DANIEL WILKERSON TO MAKE NHRA PRO DEBUT IN TOPEKA SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 21, 2009) -- Daniel Wilkerson, the 21-year-old son of NHRA Funny Car star Tim Wilkerson, will make his National Hot Rod Association professional debut at the upcoming ...
DANIEL WILKERSON TO MAKE NHRA PRO DEBUT IN TOPEKA
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 21, 2009) -- Daniel Wilkerson, the 21-year-old son of NHRA Funny Car star Tim Wilkerson, will make his National Hot Rod Association professional debut at the upcoming O'Reilly Summer Nationals, May 29-31, at Heartland Park Topeka. The younger Wilkerson earned his nitro Funny Car license in 2007, was the No. 1 qualifier and runner-up at his first, and only, IHRA event in Milan, Mich. in May of '08, and also defeated Ashley Force in an all second-generation final round at the popular Norwalk Raceway "Night Under Fire" match race last year, when he posted an e.t. of 4.173 seconds at more than 297 mph. In addition, he has successfully competed as a sportsman racer in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car class since 2006, winning the Division 3 TAFC championship in '07.
Wilkerson will drive a second Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car in Topeka, and will compete with his own crew, with additional help from his father and the LRS Shelby Mustang team. While it will be his NHRA national event debut, Wilkerson is not planning to make all of the allotted qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday, as his father explained.
"It just seems like the right time to get Daniel out there and get his feet wet in the big leagues, so we're going to take it one step at a time and not overwhelm him or any of the guys on his team," the senior Wilkerson said. "Right now, the plan is to make one qualifying pass a day, to make sure he and his guys are buttoned-up and ready for each lap. We're not trying to stun the world, we just see this as a great time to get him out there and make his debut.
"We had Daniel with us in Bristol, to make some test laps on Monday with this new motor combination that's being looked at, so he's just been in the car and we were looking forward to getting him to a race. As of right now, Daniel will be the 16th car entered at Topeka, so if it stays that way he'll even get a chance to race on Sunday without having to go at it too hard during qualifying, and that will be a big moment for all of us, too. This is the sort of situation we were looking for, to come at it without breaking the bank or putting too much pressure on anyone, me included. Hopefully, we'll have some fun, Daniel will get a taste of what it's like to race against a few of these great drivers, and we'll even be able to put another LRS car out there for Dick Levi and all the people at Levi, Ray & Shoup."
Daniel, the oldest of three Wilkerson children, began his own racing career in a Junior Dragster, and has competed consistently around the Midwest in a bracket car as well as his Alcohol Funny Car. Though still young, he has experience and genetics beyond his years, and he's very much looking forward to his first weekend as a pro in the NHRA ranks.
"You could probably guess this, but this is something I've been dreaming about my whole life," young Daniel said. "I've been around my dad's cars since I can remember, and I knew I wanted to drive a Funny Car. It was just a matter of going through the steps and getting comfortable at each level, and then once we got in the nitro car and I got my license, all I've really been thinking about is joining Dad in the NHRA.
"I've been anxious to get going, but I've also learned that it's not easy to run one of these cars, and it's an expensive thing to do as well, so we were looking for the right opportunity. Being close to home helps with the expenses and putting a crew together, so we were looking at all the Midwestern races, and then we saw where Topeka still had some openings in the class, so we decided to go for it. You only get to make your NHRA pro debut once, so we'll try to make the best of it and make it something to remember."
Wilkerson's plans for additional race appearances in 2009 will hinge on the search for sponsor funding and will be announced as those partnerships come to fruition.