Story and photo by Alan Dockery
Tyler Wilson, Walnut Cove, NC, is the 2016 Manufacturers Cup Champion in the Pro Fuel class. These are the Harley V-Twin-type, nitromethane-burning machines that y’all love to see and hear roar down the drag strip.
The champ has been involved in drag racing all his life since Rickie Smith is Tyler’s uncle. Rickie is a well-known Pro Stock and Pro Mod racer and champion, plus dad to Matt Smith. Matt is our Carolina hero in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
“In 2010 I bought a Suzuki from my cousin Matt Smith, which I ran in the 5.60 bike class,” Tyler said. “That summer I took that bike to Farmington drag strip every weekend. Then two years later I bought a Pro Mod, raced it for about a year.”
Growing up in a small North Carolina town, Tyler learned early to work for things. In 1972 his dad started Wilson Concrete Finishers, Inc. and he was working from the time he was old enough. When his dad retired in 2008, Tyler took over the business.
“In 2013 I went to Rockingham Dragway and took Johnny Vickers Pro Fuel Motorcycle School. I rented one of his school bikes for several races and decided I had to have one. So, in 2015 Johnny built my Vickers Hawaya Racing Derringer Engine Pro Fueler,” Tyler said.
2016 was the first full year for Tyler on the Pro Fuel machine and his first national championship. Manufacturers Cup is mainly imports, but the Pro Fuel Class is where the Harleys shine. These are the smaller nitromethane-fueled drag race bikes with 121 cubic inch engines, single-speed no transmission and gravity fed carburetor.
“I have been very fortunate in the fact that I am able to sponsor myself, go and have fun and do something I love. I especially want to thank my cousin Billy Collins and my wife for all their hard work. None of this would be possible without them. I also want to thank Buddy Foss and Janette Thornley for all their support and encouragement,” he said.
“I honestly did not set out last year thinking I would win a championship. This was actually my first full year on my new bike. After making the long journey to Memphis, I realized I might have a chance at this. So, we headed to Valdosta, Georgia, for the last race. Everything played out in my favor and the rest is history. Winning the Manufacturers Cup Championship was awesome, but the best part is all the great people I have met and the friendships I have made over the last several years.”