WILK HOPES 4-WIDE WILL DOUBLE HIS CHANCES FOR SUCCESS
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 11, 2011) -- Tim Wilkerson will be the first to tell you that his start to the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle season has not been everything he wanted it to be, although he'll also quickly add that it's not as bad as it may appear. His 0-3 start has clearly not gone according to best-laid plans, but with each passing race his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang has shown greater signs of life, including a top-half qualifying spot at the season's most recent race, in Las Vegas.
Now, heading into the fourth race on the 2011 tour, Wilk will attempt to get his LRS Ford on a better path to success by taking on three cars at a time, instead of just one. This weekend's VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, to be contested at zMAX Dragway, Bruton Smith's "Bellagio of drag strips" in Concord, N.C., will bring back the excitement and the overwhelming raw power of four fuel coupes taking to the track simultaneously. If it's "double your pleasure, double your fun" Wilk is ready to strap it on and get after it at what is, without any doubt, the loudest and most powerful motorsports event in the world.
"I've been thinking about how we really need to get a little streak going, to get hot and stay hot for a while, but I'm not sure if the 4-wide thing helps or hurts us in that respect," Wilkerson said. "To be honest, the thing is just so out of the ordinary it's kind of a hard weekend on the teams, from the drivers to the crew chiefs, to the crew guys. The fans seem to love it though, and they're the ones who pay our salaries, so we're up for the challenge and we'll try to do our best out there.
"The hardest part, from a driving perspective, is that we all have a comfort zone, and the best way to drive one of these beasts is to kind of do it naturally. If you have to think, you're already behind the car, so you get to where you have your routine and then you let your instincts take over. At the 4-Wide, you have to think. You have to get outside that comfort zone a little, and be ready for something you don't do at any other time. We're all in the same boat, though, so hopefully we can take advantage of it and get some round wins in the bank."
Wilkerson does have one more lap of experience than many, when it comes to racing four-wide. Although the 2010 race was the inaugural running of the unique format, NHRA tested the waters by running a special exhibition lap before the final round at zMAX in 2009, and Wilk was a part of the Funny Car group in that event. Last year, running four-wide for real and for points, Wilk was able to advance out of his first group, by coming in second out of the four cars running, but he then earned the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Funny Car driver to outperform three other cars at once, yet lose on a double hole-shot.
You know, the way the format works you only have to win three rounds to get four rounds worth of points, so I'm all for that.
"Back in 2009, it was just to put on a show for the fans and get a feel for it, but we were stuck over in the two lanes that hadn't been run on yet, so it didn't go very well," Wilkerson said. "Last year, though, they did a great job of keeping all four lanes prepped the same, and there really weren't any lane issues at all. We ran well enough in the first round to advance, and then we ran great in the second round, but our 4.061 got spanked by both (Ron) Capps and (John) Force, who each ran 4.064. We all lose on hole-shots every now and then, it's just part of the game, but to get knocked out by two of them in one round was tough to swallow.
"We've also been told that they've worked on the tree set-up some since last year, and that needed to be done. Hopefully, it's a better and more instinctive set-up, because last year it was a little confusing until you got used to it. It took most of us until Sunday just to feel like we knew what was going on in the other two lanes, and like I said before, that's just getting you out of your routine and your comfort zone. Whatever they have, and however it works, we'll all just deal with it and we'll try to get some wins in the book. You know, the way the format works you only have to win three rounds to get four rounds worth of points, so I'm all for that."
As Wilk mentioned, this unique race does provide a chance for one racer to win four rounds worth of points while only making three trips down the track. During eliminations, the four-car groups contest the initial two rounds with the first two cars across the finish line advancing, no matter what lane they are in. In the third and final round, the first car across the stripe earns the win, the second is runner-up, and the final two are credited with what would normally be a semifinal finish.
Known as an owner/tuner/driver who always gets the most out of his budget, Wilk sees the chance to win four rounds worth of points on only three trips down the track as nothing short of an efficient way to maximize his dollars. Double your pleasure, double your fun.