DANIEL WILKERSON WALKS AWAY FROM SPECTACULAR CRASH Daniel Wilkerson was amped-up and ready to face Ron Capps in round one, after qualifying a solid 8th in Memphis, then sitting out a rain-postponed Sunday before being further delayed Monday ...
DANIEL WILKERSON WALKS AWAY FROM SPECTACULAR CRASH
Daniel Wilkerson was amped-up and ready to face Ron Capps in round one, after qualifying a solid 8th in Memphis, then sitting out a rain-postponed Sunday before being further delayed Monday morning. To him, it felt as if his first-round race would never happen.
Racing got underway just before 11:00 on Monday, and Capps and Wilkerson made up the first pair of Funny Cars. At the flash of amber, young Wilk bolted to a 2-hundredths advantage with a veteran-like .079 reaction time, and his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang was trucking at full-bore, taking a significant lead on the powerful Capps machine. Just as he thought he was on his way to his first-ever NHRA Funny Car round win, the young driver experienced what no racer wants to go through, but then walked away, much to the relief of all in attendance.
Wilkerson's car began to sashay just a bit at around the 330-foot mark, then apparently lost both rear wheels, with the right rear appearing to depart first, sending him across both lanes and nearly head-on into the left-side wall. Fortunately, the momentary sashay move allowed Capps to catch up, and Wilkerson's machine streaked just behind Capps' race car before impacting the wall at a high rate of speed. The collision folded the entire front of the car back up to the front of the motor, destroying the chassis and the Ford body.
Various sources have provided photographic evidence that both rear wheel assemblies were off the car before it hit the wall, but the team has yet to do any forensic research to track the problem or discover the cause.
Wilkerson was alert throughout the entire ordeal, got himself out of his car in quick fashion, and was completely lucid and not complaining of any injuries or pain. His greatest concern was his worry for his mother, Krista Wilkerson, who was watching from the starting line, and for the other racers.
"I just wanted to apologize to all the other racers for causing a mess and huge delay," Wilkerson said. "We sat out all of Sunday, then it kept misting this morning and we weren't sure if we were even going to run, and before you know it my race car goes out there and basically comes apart and I'm into the wall making a huge mess. And, I knew my mom was going to be back there worried sick, so I wanted to let everyone know that I was okay.
"It was really pulling hard off the line, and it sure felt like it was on a huge run, then just a fraction of a second before it all went bad I felt it start to wobble and sashay a little bit. Next thing I know, it feels like I'm riding on the ground and it's making a hard left. For a bit I thought I had it, with the wheel cranked hard right, but then the wall was right in front of me and I knew I was going to hit it. I just held the wheel, gritted my teeth, and held on. With no rear wheels, I basically had no brakes, so then I just skidded down the track until the thing came to a stop."
Wilkerson was quickly on the radio back to his crew, letting them know he was fine, and that news was immediately relayed to his mother, who feared the worst (as did other crew members). The fact he was not only able to get out of the car on his own, but was completely uninjured, surely appears to be due to the wide variety of new safety features now made mandatory in the Funny Car class.
"My neck doesn't hurt, my head doesn't hurt, none of my arms or legs hurt, but my feelings are not just hurt; they're pretty crushed," Wilkerson said. "That was a great race car, the one my dad drove last year, and now it's total junk. The first two things I thought of once I got out of the car were 'Man, we were ahead of him and were winning' and 'Holy cow, I ruined the race car.' There was just nothing I could do, though. I was along for the ride. Let me tell you, that split-second instant right before you hit the wall is not a fun moment."
Further updates will be released if and when research uncovers the cause of the failure in the rear of the car.
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