Las Vegas: Tim Wilkerson preview

IN A TOWN BORN FROM STREAKS, WILKERSON AIMS TO START A NEW ONE LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 31, 2009) -- It is a city born from streaks, both the good and the bad, and its ability to continually entice those who believe the next roll, deal, or spin...

IN A TOWN BORN FROM STREAKS, WILKERSON AIMS TO START A NEW ONE

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 31, 2009) -- It is a city born from streaks, both the good and the bad, and its ability to continually entice those who believe the next roll, deal, or spin will be "the big one" has kept Las Vegas glowing for decades. For Tim Wilkerson, owner/driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car, it's a desert oasis where his 2008 season took flight, and that only increases his appreciation for everything Las Vegas has to offer.

In 2008, Wilkerson arrived at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) still dealing with a losing streak that stretched back nearly four years. He hadn't won a race since Sonoma in 2004, but his LRS Funny Car was running well while showing signs of serious life, and after qualifying in the No. 2 spot at The Strip, he reeled off big wins over Jim Head, Tony Pedregon, and Ron Capps before meeting up with Ashley Force in the final; a pairing which left his daughter Rachel torn between rooting for her father or her "other favorite" driver. 4.962 seconds later, Wilkerson had his first win of '08, and a new streak was born. It was one that took him to the doorstep of the NHRA Funny Car Championship.

"We knew we had a fast car coming into Vegas last spring, because we'd been qualifying great and picking up a few round wins here and there," Wilkerson said. "But, when you haven't won a race in something like four years, you can't help but wonder when it's going to happen again. You just wonder if you're snake-bit, or unlucky, or just not good enough. I thought we were good enough, and on Sunday at The Strip we put it together and kind of proved it to ourselves, I think.

"Our whole world pretty much changed after that win, last year. Once you get that losing streak broken, and get the first win out of the way, your attitude changes and you get a little more aggressive, maybe. We didn't feel so much like underdogs after that, and we tried not to act like underdogs or expect anything less than success."

Factoring out the nearly four-year losing streak, the similarities between Wilkerson's '08 run at the SummitRacing.com Nationals, and his 2009 appearance at the same event this weekend, are many in number and vivid in quality. He has a fast car, which seems to be getting better and quicker with each event, and it appears he's about ready to bust loose and reclaim his spot in the Winner's Circle. All he needs is the right set of circumstances in which to do it, and Las Vegas has provided those circumstances to millions of visitors.

"I'm not much of a gambler, but I know how it works," Wilkerson said. "It's all math, if you think about it, and the whole part about 'Why not me?' keeps the people coming. The numbers tell you that the casinos win enough to make their money, but if the gamblers don't win often enough, nobody would want to make the wagers, so the chance of winning is always there and you see other people winning all around you, too. On the track, we try to play the odds but not push our limits, and we can say 'Why not us?' just like the people in the casino. We know the next lap can be a big one, and we're in pretty good shape right now to do something big, so why not us?

"We've gotten better at every race, and we had one of the best cars going this past weekend in Houston. Sometimes you don't have the fastest car, but you catch some breaks and do a lot of good, and other times you have a mean hot rod, but things just don't go your way. We were just the same way last year, not getting many breaks when the car was good enough to win, until we got to Vegas. Right now, I think the LRS Shelby is good enough to win, and when you combine a good car with some good breaks, you can get on a roll."

You can increase your odds on the drag strip by having a fast car. You can increase the likelihood of good fortune when the opponents know you're fast. When good odds and good fortune come together, good cars win. And that's how winning streaks are born.

-credit: twr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , Tim Wilkerson