WILK LOOKS TO START A NEW HOT STREAK AS POINTS RACE HEATS UP JOLIET, Ill. (June 1, 2010) -- In the end, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing is not that much different than other team sports when it comes to chasing a championship over a long-haul ...
WILK LOOKS TO START A NEW HOT STREAK AS POINTS RACE HEATS UP
JOLIET, Ill. (June 1, 2010) -- In the end, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing is not that much different than other team sports when it comes to chasing a championship over a long-haul season. Winning teams might dominate from wire to wire, they might embark on a miraculous winning streak just when it seems they are out of contention, or they might just enjoy the pleasure of being well-positioned and then getting hot at the right time. Tim Wilkerson, driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car, knows there could hardly be a better time to get hot than right now.
As the tour moves into the "middle third" of its grinding schedule, it does so at a breakneck pace with seven races in the next eight weeks. Once this blur of travel and racing is completed, the teams will be staring the Countdown playoffs nearly square in the eye, with only one additional event (Brainerd in mid-August) standing between them and the post-season. Get hot now, and good things will come your way. Stumble, and you could be on the outside looking in. Currently sitting in 9th place, Wilkerson is fully aware that it's time for his LRS squad to get hot right along with the summer weather.
"We messed up at the last race, losing in the first round in Topeka, and at the same time some of the teams right behind us got going a little bit, so that was kind of a bad combination," Wilkerson said. "Jeff Arend went from being sort of 'over the horizon' in 11th place, to being pretty big in the rearview now, after he went all the way to the final round in Topeka, so the pressure is on everyone to step it up and get some rounds in the bank now.
"Standing here getting ready for this weekend, knowing how crazy this stretch of racing is going to be, it's a little hard to believe just how far we'll go in the next two months, and I don't just mean in terms of distance. We will cover a lot of miles, that's for sure, but we're going to just about settle the whole Countdown thing and that's what's important. Right now, it still feels like it's early in the season. The next time we catch our breath, it's all going to be coming to a head and we'll be about to go into the playoffs. If you're going to get hot, this is the time to do it."
Entering this weekend's race at beautiful and spacious Route 66 Raceway, Wilkerson sits only 12 points ahead of Del Worsham, who currently holds onto the critical 10th position in the Full Throttle points. As referenced, Arend is now only 65 points back in 11th, making this dash to the playoffs a much more competitive and stressful endeavor, while Cruz Pedregon remains in the hunt in 12th, 134 points behind Wilkerson.
Looking up the leaderboard, Wilk is just 12 points south of Tony Pedregon and 27 behind Bob Tasca, while Matt Hagan has a 51-point edge on the LRS team. Jack Beckman currently sits 5th, 96 points up on Wilk, and the top four (John Force, Robert Hight, Ron Capps, and Ashley Force Hood) range from 249 points up (Force) to 112 (Force Hood). The goal, for now, is simply to return his team to a positive mode and begin a movement up the sheet rather than down.
"It seems like everyone is running pretty strong right now, so it's not going to be easy to catch anyone, but it will be really easy to be caught if you mess up, that's for sure," Wilkerson said. "We're just going to focus on the rounds, one at a time, and if we do our best and run as well as we should, we'll win our share and we'll be okay. What was weird was that we went to the second round at five straight races, but we fell from 7th place to 9th place doing that. That's not that easy to do, because if you go to the second round you're no worse than the 8th-best car at that race. You wouldn't think you could fall to 9th doing that, but all the right teams kept going rounds with us, and that's what happened.
"So, we just need to qualify well, like we did in Topeka, and then capitalize on that to get some more rounds under our belt. We'd love to rip off a win or three, but honestly it's just about rounds right now. If we can start getting some semifinals on our stat sheet, we'll be fine. If we get stuck in a first-round sort of deal, we're going to be in trouble. The good news is we control our own destiny right now, so all we have to do is win and we won't need anyone else's help."
With Joliet being roughly 150 miles north of Springfield, Ill., the home base for both Levi, Ray & Shoup and Team Wilkerson, this weekend's event will be a high-energy affair featuring tons of support for the program. A large number of LRS staffers and guests will be in attendance, as will hoards of Wilk's Warriors, the avid fan group that follows its favorite driver with both passion and loyalty. To cap it all off, Wilkerson will be creating an even more exciting weekend by making it a father/son affair, as well. Daniel Wilkerson will be making his 2010 debut this weekend, and it will also mark his first time back on the track since his wreck in Memphis last year.
"Daniel's been wanting to get back out here since about a minute after the wreck, so that's not an issue," Wilkerson said. "We just didn't want to have to fund the whole thing out of our pocket, because we're watching every dollar as much as everyone else is right now, but we got some help from a Springfield company called Dump-Lok, and we made the call to put the kid out there this weekend. Needless to say, he's pretty excited.
"What I have to do is try to pull the reins in on myself a little bit now, because the work load goes up when the second team is out there with us. I can't spend all my time over there with them, but it's also impossible to just let them go and pretend they're not parked right next to us, if you know what I mean. It's pretty exciting to have him back out here with us, so hopefully things will go well for both teams and maybe we can meet up deep in the race. If we do, I know I'll be lined up next to a very good driver."
And if father and son do meet up "deep in the race" the elder Wilkerson will have accomplished the first part of his summer mission. He will have gotten back to his round-winning ways and gotten hot, at just the right time.