WILK AIMS TO BE LIGHTNING-QUICK IN THUNDER VALLEY BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 15, 2010) -- Like a football quarterback who has been throwing pinpoint passes only to see them dropped or knocked away, or a baseball hitter who is making consistently...
WILK AIMS TO BE LIGHTNING-QUICK IN THUNDER VALLEY
BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 15, 2010) -- Like a football quarterback who has been throwing pinpoint passes only to see them dropped or knocked away, or a baseball hitter who is making consistently solid contact but slamming those line drives right at the opposition, Tim Wilkerson can look at his recent stats on the NHRA Full Throttle tour and know, deep inside, that things are better than the numbers indicate.
This weekend when the Full Throttle tour makes its third stop during the current four-week swing, at Bristol Dragway for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Wilkerson's goal will be to put his team in position to win by making a few completions or by hitting a few "where they ain't" to get his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang back in the win column. And, with the points situation tightening up to vice-grip levels in the bottom half of the top ten, this would be as good a time as any to take a strong-running car and collect a few round wins with it in the scenic hills of eastern Tennessee.
"It's one thing to know in your heart that you're a little bit lost, or that the car is a long way from running right," Wilkerson said. "I've been there and I know what it feels like, and it really wasn't that long ago. In 2006 and 2007 we DNQd seven times each year, and we only won two rounds of racing in '06, so it's still pretty fresh in my mind and I know how unpleasant it can be. I also know what it's like when the car is running fine, or at least coming around, and you just can't seem to capitalize on it. You feel like you couldn't hit water if you fell out of a boat.
"In the last four races, we've been running way better and we've been qualifying well, actually in the top half at the last four in a row, so that's an indication that we're getting it together. The problem is, we've gone out there on Sunday and gone 2-4 in the same four races, so the work in progress is how to take the good performance and win rounds with it. We will get that figured out, I can promise you that, and we're running well enough right now to go out there and win in Thunder Valley. It's just a matter of execution."
When the dust settled on this past weekend, which actually didn't end until the final rounds were completed on Monday, Wilkerson found himself back in 9th place, with only an 18-point lead on Tony Pedregon in 10th, while both Wilk and T. Ped can now peer nervously behind them as Jeff Arend makes his move in 11th. Arend is now but 31 points behind Pedregon and 49 behind Wilkerson.
The big gainers on the weekend were Bob Tasca and Del Worsham, who had started the Englishtown race right in Wilkerson's neck of the woods, with Tasca entering 31 points ahead while Worsham was holding down the 10th spot, 33 points behind. Once Tasca eliminated Worsham in a thrilling final round, Wilk suddenly found himself a full 105 points back from his alliance partner, who managed to get around Ron Capps in the process and finish the weekend in the No. 6 spot, while Worsham got himself off the Countdown bump spot by leapfrogging into the 8th position, 19 points up on Wilk.
"That's what going to a final round and winning a race will do right now," Wilkerson said. "We're all pretty tightly bunched, so when you go out in the opening round like we did and then two guys who were just ahead and just behind us make it to the final, big changes are going to happen. The good news is, we can go out there and do the same thing this weekend, or the week after that, and make just as big of a move.
"Right now, we're just going to keep focusing on each qualifying run, to see if we can get some more of those bonus points, and then we'll try to get our mojo back on Sunday. All you can do is take it one lap at a time, though, so the next one you make is the most important one you're faced with. One step at a time. I've never won a race any other way than that."
Successfully completing the first step, with another solid qualifying effort, will be the initial goal and if Wilkerson can drive his LRS Ford cleanly to the other end like he did in E-Town, more of those elusive bonus points could aid the effort. By being second-quickest on Friday afternoon and quickest in the class on Saturday's first run in Englishtown, Wilk picked up five total bonus points, his largest haul of the season. As the fight for Countdown spots intensifies, those bonus points will begin to take on more and more importance.
"The difference between being 19 points ahead of somebody and 21 points ahead is a whole round of racing, so those little single digits are always important," Wilk said. "We've usually not been one of the most spectacular teams in qualifying, so we don't tend to get too many of those, but the five we got in Englishtown are important now, and it would really help to sneak out of Bristol with a few more.
"We're not going to change the way we tune the car just to grab a couple of bonus points, because that's a recipe for failure, but if the car keeps running well we should be in the mix. You just have to be quick, and we're getting quicker by the weekend right now."
You just have to be quick. As in lightning-quick in Thunder Valley.