WILK'S INDY COMES TO ABRUPT END IN ROUND ONE Tim Wilkerson figured, as would anyone, that he'd have to be fast to beat "Fast Jack" Beckman in round one at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Turns out, he only had to be somewhat slow, as Beckman ...
WILK'S INDY COMES TO ABRUPT END IN ROUND ONE
Tim Wilkerson figured, as would anyone, that he'd have to be fast to beat "Fast Jack" Beckman in round one at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Turns out, he only had to be somewhat slow, as Beckman pedaled his car to a 4.512, but Wilk's Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang smoked the tires hard at the 330 mark and Beckman earned the win light. As conclusions go, here at the longest and largest race of the year, this one came far too early.
In review, Wilk and his team never really did nail a perfect lap throughout the three days of qualifying and Monday's eliminations, all of which were contested under blue skies and in some of the most flawless atmospheric conditions the tour has seen in years. Although Wilk qualified decently in the 10th spot and did put a 4.104 on the board Saturday night, even that lap featured a torched head gasket that slowed the LRS Ford in the last hundred feet of track. Friday night's run was ended early by the motor, which shut itself off before the finish line, while Saturday's first effort was clean and safe, but softer than Wilk would've liked, clocking in at 4.163.
After the 4.10 on Saturday night, Wilk followed up on Sunday with a tire smoker during the noon session, and a 4.175 in the finale, running with only seven cylinders lit for the last second of the pass. Out of the five qualifying runs, there was plenty of action and the LRS team was never really in danger in terms of making the field, but neither was there any sort of spectacular success that might breed consistency on race day.
"We've had worse qualifying efforts, and I'll take it the way we did it instead of a bunch of tire smoke or other complete misses, but we really didn't ever nail one right on the head," Wilkerson said. "The Saturday night run was the best of the bunch, and it would've probably been in the 4.07 range had we not pushed out the head gasket, but this sport isn't about would've and could've, it's about getting it done out there.
"Even with that, I wasn't thinking at all about smoking the tires in round one. We have enough data and we've made enough laps here to know how to get from end to end at Indy, but we just messed up there, I suspect, because our clutch application has really been an issue here. We weren't trying to outrun Jack, we were trying to go as quick as we could in that lane, at that time, and we overstepped it. The fact Jack had his own problems and any kind of clean lap would have done the trick just eats at you, but a loss is a loss."
Although Wilk's defeat could hardly be considered any kind of upset, since Beckman out-qualified him by three spots on the ladder and is ahead of him in points, there were some other eyebrow raisers in the opening round, and a grand total of five Countdown drivers took it on the chin. That's half of the post-season field going winless at the first playoff race.
Of the five, two also happened to lose to non-Countdown opponents, as Robert Hight was beaten by Paul Lee and Ron Capps was ousted by Melanie Troxel. In terms of Full Throttle points, Wilk was passed by Bob Tasca and Ashley Force Hood, who took out Jim Head and Del Worsham respectively, and the LRS car now sits 8th in the standings.
"You obviously want to get off to a good start in the playoffs, but it's a six-race deal and we'll just have to get on track in two weeks, down in Charlotte," Wilkerson said. "It's almost like the start of the season, in that it's kind of hard to take when you mess up and it seems like a lot of teams really get a jump on you, but the truth is you can still make it up at the next race. You just don't want to get in too big of a hole."
The rebound effort will take place in Charlotte, with qualifying beginning on September 17. Unlike the spring event at zMAX Dragway, this Charlotte race will be contested in the standard 2-lane format.