QUARTERFINAL FINISH KEEPS WILK STEADY IN POINTS It was a tale of two races, really, over the course of this Chicago weekend. After dealing with moderate to good conditions throughout qualifying, where Tim Wilkerson put on his "Mr. Consistency"...
QUARTERFINAL FINISH KEEPS WILK STEADY IN POINTS
It was a tale of two races, really, over the course of this Chicago weekend. After dealing with moderate to good conditions throughout qualifying, where Tim Wilkerson put on his "Mr. Consistency" costume to enter the race in the No. 4 spot, Sunday featured a change of weather and a change of track characteristics. Once the raindrops quit falling, and racing got underway, it became a much faster and quicker race, and although Wilkerson put his LRS Shelby through the paces and acquitted himself quite well by taking out Del Worsham in round one while running 4.141, he came up against Cruz Pedregon in the second round when all of the winning cars were beginning to run the quickest times of the weekend. Wilk's 4.137 in that stanza was good, but not quite good enough in a tough side-by-side battle, and his quarterfinal appearance ended up being the result with which he'd have to leave Joliet.
All in all, as the bracket advanced and half of the competitors were eliminated in each round, Wilk utilized that opening-round win over Worsham to help solidify his 6th-place points position, while he also managed to gain 20 points on Jack Beckman, who currently sits in 5th and is now only 31 points ahead of the Levi, Ray & Shoup driver. With a top half qualifying spot, another round win (which improved his first-round record to a sterling 8-1), Wilkerson left some on the table, but knew he had cleared that first huge hurdle.
"It's that first round that is so critical," he said. "Nothing else good can happen if you don't win that first one, and it hardly seemed fair that we qualified fourth and had to run Del in the opening round. But that's the nature of this sport and this class, right now. It's nothing but tough cars out here, so you're going to get one. We just got a really tough one, and we feel pretty good that we managed to get a 'W' out of that round, considering we didn't run what we were after.
"Today was so different, after the rain all morning, and you could tell it just didn't want to warm up to the 80-degree day they were originally calling for. The cooler conditions really sped up the whole program, especially for some of these teams that are more known for big power and big home runs on tracks like this. We have a really good handle on the warmer tracks, right now, but our program for the stout tracks that are a little cooler is what you'd have to call a work in progress. This time, we just got beat by a faster car, and I don't let that bother me. If we run lousy and give one away, that's one thing, but when you just get beat, that's how this sport works."
Wilk was his standard picture of repetitive consistency throughout Friday and Saturday, never really finding himself in danger of falling out of either the top 12 on the first day, nor the top 16 on the second. His two laps on Saturday, a 4.119 and a 4.118 were nearly uncanny, especially considering how different his car's performance was on each pass. It all added up to his sixth top half spot in the last eight races, and then came the tough draw against Worsham when many of the biggest hitters in the class stumbled a bit in qualifying. Ron Capps, Beckman, and Worsham, all major contenders in the Countdown hunt, landed 16th, 15th, and 13th in the field, respectively, creating some interesting match-ups in the first round.
"Like I said, it was no treat to qualify fourth and have to race Del, and you know he and I have this history of tight races going back a few years, so I'm not about to give this one back. Neither one of us ran what we were trying to run, I'm pretty sure about that, but we got the win light and you know the next one will be wire-to-wire, too. After that race, to me it didn't really matter who we'd have next, because I already knew we'd need to step it up a bit to take out whoever was going to be over there. We just didn't step it up enough, and that was our day.
"We have a great running car that sure seems like it wants to just go down the track without doing anything too dramatic, so we'll just keep tweaking on it, and working on it, and pretty soon this LRS Shelby will find a way to win four rounds on Sunday. We're all a little tired of having to say 'Good weekend' to each other when we're packing up and putting the car away while other teams are out there racing. It's way better to say that when you're the last car to win a round on Sunday. We're getting there. Like I said, it's a work in progress."
In today's Countdown environment, consistency and a solid race car can take you far. The wins will no doubt come, and in the meantime Tim Wilkerson is well-served to keep the hits coming with his LRS Shelby, picking up those rounds and those Full Throttle points as he goes.
Next stop, Englishtown in just a few days. It will be yet another chance to pile on the points and add more "W's" to the win column.