Mooresville, North Carolina native Sandy Wilkins claims his first NHRA national title in Top Sportsman after an impressive season competing on the NHRA tour.
Like the Sandflea said… he had never won anything while sitting on the couch watching TV, but that’s exactly how he won the 2019 NHRA Top Sportsman World Championship!
It came down to the last race in Vegas, but the cards fell in Wilkins’ favor. The Wilkins’ family was headed to Pomona for the first time ever.
Wilkins’ door-slammer is a 2011 Jerry Bickel Race Cars ’69 Camaro. Under the hood is a Wilkins Racing Engines 665 cid BBC tied to a Hughes powerglide, Greg Slack converter, and Hoosier Racing Tires. The nitrous-assisted engine has been a best of 6.30 at 218 mph in the 1/4-mile and a 4.02 at 178 mph in the 1/8-mile.
The Championship Season
Surprisingly, Wilkins’ racing career didn’t start with drag racing. He started racing SCCA at age 14, then was introduced to drag racing at 18. Wilkins’ spent most of his time drag racing at local tracks around the area until he ran his first Top Sportsman race at Greer Dragway in 1998. He was runner-up in that race and was hooked from then on.
Wilkins, also known as the Sandflea, came out firing in 2019 finding the winner’s circle in his first two events. He opened the season with a win at the LODRS race at Orlando. This gave him momentum heading into the 50th Annual Gatornationals where he found the winner’s circle once again.
“It’s the Gator’s,” Wilkins said, “being from the south, that’s one of the most prestigious races that has so much history.”
After a couple of early exits in his next two events, Wilkins visited the winner’s circle at the LODRS Division 1 race in Reading. After a second round loss at the historic U.S. Nationals, Wilkins went to consecutive finals at his next two races.
Runner-up finishes at the Summit Equipment Nationals and the JEGS SPORTSnationals put Sandy firmly in the title hunt. In his final points-earning race of the season, Wilkins parked his Camaro in the winner’s circle at the Rockingham LODRS.
The Rockingham victory put him atop the points standings and locked in his 600 point total. With no races left to claim, the Sandflea had to sit and watch as others took their shots at surpassing him.
“I really didn’t follow points until the end of the year,” Wilkins said. “Guys like Allen Firestone and Doug Crumlich we’re either leading or challenging for the lead at the last few races.”
Fast forward to Vegas and Crumlich had to win the race to pass Wilkins and win the championship. Crumlich lost in the fourth round of eliminations making Wilkins the class champion.
More Than a World Champion
Lucky enough, Wilkins was able to claim the 2019 LODRS Top Sportsman championship. This was also Wilkins’s fourth consecutive Division 2 championship.
Between five divisional championships, two runner-up finishes (2014 and 2015) in the national championship, a national open championship in 2018, and now the 2019 world championship, Wilkins has made his presence known in the Top Sportsman world.
“I want to say thank you to the two biggest people in my program,” Wilkins stated. “The best crew chief Don Shuford and my smokin’ hot wife Michele Wilkins. Without them, this program wouldn’t run how it is and we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
On top of his crew, Wilkins had a few other people to thank.
- Jeff Dobbins Racing Transmissions
- Greg Slack, the Converter Design Specialist
- Scott Hall at Moroso
- Steve Matusek at Aeromotive
- Kevin Kleinwebber at Hughes Transmission
- Moser Axles
- Wayne at Jesel
- Jody Skeen & Frank Papp at Hoosier
- Melvin Bickel at JBRC
- Freddie Turza at VP fuel
- Billy Weeks at Rock Batteries
- Billy Godbold at COMP Cams
- Brandon & Melissa Switzer
- Roland & Kim Fleming Wood CSR
- Dan Carver
- Anthony Giannone at MGP Rods
- Cometic Gasket
- Alan Stevenson at JE Pistons
- Jeff Brotherton at Brodix Heads
- Justin Elkes at Modern Racing
- Todd Bevis
- Brook Piper at Callies Crankshafts
Congratulations to Sandy Wilkins and his family on their 2019 National Championhip. The DragChamp team is proud of you!
About the author: Megan Strassweg is a 22 year old Super Comp racer from Louisville, Kentucky. She races a 2015 American Dragster sponsored by Coolshirt Systems. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May of 2020 with a degree in Photojournalism and a minor in Entrepreneurship. Megan works at Jim Butner Auto in the Finance Department. Growing up at the racetrack, drag racing is all she has known and never plans to give up on it.