WILK'S GOAL: END SUMMER MARATHON ON HIGH NOTE DENVER (July 20, 2010) -- Over the course of the past seven weeks, Tim Wilkerson has driven his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car to a pair of race victories and a runner-up finish, while...
WILK'S GOAL: END SUMMER MARATHON ON HIGH NOTE
DENVER (July 20, 2010) -- Over the course of the past seven weeks, Tim Wilkerson has driven his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car to a pair of race victories and a runner-up finish, while simultaneously improving his won/lost record from 9-8 to 21-12 in just six races. On top of that, at the most recent race during this summer marathon stretching from coast to coast, he clinched a coveted spot in the Countdown playoffs. It's all good for the LRS owner/tuner/driver, right? Almost.
After getting certifiably hot at a critical juncture, Wilk heads to Denver this weekend to compete in the NHRA Full Throttle tour's seventh race in eight weekends, but he does so coming off a first-round loss, to eventual race winner Ron Capps, in Sonoma. The match-up with Capps came about despite Wilkerson's strong qualifying effort, in which he saved his best for last and moved up to the 7th spot on the grid during his final pass on Saturday afternoon.
"Maybe we didn't do ourselves any favors by having a good Saturday and making a move up the ladder, but that's how this sport goes and you really can't pick your opponents," Wilkerson said. "You just go out and do your best, and we had a really good Saturday. As soon as the session is over, believe me, everyone is listening to Bob Frey on the P.A. system to hear the match-ups, because we usually can't keep straight who is in each position. We moved up a couple of spots to get in the top half, and then heard we had Ron in round one. Maybe they were sandbagging to get a quick rematch after our final-round race the weekend before, in Seattle.
"Either way, and no matter who we race, we still have to go out there and race the lane, not the man or woman in the other car. Having gone to three straight finals, we'd obviously been doing a good job at that, but this time we failed and it didn't really matter that Capps was over there. When we missed on the tune-up and smoked the tires, the car got loose and crossed the center line. At that point, the slowest sportsman car on the property would've gotten the win light. The Safety Safari tractor could've beaten us. We were on a pretty good hot streak, but we messed up."
Now, this summer tour that stretched from Chicago in the midwest, to Englishtown on the east coast, then to Bristol in Appalachia and Norwalk in northern Ohio, before heading west to Seattle and then down the beautiful Pacific coast to Sonoma, finally arrives at Bandimere Speedway at the foot of the Rockies, where the city of Denver acts as the host for the anchor leg of what has been a grueling summer schedule. With but Denver and Brainerd left to settle, once and for all, the rankings in the Full Throttle Top 10, Countdown opportunities still remain the focus.
"Robert Hight proved last year that you can win it from any position, by barely getting in the last spot on the last day, but no one out here would give up a spot if they had the option," Wilkerson said. "Every spot higher on the list gives you a little more to work with, and then you have to get hot and stay hot if you want to win the championship. Having been through it the last two years, I can tell you that it's a lot of tension and a lot of pressure, and that's what the playoffs are like in all the stick-and-ball sports, where everything is on the line in the post-season.
"The original idea with the Countdown was to create a real playoff atmosphere, which we'd never had before, and to make sure nobody ran away with it and wrapped up the championship so early it made the last few races irrelevant. Well, they achieved all of that with flying colors, because this is just about all we talk about once Memorial Day rolls around. It's all about earning your playoff spot and knowing what you have to do once you're in. The team that handles it the best has the best shot at the trophy and the big check."
Wilk will have no lack of support in Denver this weekend, as his pit area will re-expand to accommodate a large number of LRS guests after having been downsized for four straight races while the tour made stops in non-critical geographic markets for the provider of information technology solutions. In Denver, the standard client entertainment on Friday and Sunday will act as bookends for one of the biggest and most enjoyable days of the year, when Dick Levi hosts a large group of family and friends on Saturday. All told, more than 240 guests will be hosted in the Team LRS pit this weekend.
"Saturday is a huge day for Dick Levi and his extended family, and it's a day we look forward to all year," Wilkerson said. "We have some big days in other markets, including St. Louis and Joliet since they're both so close to LRS headquarters, but this one is more a personal thing for Dick, so the object is really to just make sure they have fun, and we hope to give them something to cheer about.
"It will be great to have all those people right there in our pit-side hospitality center, because it's like bringing your own cheering section to the race. They're right up close, following everything we do and getting a good whiff of nitro when we warm up, then they cheer like we scored a touchdown. Anyone who says that doesn't pump them up should check their heartbeat. It's a cool deal."
Cool deals are good. Going to three straight finals and winning two of them was a cool deal. Clinching a playoff berth was a cool deal. Giving Dick Levi and his guests something to cheer about would most certainly be a cool deal. Parlaying it all into a solid run for the Full Throttle championship would be, beyond any doubt, the ultra-coolest of all the deals.