Denver: Tim Wilkerson preview

CAN THE MOUNTAIN BE WILKERSON'S LAUNCH PAD? DENVER (July 7, 2009) -- The net sum of it all is that Tim Wilkerson is right in the middle of the Countdown scuffle, with only six races left to decide the 10 Funny Car drivers who will advance to...

CAN THE MOUNTAIN BE WILKERSON'S LAUNCH PAD?

DENVER (July 7, 2009) -- The net sum of it all is that Tim Wilkerson is right in the middle of the Countdown scuffle, with only six races left to decide the 10 Funny Car drivers who will advance to the NHRA version of the post-season playoffs. What's noteworthy, however, is how he has gotten this far without a single "big moment" on his 2009 highlight reel.

Wilkerson will enter this weekend's Mopar Mile-High Nationals, at scenic and famed Bandimere Speedway, in the No. 7 spot on the Funny Car points list. While others around him have won races, gone on hot streaks, or had their moments in the sun, Wilkerson has simply and consistently earned points, week after week, without accomplishing anything better than his five semifinal finishes in the season's first 12 races. As the defending champ on Thunder Mountain, the Levi, Ray & Shoup driver knows the timing is perfect to start adding bigger and more exciting footnotes to his '09 story, but he's also more than willing to get to the Countdown the same old way.

"I'm just like a lot of people around here; wondering when we're going to have one of those weekends where everything just falls into place and we go on a tear," Wilkerson said. "But, the truth is, the only object here is to win rounds, get in the Countdown, and take our best shot at the championship. If we do that without winning a race, you won't hear any complaints out of me. If we come back to Denver and win on the mountain, I'd be good with that, too.

"The problem with hot streaks is that they usually get balanced out by slumps, so there's a lot to be said for just having a good car and going a few rounds each week. For most of this year, that's what we've had. We had a little stumble at the last race, so we need to get back on our game this weekend, and if that means winning a whole lot of rounds this time around, that would be fine."

Wilkerson's stumble, in Norwalk, came from his first truly difficult qualifying effort on the season, which left him saddled with a No. 16 starting position and a very difficult first-round match up with pole-sitter Mike Neff. Wilk drove the LRS Shelby Mustang to a terrific lap in that round, posting his best run of the weekend, but the No. 1 qualifier was too hot to handle and Team LRS suffered just its second opening-round loss of the year.

"Round one feels like the final round a lot of the times, because nothing really good can happen unless you win that one," Wilkerson said. "There's a ton of pressure to get out of the first round, and we've been lucky enough to do it just about all year. We were good enough to do it in Norwalk, too, but the qualifying deal killed us and we had to race a guy who was just really fast. We used that round as almost a test lap, making sure we had our hot rod back instead of trying to pull of a miracle.

"So, we might have lost there, but we all felt good about how the car came around, how it ran, and how it reacted to what we wanted it to do. Of course, now we're on the mountain at altitude, and the weather forecast is pretty typical for Denver in July, with some broiling temperatures. We'll all be out there scrapping and trying to do what we can under those conditions, so the team that finds their mile-high tune-up first will have the advantage."

One would think that if you wanted to find a launch pad to rocket yourself into orbit, leaving the ground from a mile up might be the smart approach, since you're that much closer to the goal. For Tim Wilkerson and the LRS team, Bandimere Speedway will offer the chance to either bounce back, stay solid, or perhaps even soar to new heights.

-credit: twr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tim Wilkerson , Mike Neff