D. WILK OUSTED IN ROUND ONE Dan Wilkerson's fledgling Funny Car career is still so young, each lap counts as a major learning experience, a stepping stone, and a key piece of the overall puzzle that will one day define him as a race car driver. ...
D. WILK OUSTED IN ROUND ONE
Dan Wilkerson's fledgling Funny Car career is still so young, each lap counts as a major learning experience, a stepping stone, and a key piece of the overall puzzle that will one day define him as a race car driver. With all that in mind, the young Springfield, Ill. driver would still like to pick up his first round win one of these days, and that eventuality will no doubt be simply a matter of time. Once the first one is in the bank, many more are sure to follow.
Making his 2010 debut and racing for the first time since his crash in Memphis last year, the son of veteran Funny Car star Tim Wilkerson did exactly what he accomplished at both of his races in 2009, in terms of making sure he was in the field to race on Sunday. He qualified 10th this time, and with 19 cars racing and a final session on Saturday that could've been called "Bump Mania 2010" that was an achievement. He then drew a date with Bob Bode in round one, but his chances for victory seemed to grow dim on Sunday morning, as a slew of issues reared their ugly heads in his pit area.
"If it could go wrong, it went wrong," Wilkerson said. "We had clutch problems, we were damaging parts all weekend, and we weren't even sure if we'd be able to race in round one for quite a while. If you would have asked me, an hour before the round, if we'd be there for sure, I don't know what I would've said. Even going up there, we weren't totally sure we were okay, but we felt like we were okay enough to at least give it a shot."
To get to that point, Wilkerson had to find a spot on the ladder during the three qualifying sessions that were completed on what ended up to be one of the wettest and messiest races in recent memory. With parking lots that were more suited to mud bog racing, and water everywhere else (including in the air, where the humidity was often above 90 percent) the racing was a challenge for both contestants and spectators. D. Wilk and his team, however, persevered and managed to be 6th after one session, 5th after two, and 10th in the end. Only after some massive juggling in the final session, where pair after pair seemed to be bumping in, bumping out, or just plain bumping, did Wilk fall behind his dad on the sheet, making this the first race at which he did not out-qualify his famous father.
Sunday was predicted to be the best weather day of the weekend, and the racers were greeted by beautiful blue skies in the morning. With such great conditions, the fans showed up in force as well, pouring into Route 66 Raceway all morning long. The wonderful atmosphere stayed in place throughout round one, and D. Wilk made his appointed date with Bode, as the seventh pair of Funny Cars in the first stanza.
The burnout went fine. The car launched hard. Both Bode and Wilkerson were side-by-side for much of the track, but the Levi, Ray & Shoup / Dump-Lok Shelby faded at the end, hurting a few more parts, and the win light went to Bode with a well-earned 4.199 to D. Wilk's 4.401. Race number three in the professional career of Daniel Wilkerson was in the books.
"We never did figure out how to get it to the stripe without eating itself up a little bit, and we left way too many parts on the ground in the pit area, so that makes me pretty mad and I'm sure it didn't make my dad very happy either," Wilkerson said. "We came here to do as well as we could without hurting much, so we failed a bit in that respect. For me, each lap felt more comfortable and by Sunday I was totally back in the Funny Car mode again, so that's a good thing. I just wish I could've made another one, or maybe a few more laps.
"The mystery now is all about when we'll be able to get out again. We need some support, and the people from Dump-Lok were great this weekend. I think they got a good idea of just how much NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing can do for a company, and that's the sort of message we're preaching to a lot of people we're talking to. As budgets hopefully loosen up in Corporate America, we hope to put some deals together and get back out here more often, and hopefully we can be racing full time pretty soon. We'll just have to see, and I'm going to be anxious to race again until we do get back to the track."
All in all, the growth and development of Dan Wilkerson is the most important element in this evolution, and all of that was aided by his weekend in Joliet. Next time, maybe that first round win.