WILK PUTS THE METTLE TO THE METAL AS HE AIMS FOR THE SUMMIT LAS VEGAS (October 25, 2010) -- The dictionary defines the word "mettle" as "courage and fortitude, as it relates to disposition or temperament." In the minds and vocabularies of...
WILK PUTS THE METTLE TO THE METAL AS HE AIMS FOR THE SUMMIT
LAS VEGAS (October 25, 2010) -- The dictionary defines the word "mettle" as "courage and fortitude, as it relates to disposition or temperament."
In the minds and vocabularies of most, the word is simply used as a positive way to define a man. This weekend, when the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing tour makes its 22nd of 23 stops during the 2010 season, by visiting "The Strip" at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Tim Wilkerson will have yet another opportunity to display the mettle that has earned him a place among the most popular and most avidly followed drivers in the sport.
Despite being mathematically eliminated from any chance at the championship, Wilkerson and his team will approach the Las Vegas weekend with the same intensity, focus, and determination they always bring to the track, although on this particular weekend they will do so with a stunningly beautiful Summit Racing Equipment Shelby Mustang body on the car, rather than the standard Levi, Ray & Shoup livery. With that in mind, the toughest adjustment for Wilk may be remembering who to thank at the top end of the race track. Beyond that, nothing changes
"It's a beautiful car, from the outside, but once they lower it over me it all looks the same and the goal is the same," Wilkerson said. "My job is to make the right calls on the tune-up and then drive the thing as well as I can, and if we all pitch in and do it to the best of our abilities, good things can happen. We approach every day at the race track the same way, and I kind of instill that in the guys from the first day they get here. They're strapping me into a bomb, so it doesn't matter what the situation is. We do it the same way and with the same care, every time.
"The folks at Summit have been great to us, so we're thrilled to put this Summit Ford on the car for them, but they know us well enough to realize we won't change the way we go about our business just because there's a beautiful Summit body on the car. It doesn't matter that we're not in the running for the championship now, and it doesn't matter what race track we're at or what month it is. We try to approach every day the same way, and over the course of time that tends to work out okay for us."
As should be obvious, pride and the aforementioned mettle are key components in the Team Wilkerson approach to competition and, championships aside, the group and their leader are still aiming for the best possible finish to a long and arduous 2010 season. Wilk will enter this weekend in 8th place on the Full Throttle board, but he's still conceivably in the running to finish the season as high as 4th, which would match his placement from last year. The number he will display on his car in 2011 still means a lot to all involved.
"Sure it does, but we don't stress over it and we don't change the way we tune the car over a digit or two," Wilkerson said. "But yes, having the number 2 on the car in 2009 was great, and having a 4 on the car this year was something the guys could be proud of. We could still finish further up in the standings and we could still finish lower, so we'll just play it out and see where we end up. The truth is, there are just way too many scenarios for me to figure out, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to worry about how we win rounds, and the rest of it will have to take care of itself."
Technically, with two races remaining Wilk has eight possible rounds to play with in Vegas and Pomona, but the lower two-thirds of the Top 10 is so tightly bunched its eventual order is likely not to be decided until the end of the season's final day. Right now, Tony Pedregon and Ron Capps are slotted into the 10th and 9th spots respectively, but T. Ped is only two rounds behind Wilk and Capps is even closer, only seven points in arrears. Looking up the sheet, Ashley Force Hood is currently in the No. 4 spot, 105 points up on Wilk. Overtaking her would be a monumental task, and would most certainly involve a couple of trips to the final round at the last two races, but the likes of Del Worsham (7th), Robert Hight (6th), and Bob Tasca (5th) are all no more than three rounds up. Winning rounds at the final two events will directly correlate to the digit on the side of these drivers' cars in 2011.
"It's not just the number, it's also the size of the check you get at the banquet," Wilkerson said, referring to the bonus money paid to the Top 10 finishers in the Countdown. "The money is what it is, so I won't worry about that either, but I've never yet turned down a check they've given me, so we'll do all we can to move up some spots.
"I'd also imagine there will be some in-season testing going on, with all of us who aren't in the running for the big check. With as little testing as we 're allowed to do during the year, there are some good reasons to try a few things out, here and there, at these last two races. Sometimes, when you test new things, it works out like you had hoped and you find some extra performance, but you never know. We'll just work hard and try to go as fast as we can. That's the one thing I can guarantee you for this weekend."
Results are unpredictable, victories are elusive, and effort is self-provided, but if it were necessary for racers to pass through a mettle detector before getting on the track, Tim Wilkerson would most surely set off the loudest possible alarm.