As another thrilling NHRA season draws to a close, our minds turn to the people and stories that make drag racing the one-of-a-kind spectacle it is. The NHRA is one of the most diverse racing organizations in the world with grizzled veterans, rising stars and grassroots weekend warriors all racing side by side. Funny car legend Tim Wilkerson has taken this diversity to heart, extending his wisdom and experience to the rising stars and hometown heroes of drag racing.
While he’s been involved in the NHRA circuit for decades, Wilkerson’s grassroots involvement began as a family affair. After supporting his children from the age of six onward through the ranks of Jr. Dragsters, bracket racing and Super Comp dragsters, he began offering his wisdom and advice to other racers as a way to give back to the sport.
Two of these racers, four-time NHRA Jr. Dragster champion Cade Poe and LASD Motorsports founder and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Scott Graham, had a meet and greet with Wilkerson at the NHRA World Finals in Pomona, Calif. on Nov. 12 to discuss his secrets to success and the Royal Purple sponsorship that ties them all together.
The first driver, Cade Poe, is a third generation drag racer and has been a top contender in NHRA Jr. Dragsters since the age of eight. Wilkerson had a few important reminders for Poe as he pursues his aspiration to climb through the ranks.
“You just need to be diligent,” Tim Wilkerson said. “Start at the bottom and know that you’re going to have to work hard and put in your dues.” In addition to the importance of hard work, he stressed the importance of a good relationship with the right sponsor. Sponsorship is a critical financial help to advancing a racing career, but maintaining sponsor relationships can be challenging. He told Poe, “Everywhere you go, you’re representing them. A lot of people will see a young man that is sponsored by Royal Purple and the brand is what they remember. That’s what you really need to be careful of as you go through the sport and you attain more and more sponsors. You’re representing them every day, even when you don’t have their shirt on.”
The other driver Wilkerson met with has a very different perspective. Sergeant Scott Graham has been racing for decades and has no plans to run professionally. Like so many in the NHRA, Graham is a grassroots driver, drawn to the competition that attracts racers from all walks of life. Drag racing has another value to him, however. As the driver of LASD Motorsports’ 950-horsepower 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, he dedicates his time to public outreach and promoting safe driving through racing. Graham is excited by the opportunities afforded to him by Wilkerson, Royal Purple and the NHRA.
“It’s nice being associated with a reputable company like Royal Purple,” said Graham. “Having a pro racer lends credibility to what we’re trying to do with our [LASD Motorsports] programs.” Graham went on to talk about the importance of grassroots drag racing, noting “For a guy like me with a job already, it provides those of us with not a lot of money an opportunity to go race. Bracket racing is important for a lot of guys. It makes it competitive… The NHRA allows anybody to come in and enter at any level.”
There is some mutual admiration between Graham and Wilkerson, as Wilkerson is impressed by the program Graham has built. He especially applauds his efforts through LASD Motorsports to take youth racing off the streets and onto the safe, controlled environment of the dragstrip.
During the meet and greet session, the sense of mutual respect, bonding and camaraderie between the three drivers despite their different backgrounds and approaches to the NHRA became clear. Wilkerson, Graham and Poe are just a slice of the diversity that makes drag racing great and their interactions and support keep the sport vibrant and thriving. To learn more about the product that ties them all together, please visit www.royalpurpleconsumer.com.
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