D Wilk's Race Day Never Gets Off The Ground
Dan Wilkerson, driving his beautiful Summit Racing Equipment Ford, knew he had his hands full in the first round on Sunday, during the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals. As the 16th qualifier, he never did put a completely solid lap together through two days of qualifying and he therefore had to race the No. 1 qualifier in the opening round. That top qualifier, Bob Tasca, had his Shelby Mustang "running on mean" all weekend, and the Tasca group was clearly the class of the Funny Car group on Friday and Saturday. In the end, D Wilk would simply have liked a chance to give Tasca a run for his money, but his car shut itself off when backing up from the burnout, and he never so much as made it to the starting line.
"I was just cruising back from the burnout and it quit so fast it was stunning.
Earlier in the weekend, it was all about taking those important steps to complete the evolution of a Funny Car driver. His first lap back in the seat, after a year away from the pro ranks, was an A-to-B effort but the car was set up very soft. Later on Friday, he felt tire spin at the top end and lifted early. On Saturday, his car broke a blower belt before crossing the finish line during Q3, and then got a bit loose again on his final effort, causing the young driver to lift once again. It all added up to a 16th spot on the grid.
"If there's one thing my dad has ingrained in me, it's that I'm not out here to be a hero yet," Wilkerson said. "After that last run, I was beating myself up a little, thinking I should've stayed with it and kept my foot down, but until you've been at the top end in a Funny Car it's kind of hard to explain just how fast your brain is working and how it can talk to your foot before you can even think about it. Every lap is a learning experience, and I'm trying to soak it all up. I never want to be a guy that other racers don't want to line up against, so we'll just keep learning and take it step by step."
Sunday's proceedings were delayed by a rain storm that threatened to wash out the race, but when 4:00 p.m. rolled around the Top Fuel cars rolled under the tower and lit their engines. A few minutes later, the Funny Cars took the track. D Wilk's father, Tim Wilkerson, was up first in the Funny Car class and when his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford had mechanical issues (later traced to a broken rear end on the car) the younger Wilkerson felt it was time to step up and carry the family banner.
Unfortunately, after doing his burnout D Wilk began to back up to the starting line when, suddenly and mysteriously, the motor on his Summit Racing Mustang simply quit. His team pushed the car back out of the way, and Tasca took the win uncontested. Granted, Tasca's massive 4.076 would've been tough to beat, or more realistically it would've been nearly impossible to beat, but it was a disappointing way to finish the weekend for the young Summit Racing driver.
"I couldn't believe it," D Wilk said. "I was just cruising back from the burnout and it quit so fast it was stunning. I figured it had to probably be ignition related, because it didn't spool down and nothing went bang; it just stopped running. We got back to the pit and started to dissect the whole thing, and pretty soon found the culprit. We sheared the mag drive, so basically we had no ignition at that point.
"Why do Funny Cars do stuff like this? I have no idea, and I wish this one hadn't, but we're not the first team to have a mag drive go bad, or have other ignition or mechanical issues. It's not like we put it together wrong, or spilled oil all over the track, or looked like idiots out there. We just had a critical piece of the motor go bad at a very unfortunate moment. The good news is, Norwalk is next weekend and that's the big race for Summit Racing Equipment. We came here to shake the car down and get some practice time in, so hopefully we got all of these gremlins out of the way and we can come out swinging next weekend in Norwalk."
And, hopefully, D Wilk will at least have a chance to show his stuff in round one.