Englishtown: Tim Wilkerson final report

WILK'S MARCH UP THE POINTS SHEET CONTINUES WITH ANOTHER SEMIFINAL Tim Wilkerson is proving that consistently going to the semifinals is a good thing. Since making it to the third round in Atlanta, on April 19, when he was 11th in the points, ...


Tim Wilkerson is proving that consistently going to the semifinals is a good thing. Since making it to the third round in Atlanta, on April 19, when he was 11th in the points, Wilkerson has now advanced to the semifinal round four times in the last six races, and he leaves Englishtown one more notch up on the points ladder, in 5th. That's all good, and Wilkerson will be the first to tell you he's happy with the power and the consistency of his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang, but as Jim Morrison used to sing, Wilk would still like to "break on through, to the other side" of the semi's, and gain his first final round of the year. This time, it was a tough battle with Tony Pedregon in the semi's, and Wilk bowed out with a 4.186 to Pedregon's 4.132-second mark.

Wilk entered competition on Sunday from the No. 7 spot, his seventh top-half spot on the season, and he managed that on an imperfect run on Friday evening. This year's Englishtown tilt featured the standard swings in weather, with hot and muggy conditions swapping places with low clouds and rain, and after smoking the tires in the Friday heat, Wilk went A-to-B that night but left a little on the table with his 4.177. It was still good enough for that 7th spot, but it brought with it a first-round date with the points leader, Ron Capps, who qualified 10th here.

"Obviously, the ladder didn't do us any favors, but we have no control over that so we don't sweat it," Wilkerson said. "I figured Sunday might be a roll of the dice for everyone, because the weather was doing all that goofy stuff and we didn't really know what we were going to have to deal with. Sure enough, we come out here and the clouds are so low the parachute guy couldn't jump during the national anthem, then it rained during round one of Top Fuel. We were all shooting in the dark a little bit, but we decided to be as aggressive as we could. We threw a lot at it, and we thought it would stick."

The term "a lot" meant plenty, as Wilkerson streaked to his best run of the weekend (by a long way) by posting a 4.085 against Capps, who couldn't handle that sort of number with his strong 4.138. The points leader was gone, Wilk had picked up 20 more precious Full Throttle points, and it was on to round two to face the man who had just blasted to low e.t. of the weekend (4.051) in round one, Mike Neff.

Wilkerson knew, well and good, that Neff would present a stern test, and the numbers on the scoreboards testified to that. Neff roared to a big 4.167, while Wilkerson clicked through the lights with a slower 4.196, but the win lights were on in Wilkerson's lane thanks to his big advantage at the starting line. Wilk's .072 was enough better than Neff's .114 to make up the difference in e.t.. with 13-thousandths to spare. It was a huge win, on all accounts, but it also moved Wilk up to the 5th spot in points. That's going from 11th to 5th in just six races, on the strength of a 10-6 record over that stretch.

The semifinal was looming, and Tony Pedregon was the opponent. T. Ped came into this race off a win in Joliet, so he was working on a six round win streak by the time he made the semifinals, and Wilk was looking to advance out of the semifinals for the first time this year. On just those basics, it was clear to be a stout race, but the constantly changing weather conditions made it even more of a challenge. Sun, heat, humidity, and steam were the order of the day by the time Wilkerson and Pedregon lined up, and 4.132 seconds later, Pedregon lit the win lights while Wilk crossed the line behind him, in 4.186.

Again, a great weekend and positive moves up the Countdown points sheet, but still no chance to "break on through."

"I'm not worried about it, and I'm happy the way this LRS car is running," Wilkerson said. "We were talking this morning, that just going to the second round now, at every race, will be enough to make sure you're in the Countdown deal. Having to face Ron in round one today was a big old test for all of us, but we got a little brave and really stood on it, and it paid off. I guess the driver did his part in the next round, but the car still ran well, and then in the semifinals we just spun a bit at the top end, and that slowed us down enough for him to get away.

"We're making progress, we're winning rounds, and we feel confident. As good as we're running, something tells me it's going to be a fluke or a lucky deal when we do go to a final round, but that's okay too. You need to be a little lucky in this game, not just good. But who knows, we might just keep going to the semifinals and be right in the middle of the championship hunt. It's an interesting way to do it, and winning a race or two is a lot more fun, but I'm happy with the car and the team. It's all good."

All good indeed. From the driver/crew chief to the crew members and supporters, it's all good. And all good is good enough for 5th in points right now.

-credit: twr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , Tim Wilkerson , Mike Neff , Jim Morris