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Thu, 18 May 2017, 09:05 AM

Drew Skillman Hopes to Add to Pro Stock's 2017 Win Parity
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2017 Auto Imagery, Inc.

At 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties

TOPEKA, Kan. --

Drew Skillman
To exemplify the impressive parity in Pro Stock during the first portion of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, there have been six different winners at the first seven races. Having finally escaped the doldrums of a frustrating stretch, Drew Skillman would like to be the next on that list.

Skillman appears back on track after things went awry in the form of three straight first-round losses, posting back-to-back solid weekends in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro. The next step is adding yet another winner to the list in the Pro Stock season, and he's aiming for this weekend at the 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka.

"We know we are going to win this year and we just have to keep plugging away," said Skillman, who has three career Pro Stock wins. "We got off track, had a little bad luck, but the car's driving a lot better. We know we can win and we've won before, and we've got as good a chance as anyone. We just have to do the best we can, keep moving forward and keep everyone on the same page."

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year's winners of a race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a live broadcast of the finals on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. (ET). The race is the eighth of 24 events during a 2017 season that's been a rollercoaster thus far for Skillman, who is in his third season racing Pro Stock.

It started with a final round appearance in Phoenix, but followed with a string of frustrating first-round exits as the team battled a number of issues. Seeing the success of fellow Gray Motorsports teammates Shane Gray and Tanner Gray, who both have wins this season, added to it, but things started to turn for the better in Charlotte. Skillman was in the final foursome at the Four-Wide Nationals and then qualified second in Atlanta, his best qualifying performance of the season. Things aren't all the way back for the talented Skillman, but he likes the team's direction.

"It wasn't just the car because I wasn't driving well," said Skillman, who is currently ninth in points. "We went back to a basic set-up and, for me, it was just taking a breath. I've done this enough and have made enough runs in my career to know what to do. It was just going back to the basic things and having fun again. I end up driving a lot better when I'm having fun. I love drag racing as much as anyone out here. I've had a lot of success in different classes and I wanted to pursue Pro Stock. I'm living my dream and if I didn't enjoy this, I would be wasting a great opportunity."

Drew Skillman
Skillman will have to deal with a talented group of contenders at Topeka, including two-time 2017 winner Bo Butner, points leader Greg Anderson, and defending winner and event champion Line. But the race comes at an important time, as it kicks off a stretch of six races in eight weeks, meaning Skillman wants to continue to build momentum as summer approaches.

"When you're getting ready for a swing like this, you better have your ducks in a row," Skillman said. "You need to have everything ready and we did that the last couple weeks. You have to look way ahead to run this correctly. I know what it takes now and I think we're in a lot better shape than we were in previous years."

Kalitta's Top Fuel victory a year ago capped off a stretch of three straight wins, but he'll be challenged by points leader and three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force, back-to-back world champion Antron Brown and Steve Torrence, who has won two straight races.

Defending Funny Car winner Hagan started 2017 strong, but reigning world champ Ron Capps has been red hot lately, winning three straight races to take over the points lead.

The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2017 at Heartland Park Topeka. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 20, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.

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