ONE UP, ONE DOWN FOR WILK Let it be said: The holeshot giveth and the holeshot taketh away. Tim Wilkerson can attest to that fact, after his first-round starting line mastery earned him a win on Sunday morning, not long before he cut...
ONE UP, ONE DOWN FOR WILK
Let it be said: The holeshot giveth and the holeshot taketh away. Tim Wilkerson can attest to that fact, after his first-round starting line mastery earned him a win on Sunday morning, not long before he cut nearly the same light in the second round but came up short. On a wild, weird, and wacky weekend in Houston, perhaps there was no other way for this event to end for the Levi, Ray & Shoup team.
Let it also be said that Houston weather is as mysterious as a Rubik's Cube, as evidenced on Saturday when all the collective sunshine-dominated forecasts in the world couldn't predict (or help us avoid) a magical soaking rain that appeared out of nowhere, stayed around too long, and delayed the activity until into the night. As stated earlier, it was a wild, weird, and wacky weekend.
Throughout two long days of qualifying, it was a hit-and-miss proposition for the LRS team, with two laps in the right lane ending in tire smoke while two in the left provided a 4.091 and a 4.119. In the end, the 4.09 from Friday landed Wilkerson in the No. 9 spot on the chart, with Team LRS slipping into that bottom-half position during the final session. As much as this looked like a one-lane track, the relegation to the ninth spot seemed ominous, but Wilkerson wasn't convinced it was a lane issue. Yet.
"There is a little problem down there around half-track on the right side, but we smoked the tires well before then both times, so that wasn't what was tripping us up," Wilkerson said. "We were just getting too greedy over there, and that caused us to have to kind of dial it back down to a safer call in Q4, when we really needed to get down the track cleanly to set ourselves up for race day. You don't like to go into the race after consecutive tire-smokers, so we put a safer tune-up in it and it only ran the 4.11, and that's why we ended up in the bottom half and on the right side come Sunday morning.
"Once the race started, though, it was pretty clear you could get yourself into trouble on either side. In that way, it was an equal-opportunity race track because it was a totally different animal than we had on Friday and Saturday. I figured there could be some pedaling involved, and I was right."
As bizarre and odd as Friday and Saturday had been, Sunday laid claim to the title as the zaniest day of the young season. Top Fuel action featured more than its share of tire smoke in the opening round, and when the Funny Car class followed, the theme continued. As the eighth and final pair in the round, Wilkerson and Jack Beckman could only watch and wonder what twisted fate was about to befall them. Tire smoke was on the menu as the featured entree.
In their match-up, it was Wilk away first with an outstanding .060 reaction time, a full two-hundredths better than his average. Soon thereafter, both cars lost traction and this one was left to the drivers, as both Wilkerson and Beckman furiously attempted to reach the finish line under some sort of power. At the stripe, it was Wilk tripping the beams first, for his sixth round win of the year, but it was the scoreboard that told the strangest tale, as Wilk took the round with a 5.051 to Beckman's quicker 5.030. After having lost on a double holeshot at the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, Wilkerson had done his part to even that personal score by scratching out a round win with a quicker light, and the pedaling aspect of the accomplishment simply added to its crazy nature.
About one hour later, Wilkerson again pulled to the starting line as half of the final pair in the round, this time matched up with Tony Pedregon who had struggled throughout qualifying, only sneaking into the show 16th. That starting spot tells this tale of surprise, as Pedregon's appearance in the second round meant he had upset the No. 1 qualifier, John Force, in the opening round, in what was yet another mutual tire-smoker.
This time, Wilkerson again bettered his average at the tree, getting away with a still-fine .066 light. This time, both contestants defied the traction odds and made the only side-by-side pass in the round. This time, it was Pedregon taking the win on a holeshot, with his 4.225 beating Wilk's 4.213, thanks to his stellar .041 reaction time. The holeshot giveth, and the holeshot taketh away.
"What are you gonna do?" Wilkerson asked, rhetorically. "We got down the track, we did everything we were trying to do, and the driver even did his part about as well as he can do it, but we lost. I guess the best way to look at it is that we wouldn't have had a chance to lose on a holeshot in the second round had we not won on a holeshot in the first round. These rounds are precious, like they're made out of platinum or gold or something, so we need every one we can get and we got one today. There's nothing I can do about whatever goes on in the other lane, so I consider that lap a success. We just didn't get the win light, that's all."
Now, it's on to Las Vegas for next weekend's SummitRacing.com Nationals. As crazy as Sin City can be, on its best day, it's highly unlikely it can top Houston for wild, weird, and wacky. Let that be said.