FOR WILK, NO SHORTAGE OF MOTIVATION IN POMONA POMONA, Calif. (November 8, 2010) -- For the record, Tim Wilkerson is not going to win the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle championship in the Funny Car class. That much has been realistically evident...
FOR WILK, NO SHORTAGE OF MOTIVATION IN POMONA
POMONA, Calif. (November 8, 2010) -- For the record, Tim Wilkerson is not going to win the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle championship in the Funny Car class. That much has been realistically evident since an unfortunate DNQ in Charlotte, at the second event in the six-race playoff segment of the NHRA schedule. With Wilkerson currently sitting in ninth place with only one race left to contest, talk of "playing out the string" might be easy for some to conjure but those "glass half-empty" types would be well advised not to bring such a thing up in the company of Wilk and his Levi, Ray & Shoup team.
Wilkerson has been through enough real adversity in his career to put to rest any thought of taking to the track with anything less than a 100 percent effort. In both 2006 and 2007 he struggled to find a consistent combination with his LRS entry and managed to ring up the dreaded DNQ seven times in each season; totals that now seem unthinkable. Just when some might have thought he'd be ready to throw in the towel, Wilk instead bounced back with his memorable 2008 campaign and his thrilling second-place finish in the points, to further cement his reputation for unflagging determination and maximum effort. There is no "quit" in Tim Wilkerson, and there won't be any lack of motivation for a big finish this weekend at the NHRA Auto Club Finals, in Pomona.
"It wouldn't matter to me if we went into Pomona ninth in points or 29th," Wilkerson said. "We go to the race track every single day with the exact same mindset and determination. If you just want to play it out and head home for the winter, find a different team to work for because you won't fit in here. That's the way every guy on this crew thinks, and I don't see any change in the faces I'm looking at, so I'm pretty sure they're going to Pomona with the idea of winning the race. I know I am."
Winning the race is always the overall goal, but simply winning a couple of rounds at the season finale could positively impact Wilk's final spot in the 2010 points, while creating a corresponding bump in his checkbook balance. With the bottom half of the Full Throttle Top 10 bunched tighter than the rush hour traffic on a Southern California freeway, Wilk could easily vault right back up to the sixth spot with just an average amount of successful racing. Currently, Del Worsham sits sixth but the Al-Anabi driver is only 21 points ahead of Wilkerson, while Robert Hight and Ron Capps are wedged into the seventh and eighth positions just seven and 20 points ahead, respectively. A complete shuffling of the bottom half of the Top 10 would seem more likely than unlikely at the season's final race.
"The championship is coming down to the final race, and probably right down to the final day, between (John) Force and (Matt) Hagan, so the fans and the media are going to be focused on that," Wilkerson said. "We'll have our own little battle for deciding what numbers go on our cars next year, down here in the basement of the Top 10, and my guys are very serious about seeing if we can't turn this nine upside-down so we can run the six next year.
"I also know that all of us start the year wanting to win the championship, so you can't help but be a little disappointed to be where we are. I assume the other teams are going to fight hard to the end just like we are, though, because all of us are very competitive and we'd get worked up playing each other in tiddlywinks with nothing more than pride on the line. You strap us into these Funny Cars and pull us up to the line, and all you're focused on is winning that lap. Where you are in the points is the furthest thing from the front of your mind."
Wilkerson has carried the number four on his car this season, after finishing the 2009 regular season in sixth place but then rallying to pick up two spots in the playoffs. This year, he entered the postseason in the same sixth position, but the unfortunate DNQ in Charlotte dashed his hopes for a bigger rally in 2010.
"There's no doubt that hurt us in terms of where we were going to finish, and looking back on the fact we lost a run that would've qualified for that race, after they threw the time out because we were an eighth of an inch too low, well that just makes you shake your head a little more," said Wilkerson. "All in all, though, if you compare the last two seasons as a whole, we did better in some ways and not quite as well in others.
"We won two races last year and this year we won three, but one difference is that last year we finished the season really strong. I think we won nine rounds during the Countdown last year, to move up to fourth, and this year we've only won two rounds since the playoffs started. We still have Pomona, though, so you better believe we're going out there to finish as strong as we possibly can. We're plenty motivated."
The Levi, Ray & Shoup team would approach it no other way.