim Murphy clicked off a 6.40 ET at 129 MPH in the WW2 hemi. Adam Sorokin belted out a 6.24 ET at 162 MPH in the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet, and Tyler Hilton cranked a 6.62 ET at 155 MPH out of the Great Expectations III big block Chevrolet. The sun has broken through the clouds and Session One Top Fuel Qualifying is scheduled for 8 PM.

2019 NITRO NATIONALS PHOTO EXTRA

TOP FUEL TAKEDOWN ON TAP AT TULSA

The Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park is the place for front-engine Top Fuel drag racing action this weekend. The All American Fuel Dragsters are tanked up for a nitro-burning supercharged spectacle of explosive 1/4-mile competition under the lights. The event carries on 50-plus years of Top Fuel competition that stretches back to the 1965 NHRA World Finals at the legendary dragstrip.

The Nitro Nationals is the next to last for NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel championship race ahead of the season closer at the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, California. Mendy Fry and the High Speed Motorsports fueler, Adam Sorokin and the Champion Speed Shop small block Chevrolet, and Jim Murphy with the WW2 dragster are rolling towards Tulsa from California in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place respectively.

Ohio’s own Tyler Hilton will strap into the fearsome big block Chevrolet-powered “Great Expectations III” AA/Fuel Dragster. Tim Cullinan is on the way from Illinois and ready to light the fuse on his late-model 426 hemi-powered “Irish Car Bomb.” Local racing legend Paul Schultz is loaded up with nitro for his hemi-powered “Spirit of Tulsa” dragster and BBQ spare ribs for the assembled Top Fuel drivers and crews.

Mendy Fry and the High Speed Motorsports team are heading into the pivotal race following the tragic loss of Crew Cheif and patriarch Tom Shelar, who died unexpectedly in his sleep on Thursday, August 22nd. The sad news came just days after the tight-knit team won the Nightfire Nationals at Firebird Raceway and the Nitro Summer Nationals at Spokane County Raceway.

Through the shock and grief, Shelar’s family decided the best way to honor Tom’s memory was to finish the 2019 season and run for a second consecutive Heritage Series Top Fuel title. Former drivers Sean Bellemeur and Troy Green stepped back into the team to help make it happen. Fry holds the championship points lead by a substantial margin, and the Nitro Nationals could be the de facto decider.

TOP FUEL TRADITION

Tulsa Raceway Park co-owner Todd Martin was instrumental in bringing Heritage Series racing to Tulsa Raceway Park. “We’re proud to carry on the 50-plus year tradition of Top Fuel drag racing here at Tulsa Raceway Park. NHRA Heritage Series drag racing is perfect for our Nitro Nationals event,” said Martin. The Nitro Nationals features drag racing competition, a vintage car show, and the famous pinup contest for a nitro-fueled throwback in time.

“We’re proud to carry on the 50-plus year tradition of Top Fuel drag racing here at Tulsa Raceway Park. NHRA Heritage Series drag racing is perfect for our Nitro Nationals event”

– Todd Martin

The All American Fuel Dragsters, fuel-huffing supercharged Funny Cars and injected-on-nitro A/Fuelers will join an armada of front-engine Junior Fuel diggers, high-axle Gassers, pre-1972 doorslammers, and econo dragsters for two days and nights of non-stop action.

Head over to www.tulsaracewaypark.com for full event information and tickets or check out the official Tulsa Raceway Park Facebook page for the latest news and updates.

NITRO NATIONALS VIDEO PREVIEW

NITRO NATIONALS TOP FUEL SCHEDULE
Schedule subject to change

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 20th:
Gates 10 AM for racers
Gates 5 PM spectators
Top Fuel Qualifying: 8 PM

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 21st
Racer Gates: 9 AM
Spectator Gates: 11 AM
Top Fuel Qualifying Session Two: 2 PM
Opening Ceremony: 5 PM
Eliminations: 6 PM
Semi-Final: 8 PM
Final: 10 PM

NHRA HOT ROD HERITAGE SERIES TOP FUEL POINTS STANDINGS

Driver points standings heading into the Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park.

1) Mendy Fry 447
2) Adam Sorokin 341
3) Jim Murphy 261
4) Bret Williamson 227
5) Tyler Hilton 184
6) Phil Ruskowski 176
7) Jim Young 97
8) Rick White 78
9) Pete Wittenberg 67
10) Brendan Murry 62
11) Rick McGee 54
12) Joey Haas 53
13) Tim Cullinan 52
14) Julius Hughes 51
15) Gerald Hangey 10
15) Roger Lechtenberg 10

Head over to www.nhrahotrodheritage.com for all the Heritage Series racing news, schedule, official points standings, tickets, race results, rules and more.

TOM SHELAR CELEBRATION OF LIFE

A celebration of Tom Shelar’s life will be held at the Bakersfield Elk’s Lodge on October 24th in conjunction with the California Hot Rod Reunion. Instead of flowers, the family requests donations in Tom’s name to the Workshops for Warriors Foundation.

Thursday, October 24th, 2019
The Elks Lodge
1616 30th Street
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Tacos 5:30-7:30. Rememberances at 7 PM. Classic Rock at 8:30 PM