WILKERSON'S GOAL: BE SEATTLE'S BEST SEATTLE (July 14, 2009) -- Seattle, the city that gave us coffee shops on every corner, grunge rock, and the Space Needle, is one of the most scenic stops on the NHRA Full Throttle circuit, and many of the ...
WILKERSON'S GOAL: BE SEATTLE'S BEST
SEATTLE (July 14, 2009) -- Seattle, the city that gave us coffee shops on every corner, grunge rock, and the Space Needle, is one of the most scenic stops on the NHRA Full Throttle circuit, and many of the touring pros will take the time to enjoy at least a bit of what the Puget Sound area has to offer when they arrive for this weekend's Northwest Nationals. The group bent on tourist activities will not, however, include Tim Wilkerson, driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car. This year's visit to Pacific Raceways will be all business for Wilkerson, as he looks to get back on track and in the win column after a pair of consecutive first-round losses in Denver and Norwalk. With only five races left to decide the Countdown playoff field, Wilkerson clings to the 7th spot in the points, and he knows it's prime time to get hot.
Despite the back-to-back first-round ousters, Wilkerson knows his situation could be far worse, and he's ready to take advantage of what has been a simultaneous lack of round wins by the competition near him in points, in order to stake his claim to a playoff berth. One quick hot streak, at this moment in time, can place him not only into the Countdown, but can also vault him even higher in the points.
"We haven't done what we aimed to do at the last two races, but it really looks like the Top Ten is taking on a shape of the haves and the have-nots lately," Wilkerson said. "You've got Ron Capps, Ashley Force Hood, and Tony Pedregon kind of pulling away and winning the bulk of the rounds lately, then you see Jack Beckman, Del Worsham, and Bob Tasca in a sort of second tier. Then you get to us in seventh, and everyone's right on our tail now. Had it been those guys behind us getting hot in Norwalk and Denver, we could be in a world of hurt right now, so we need to get our act together and create some separation.
"Unless we win three or four races out of the last five, I'd say the best we can realistically aim for would be to go into the Countdown in the middle of the pack. Del is fifth right now, and he's four rounds ahead of us. Jack is another couple of rounds ahead of him, and then the top three are over the horizon already. That's the beauty of the playoff deal, though, and we learned first-hand last year that piling up points in the regular season doesn't make it a lock. You have to get hot at the right time, and it would be good for us to start getting hot now."
Although it's almost impossible to focus so narrowly you disregard the fact there are only five races left before the Countdown, Wilkerson is doing his best to strictly think of Seattle. Each run, each tune-up call, and every move the LRS team makes will coalesce into this weekend's result, and Wilk wants to make sure his team's effort is as sharp as a laser beam.
"You know what, there's time to think of other stuff later on," Wilkerson said. "We're going to drive a rental car down the coast to Sonoma after the race, and I'll have time to enjoy myself and have fun on that trip, but from the second we blew the motor up and lost in Denver I've been thinking of Seattle and how we're going to approach it. We're not looking ahead, we're only looking at the first run. After that, we'll worry about the second one."
Approaching Seattle, the second leg of the three-stop "Western Swing" is always a more variable process than the first stop, in Denver. Altitude is altitude, and Denver in July is almost always hot and stormy. Seattle, however, can be all over the map in terms of conditions. Even in mid-July, it can be blisteringly hot or damp and chilly. At nearly sea level and surrounded by forests there will be oxygen in abundance, only days after the LRS car was starving for air in the mountains. Until each day dawns, you never really know what you're going to get.
"We've broiled in Seattle, and we've worn jackets," Wilkerson said. "You never know what it's going to do until it does it, but we do know that conditions will be better than Denver. That's a given, just getting down off the mountain. If it stays dry, we'll deal with whatever the track throws us, and we'll try to be the best out there under those conditions, on that day. It's all just about reacting to what you have to work with."
And being Seattle's best.