WILK LOOKS FOR A LITTLE DEJA VU AT SEASON'S THIRD RACE
LAS VEGAS (March 28, 2011) -- One year ago, Tim Wilkerson qualified his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car at each of the first two races on the NHRA Full Throttle tour. He then went on to lose in the opening round at both events, giving him an 0-2 record heading into the season's third race. At that third race, last year, he completed four successful rounds and grabbed his first of three wins in 2010.
This year, the scenario is much the same, as Wilk heads into this weekend's SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals with an identical 0-2 mark on his stat sheet. The only difference is the location, as Gainesville was the third race on the docket in '10 while Las Vegas holds that distinction in the present tense. Still, when Wilk and his LRS team hit The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, they will be focused on the same "one step at a time" philosophy that turned their season around in 2010.
"The first thing you're focused on is just getting in the field, and that hasn't been all that easy at the first two races," Wilkerson said. "We've had solid car counts, and there have been more quality Funny Car teams trying to get into the show than slots for them to fill so the competition gets a little nerve-wracking, and we've added to the pressure a little bit by not running as well as we can. If you can come out early and slap a solid number on the board, you can start to focus on a race-day set-up instead of fretting over just being in the field. We need to do that this weekend."
While Wilkerson has successfully earned his way into the field at the season's first two races, both of his slots were bottom-half positions (14th in Pomona and 12th in Gainesville) and both efforts were marred by engine damage and runs that were less than stellar. A good deal of detective work and a few new service approaches have his confidence level up to an improved position, however, heading into the desert this weekend.
"We had some stuff just flat wrong on a couple of laps, and we were also consistently mangling up the valves and the heads too, so we had to find out what we were doing wrong and I think we've done that," Wilkerson reported. "That's the thing about this sport, though. You're constantly trying to get it all working right but even when you do, it rarely will stay flawless for you. There's always something wrong, it seems, and you're always chasing problems. I feel better, though, because I know we've at least addressed the stuff that was slowing us down in Pomona and Gainesville.
"Hopefully, we're ready to get it all working in the right direction now, and we can jump up to where we think we should be. We're not typically a spectacular qualifying team that's always up there at the top, but we're way better than 12th and 14th and we need to prove that, to ourselves and the rest of the class. Like I said, that's the first focus and we'll have our eyes on that prize when we start qualifying on Friday. One step at a time, and if you do that the right way you have a chance to be holding the trophy at the end of the day on Sunday. We're a long way from that right now, but one step at a time is the way to get there."
The Strip at LVMS is roundly regarded as one of the premier facilities on the Full Throttle tour, but its typical combination of bright sun and desert conditions can make traversing the 1,000-foot track a difficult challenge. This weekend's forecast calls for plenty of sun and warm temperatures, and if the forecasters are right (for once) the teams that are ready to handle a hot track will have the advantage.
"We've usually been a good hot track team, because we don't run those big killer numbers when the tracks are cool and the home run hitters are swinging for the fences," Wilkerson said. "When things heat up a bit, it levels the playing field a little and we've always felt confident that we can make our LRS Ford go from one end to the other. Bring on the sun, bring on the heat, and I hope we see the fans pack the huge grandstand. It's fantastic place to race, and the fans there are among the best, so we're ready to get after it."
Race number three after an 0-2 start. Will deja vu happen all over again for Tim Wilkerson and his LRS team? We'll find out, one step at a time.
- source: twr