Tim Wilkerson Defeated Bob Bode in round one Lost to Ashley Force Hood in round two There were a number of recurring themes running through Tim Wilkerson's weekend in Las Vegas, including the round in which he departed (second) and the fact the...
Tim Wilkerson Defeated Bob Bode in round one Lost to Ashley Force Hood in round two
There were a number of recurring themes running through Tim Wilkerson's weekend in Las Vegas, including the round in which he departed (second) and the fact the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang didn't qualify as highly as Wilk would have wanted. But the most obvious connective thread was Wilkerson's performance on the track, in a loss, in round two. For the second consecutive week, the LRS Mustang was ousted from the race despite being the only losing car to make a competitive side-by-side run down the race track in the second round. This time, the win went to Ashley Force Hood, who ran low e.t. of the round by a bunch (4.298) while Wilkerson valiantly battled a tough left lane to post a 4.379.
The set up for Wilkerson's Sunday effort was forged during qualifying on Friday and Saturday, when the LRS team couldn't shake a case of OLBS, otherwise known as "One Lap Behind Syndrome." A tire smoker in the afternoon on Friday was the cause connected to the effect of running well, but a bit softly, on Friday night. That 4.255 was enough to plant Wilkerson solidly in the show, but with a pair of mid-afternoon runs on Saturday it left him too far behind the leaders to make a charge for a spot the top half of the field. On Saturday, another tire smoker in the heat created a scenario in which Wilk simply aimed to go A-to-B during Q4, in order to regain a baseline for Sunday, and that sort of approach prohibited any real chance at improvement.
"We were just one lap behind all weekend, and we never could catch up," Wilkerson said. "You'd like to come out, ideally, with a nice solid run on the first pass, so that you have the leverage and the leeway to go for it a little bit in Q2, which is usually going to be the best session of the weekend. When you go into the late Friday run with nothing much in the bank, I think it's just smarter to make sure you get down there on the second run. If you go out there and try to be a hero, you might end up looking like a knucklehead instead.
"On Saturday, if we would've put a full lap on the board in Q3 I probably would've rolled the dice a bit on the last one, but I wasn't going to do that and risk two tire smokers in a row. So, we eased up on it and got it down the track. We never did make a really good run in qualifying, and that put us in the tenth spot for race day."
That No. 10 qualifying position created an all-Illinois match up between Wilkerson (Springfield) and Bob Bode (Barrington). Bode may not run full-time or possess the sort of budget necessary to compete with the biggest of the big boys, but he consistently gets his car down the track and ran well in qualifying here, outpacing Wilkerson by a wide enough margin to earn the No. 7 spot on the grid.
"Bob knows how much I respect him and how much I admire what they do over there, and how they go about doing it," Wilkerson said. "I can look at Bob Bode and see a lot of me, from not too many years ago. Under no circumstances, ever, should Bob Bode be viewed as a Cinderella story or a big underdog when you're racing him. He gets that car down the track all the time and he runs too good to overlook."
As the sixth pair in the opening round, both Wilkerson and Bode had ample time to analyze the track on yet another brilliant day in Las Vegas. This year's running of the SummitRacing.com Nationals was graced by three days of Chamber of Commerce weather, but the one downside to such terrific atmosphere is the sun's ability to make a good race track slippery. Some first round pairs were in command (see Melanie Troxel over Bob Tasca, where a 4.275 beat a a 4.280 by an eyelash) but the prevalent scenario had either one or both cars encountering traction issues. Wilkerson was ready for a pedal-fest, just as he experienced in Houston one week ago, but in the end he didn't need to slap the throttle. After the burnout, Bode's crew instructed him to shut off with an oil pump failure, and Wilkerson was given a single run.
On the run, the LRS Shelby ran well to half-track but then smoked the tires. Was this the mythical "lucky one" you supposedly need to win a race, or was Wilk's OLBS still in effect? The latter turned out to be the case.
Coming back out for the second round, Wilk was faced with the sizable challenge of taking on Force Hood, who qualified No. 2 at this race with a 4.195, although she had gotten somewhat lucky in the opening round as well, when her 4.394 was good enough to beat a tire-smoking Cruz Pedregon. Wilkerson knew he'd need a superlative effort to take this one, no matter which lane he was handed.
At the flash of amber, with Wilk positioned in the less-favored left lane, it was the LRS car away first with a slight advantage. The two cars were nose to nose to the 330 mark, and side-by-side to the end, but at the stripe it was Force Hood with the win.
"We were the only ones to make it down that lane, and we were the only ones to lose with a full pass, but a loss is a loss," Wilkerson said. "Our goal there was to make sure we raced the track and to make sure we got there. If they ran as well as they could, the odds were pretty good she'd get there first, but this track was getting hot and anything could happen out there. We didn't make a perfect lap, because we dropped a cylinder down track and that really slowed us down, but we gave 'em a battle.
"When you line up next to any Force car you have your hands full, but we hope they feel the same way about lining up next to us. All in all, nothing to hang our heads over and we'll get back at it in a couple of weeks, at a race that's pretty big for us."
Wilkerson is referring to the next stop on the Full Throttle tour, which takes place in two weeks at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, just 100 miles south of his home base of Springfield, Ill. With more than 1,000 Levi, Ray & Shoup guests scheduled to attend, it will be a big race indeed.