WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME, WRONG RESULT FOR WILK Tim Wilkerson had a very solid Indy from Friday through Sunday, but this marathon event happens to extend an extra day, and on Monday all of his hard work and earlier success seemed like ancient ...
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME, WRONG RESULT FOR WILK
Tim Wilkerson had a very solid Indy from Friday through Sunday, but this marathon event happens to extend an extra day, and on Monday all of his hard work and earlier success seemed like ancient history when his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang dropped a cylinder at the hit of the throttle. At the finish line, it was teammate Bob Tasca taking the win light, with a 4.188 to Wilk's early-shutoff 4.365. After a grueling stay in Indianapolis, it was all over far too quickly.
Wilkerson had strung together a series of solid runs throughout the long weekend, running 4.25, 4.20, 4.12, and 4.13 over the course of the four sessions that were completed (the final session, late on Sunday, was never run due to earlier inclement weather). Those consistent passes gave the LRS team plenty of confidence, and only a late "Hail Mary" lap by Jerry Toliver (who went from outside the field into the 7th spot on his final run) nudged Wilk from the top half. That nudge, however, was significant. Instead of qualifying 8th and facing Jim Head in the opening round, Wilkerson slipped into 9th and was paired with Tasca.
"The first run was just a feeling out process, but after that we put some nice laps together," Wilkerson said. "We were chasing a dropped cylinder for a while, trying to sort that out, but when we put the .12 and .13 out there, I felt like we had a good handle on this track and the race car. We wanted to qualify in the top half, and thought we were probably okay in that regard, but one late run kicked us down a notch and you could feel a bit of the edge drain out of the camp, once we knew we had to run Bob and his bunch. It's great to face those guys late in the race, because you know one of us is going to have a big day, but it stinks to run them in the first round."
To make the first-round race even more dramatic, Tasca had exploded a motor on his final qualifying pass and the concussion seriously damaged his Shelby Mustang body. The Tasca team worked through the night to repair the damage, and Wilkerson figured they'd be a handful.
"That's a great team over there, and as bad as the body looked none of it was broken in places that couldn't be fixed," he said. "It was just a matter of putting the hours and the sweat into it, and I had no doubt they'd be ready to go. When a team goes through that sort of thrash, you always figure they're situated to be the Cinderella story, but all we had to do was go A-to-B under power and I thought we'd win."
As the last pair of the first round, the tension that built was at its highest point of the long event by the time the two teammates fired their motors and got ready to race. Three long days of qualifying and then a full seven pairs of other Funny Cars preceded them, and once they lit the staging bulbs it was all about to be over for one of the two teammates. For Wilkerson, the key was the whole part about going "A-to-B."
At the hit of the throttle, the demon dropped cylinder returned, draining the LRS Shelby of much-needed power. By half-track, another cylinder began to lose fire and Wilkerson's car made a hard move to the right. A split second later, Tasca took the win light.
"I knew we had problems as soon as I hit the pedal, and when it made the move down there it was time to lift," Wilkerson said. "Even if I legged it all the way down there, I wasn't going to catch him so there was no reason to blow it up or drive like an angry guy. When you get mad at these cars, they always get even.
"It's not how we wanted Indy to end, I can tell you that. It's how it ended up though, so we'll work on our parts and pieces, we'll fix the dropped cylinder problem, and we'll head to Charlotte in a week and a half to start the Countdown. It's playoff time now, so if we're going to get hot this is the time to do it. Once we light them up in Charlotte, there will be 10 teams running for the championship, and one of them is going to win it. We'll try our best to be the one."
With Indy, and the regular season, behind him Wilkerson is ready to make his playoff push.