Featured Vehicles / From the Summit Racing Catalog

Altered State: Tim Wilkerson’s Record-Setting AA/Fuel Altered

Wilkerson’s Fuel Altered launches on its record-setting run with car chief Richard Hartman behind the wheel. (Image/Auto Imagery)

With a professional drag racing career spanning more than three decades, Nitro Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson already has a place reserved in the NHRA history books. In 1996, he was the first rookie to ever run over 300 mph, as well as the first to break the four-second barrier. And that impressive pace continues today. He currently boasts a career-best speed of 333.74 mph, a fastest pass of 3.844 seconds, and 23 wins to his name, but the next chapter in Wilk’s story reads unlike any other.

In March 2021, Wilkerson took a four-second diversion from his Funny Car season to shatter a couple long-standing records in his one-of-a-kind nitro-burning Fuel Altered. With his car chief Richard Hartman behind the wheel, the pair tripped the lights in a history-making 4.920 seconds at 296.13 mph, and then again at 304.53 mph to seal the deal. 

Wilkerson’s build started with a retired Funny Car chassis from his 2005/2006 racing season. It was modified to accommodate a custom open cockpit body reminiscent of the classic Altered drag racers from 1960s and ′70s. (Image/Auto Imagery)

While the duo’s record-setting car features the familiar open cockpit design of an Altered dragster from the 1960s, breaking these records (previously 5.28 seconds and 286.07 mph) required some more up-to-date hardware.

Lucky for Tim, it was already waiting for him in his own garage.

That’s right—this retro-inspired Altered packs the 10,000 horsepower heart of a modern day Funny Car, plus a modified version of the chassis used in Wilkerson’s successful 2005/2006 NHRA season. “We didn’t think we could hit that goal without the tech from the Funny Car,” says Wilkerson. “And pretty much all the parts are what Tim was running back then,” adds Hartman. “The blower, the clutch, the cam, the injectors—they’re all exactly what Tim ran back in the early 2000s.”

Top Fuel-style wings front and rear produce the downforce necessary to keep the vehicle stable on its quarter-mile passes. (Image/Auto Imagery)

Less familiar for Wilkerson and Hartman however, were the enormous Top Fuel-style canard wings mounted to the front and rear of the vehicle. Working together to produce the huge amount of downforce required to glue the car to the track, these adjustable units demanded a fair amount of testing and tuning to keep the Altered from rocketing skyward without slowing it down.

“The first run we had too much wing and had a cylinder out, so I lifted,” explains Hartman, describing a few of their test runs in 2018. “The second run we removed some of the wing and it smoked the tires. The third run it was pulling me toward the center line, so I had to click it, but we did end up setting the 1/8-mile record.”

But sorting out the car was only half the equation for Tim and Richard—the pair also needed somewhere to race. “Fuel Altereds were big back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it’s all exhibition now, so they don’t always get to run on great tracks,” says Tim. “But we heard there would be a couple Altereds running at the Texas Motorplex for Funny Car Chaos. They were talking smack about who would be the first to hit 300 mph, so I told them that a couple Yankees would come down there and show them how it’s done.”

Amazingly, Hartman achieved identical ETs on both of his quarter-mile passes at Funny Car Chaos (4.920 seconds), cementing the team’s place in the history books as the world’s fastest Altered. (Image/Auto Imagery)

With the gauntlet thrown down, Tim and Richard packed up the Altered and headed to Ennis, Texas for the event, where the car blew away their expectations and propelled the pair into drag racing history. “It left the line hard,” says Richard, recalling his first pass of the day. “The front end bobbed and picked up at about half-track, and then finally hooked up and took off.”

The result was 4.920 at a 296.13 mph, besting the 5.286-second world record set by Joe Haas in 2013. “They were yelling on the radio, and I thought I screwed up or something. I finally heard Tim say that we got the record, and I hadn’t seen smiles on the guys’ faces like that in quite some time.”

Hartman clocked in at 296.13 mph on his first pass, then 304.53 mph on his encore performance, besting the previous record (286.07 mph) set by Ron Fassl in 2005. (Image/Auto Imagery)

“That thing looks fast when it leaves. It was awesome being the first in the fours” added Tim. But they weren’t done yet—with Richard back behind the wheel for another pass, the Altered hit the 1,320 foot mark at a blistering 304.53 mph, obliterating the previous speed record (286.07 mph) set by Ron Fassl in 2005.

Impressively, Hartman achieved the same ET on both runs (4.920 seconds), but he believes the car has more to give. “On that second run I still let off about 75 feet from the finish,” he explains. “Initially I thought I was spinning the tires, but it was actually the NHRA rev limiter taking timing out. I think it’ll run in the 4.80 at 315 mph.”

The team put on a history-making performance at Funny Car Chaos, but with a little fine-tuning Wilkerson and Hartman believe their Fuel Altered has more to give. We’ll be watching! (Image/Auto Imagery)

The story is far from over for Tim, Richard, and their record-setting Altered. We’ll be watching as the team continues to dial in their setup and add more pages to the history books with every pass! 

Wilkerson AA/Fuel Altered Fast Specs

Body & Chassis

  • McKinney Corp. Funny Car chromoly chassis
  • Fiberglass Bantam altered body
  • Custom Top Fuel-style front and rear wings
  • Strange Engineering carbon brake pads and rotors

Wheels & Tires

Engine

Ignition & Electronics

Fueling

  • Rage Fuel Systems dual fuel pumps
  • Hartman Machine Works nozzle bodies
  • Crawford drop-in fuel nozzles

Clutch & Driveline

Tags: , ,

2 Comments

  1. Hope y’all make it back to Ennis in March for FCC again this year.

  2. Bob Mernickle says:

    Awesome story .
    Cant wait to hear more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.