Senior staff writer
“I’m in shock.”
Those were the first words from newly crowned U.S. Nationals Pro Stock champion Drew Skillman of Greenwood after a harrowing Monday.
Skillman, driving a 2017 Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet at the 63rd Chevrolet Performance Nationals, edged six-time winner Greg Anderson of North Carolina by a twenty-six one-thousandths of a second.
It set in after Skillman won his opening round Monday against Jeg Coughlin Jr. but blew the engine at the end of the run.
“I was nervous in the morning before that first run,” Skillman said. “When that happened, it was a panic.”
Crew members frantically installed a new Gray Motorsports engine in the red Camaro. He won his second round against Chris McGaha (6.680 seconds to 6.697 seconds), 206.61 mph, but there was no data from the engine.
He then took the semifinal over Tanner Gray of Gray Motorsports.
By the time Skillman lined up against Anderson, he decided he had nothing to lose. He beat Anderson off the line by twelve-thousandths of a second.
“That was my plan,” Skillman said. “Then I was just determined to dive in there all the way.
“There is a small list of things I want to do in life, and this was one of them. This was huge for us in many ways. For me, personally, and we’re a Chevy dealer, we’re sponsored by Chevrolet; we drive a Chevrolet race car, and we won at their race. It couldn’t be any better. This has been a long time coming. I finally got a win at home.”
This is the first time he defeated Anderson in eight races.
Skillman, who won a Wally in Sportsman Stock competition several years ago at Lucas Oil Raceway, notched his fourth win of the season and seventh in his four-year Pro Stock career.
He reached the 2015 final matchup but finished second to then-teammate Erica Enders, robbing him of a hometown track win until Monday.
“This is redemption,” Skillman said referring to that race. “I screwed up as a driver. We had the better car and I really wanted that (win) then.”
Skillman said the car has been consistent, winning four of the last five NHRA events. With the six-event playoffs looming, his goal was expressed with one word: “Championship.”
Words of consolation
Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden noted his confidence in son Bill Glidden during a problem-filled Pro Mod season that left him out of the finals.
Bill missed the round of 16 by about one-fifth of a second Sunday in a 1968 Camaro powered by a nitrous-fed 903-cubic-inch engine.
“He will get it figured out; he’s a smart kid,” Bob said.
Glidden’s best run came late Saturday in 6.038 seconds, 225.75 mph.
“Two-tenths of a second doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge E.T. (elapsed time) to make up,” Bill’s wife, Shannon Springer Glidden of Greenwood, said before his last run. “The run last night (Saturday) decided it.”
Just before Glidden’s final run Sunday, the competitor in his lane blew his engine, which required a 25-minute delay for track clean-up. Ambient and track temperatures were considerably hotter than late Friday. His final run was 6.263 seconds.
Glidden was trying to make a late-season comeback after suffering five broken ribs in a February crash at Orlando Speed World Dragway. He was hospitalized for 24 hours and then released to return to his shop in Whiteland.
Glidden replaced his 2010 Mustang with a Camaro from Sonny’s Racing Engines that was purchased with sponsorship from Ray Skillman Auto Group.
Ray Skillman reached the third round of Competition Eliminations but bad wheel spin just off the line took him out of the running. Skillman, the 18th qualifier, upset veteran David Rampy, the No. 8 qualifier, in the second round in 8.336 seconds, 161.42 mph.
In Super Stock, Skillman qualified fourth, 8.792 seconds, and Bill Skillman qualified 28th but were defeated in the first elimination round.
In Super Gas, Joey Shipp qualified 10th fastest, 9.915 seconds, 147.86 mph, and Randy Shipp qualified 43rd fastest, 9.844 seconds, 140.78 mph, as son and father reached the third round, and Rob Goodrich qualified 13th fastest,9.927 seconds, 132.75 mph, and reached the second round.
In Stock Eliminator, Bill Skillman was the No. 1 qualifier among 156 competitors in 8.650 seconds; Randi Lynn Shipp was 46th, 10.483 seconds; Rick Shipp Sr. was 106th, 11.720 seconds; and Drew Skillman was 8.805 seconds. D. Skillman went the deepest, reaching the fourth round Sunday and being edged by twenty-seven one-thousandths of a second.