Madison: Wilkerson turns heads with part-time team

Wilkerson continues to turn heads with part-time team. MADISON, Ill. - Tim Wilkerson is enjoying his part-time driving job right now. He likes the fact that he and the Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird Funny Car team have turned heads and are...

Wilkerson continues to turn heads with part-time team.

MADISON, Ill. - Tim Wilkerson is enjoying his part-time driving job right now. He likes the fact that he and the Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird Funny Car team have turned heads and are making waves in the category.

Last season Wilkerson raced in 15 of the 24 national events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, finishing 18th in the Funny Car standings. This season, Wilkerson has raced in just seven of the 10 national events and is sitting in the No. 8 spot in the standings.

"I guess you could say (the highlight of the 2002 season so far) is the way we're shaking things up," Wilkerson, a Springfield, Ill. native, said. "You never want to talk out loud because the car has good ears, but we're the only single-car team in the top 10 and we've even missed a few races. We're very proud of our accomplishments so far this year and I think that is the best thing."

Wilkerson will be aiming for another solid performance near his hometown during the sixth annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals, June 27-30, at Gateway International Raceway. Doug Kalitta, Tony Pedregon, Warren Johnson and GT Tonglet are the defending winners of the $1.8 million race. It is the 12th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"Of course, we would like to think that there is absolutely no difference between going to St. Louis and racing anywhere else," Wilkerson said. "But I guess deep down there is a difference because you want to do really well in front of your family and friends. There probably is a little extra pressure with that.

"Subconsciously, I just try and put that out of my mind and forget about that and just go out there and run the car the best we can."

While some of the big-name teams have had troubles qualifying, Wilkerson has turned heads with solid performances in a majority of the races. Wilkerson has qualified in the top four spots in seven of the eight events he's entered, including three No. 2 qualifying positions.

"The limited racing schedule means absolutely nothing to this team," Wilkerson said. "(Sponsor) Dick Levi and I talked in the beginning of the year and Levi has enough money to do the whole deal if he wants to. But we decided we would rather do 15 quality races than 23 sub-par races. Just because you run a limited schedule does not mean that you don't know what you are doing and you don't have a good team.

"I have a great group of people working with me. We could stumble in the next few races, but I really don't see that happening. We all get along well and this group does a good job in figuring out how to make this car run well."

Gateway International Raceway is considered Wilkerson's home track, but he has yet to claim a winning performance there. That, he hopes, will change this season.

"It's been our home track for a long time and I was a bracket racer there when it was called the 'Swamp' and the track ran the other way," Wilkerson said. "We've never made it past the second round there but I believe that everyone will see us do better this year. We'll have a tremendous turnout from our friends and fans there, plus Levi, Ray & Shoup has a lot of people coming out. Of course you know that when the sponsor is excited, everything is good."

-nhra-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Doug Kalitta , Tim Wilkerson , GT Tonglet