Wilk Confident He Can Capitalize In The Land Of Lincoln

The distance between the Team Wilkerson shop on the east side of Springfield, Ill. and Route 66 Raceway on the south side of Joliet is 161.45 miles. That proximity and the additional fact that this weekend's O'Reilly Route 66 Nationals is the only race located in the Land of Lincoln, home to both Tim Wilkerson and his primary sponsor, Levi, Ray & Shoup, are all you need to know when surmising just how big this race is for the popular Illinois driver.

Tim Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson

Photo by: Ted Rossino

Over the years, every race at Route 66 Raceway has been big for Wilk and the legions of loyal Wilk's Warriors, many of whom also live in Illinois, but with this season's schedule not including a date in St. Louis, the trip to Joliet has taken on added importance and a much larger guest list. Compound that with the fact Wilk currently sits 11th on the Full Throttle points list, only 27 points out of the 10th spot, and you might think you're looking at a recipe for a brewing cauldron of added pressure. Not so, says Wilk.

"Pressure is all relative, and we don't even think that way when it comes to the race car," Wilkerson said. "Pressure is running a business, raising a family, or taking care of the other really important parts of life. I've never felt any outside pressure to win with the race car but we've also never raced our Funny Car without being completely focused and serious about doing the best we can, and we hope that results in winning. This weekend, just because there might be a little added importance really only makes it more rewarding. The stakes might a little higher, in terms of points and things like that, but it's not pressure. That just makes it a little more fun when things go well.

"The fact Route 66 is now our home track, for both the team and for Dick Levi and the folks at LRS, just makes it all better. It's a great facility and a fantastic place to watch a race, so all of our Levi, Ray & Shoup guests are going to have a great time and our job is to make sure they're smiling when each day is over. I always say that we can't guarantee what the results will be on the track, but we can always guarantee that we'll give it our best effort and hopefully that means we can give everyone something to cheer about."

If statistics tell the story, Wilk is nearing a point in his season when the cheers have a greater chance of being generated. He's now consistently qualifying well, and with his LRS Ford Funny Car performing at a higher level he's sure to start stacking up some round wins. The stats tell only the black & white side of the story, however, and it's the confidence Wilk now has in a newly consistent race car that adds the color to the overall picture.

"We lost in the first round at the last race, over there in Norwalk, and if you only looked at that you'd think we had a bad weekend and we were really struggling," Wilkerson said. "The truth is, though, that Norwalk might've been the most important race of our year so far, and even though we didn't win a round we were really happy with the race car. To me, it was a win and a huge step forward for us.

"Racing luck is a funny thing, and we've all seen teams have so much of it in one day that they can win a race without ever making a good lap. We're way past hoping for anything like that, because we've finally gotten the car where we want it and now we just need to cash that in with some results we earn the right way. The only racing luck we need is the kind that lets you win by a few inches instead of losing by that much, when you're out there running exactly the number you're aiming for. It will come, and in my gut I know we're right on the edge of doing some good things here."

Racing just a couple of hours north of home, in a "major league" stadium-style facility with 1,000 or so of your best friends from Levi, Ray & Shoup in attendance, while a spot in the Countdown playoffs is quickly becoming the primary issue, might seem like the sort of environment that could foster palpable pressure. It might, for some racers, but not for Tim Wilkerson. For Wilk and his LRS team, it's just a ripe opportunity, ready to be seized.

By: team wilkerson racing