Tim Wilkerson Defeated Bob Tasca in round one; Lost to Ashley Force Hood in round two QUARTERFINAL FINISH AND STRONG CAR ARE SECONDARY TO WILKERSON On a damp and cloudy Monday morning, Tim Wilkerson had just watched as his son Daniel crashed...
Tim Wilkerson Defeated Bob Tasca in round one; Lost to Ashley Force Hood in round two
QUARTERFINAL FINISH AND STRONG CAR ARE SECONDARY TO WILKERSON
On a damp and cloudy Monday morning, Tim Wilkerson had just watched as his son Daniel crashed hard into the wall, completely destroying his race car but, fortunately, doing no discernible damage to himself. Such a sight is difficult for any racer to witness, and certainly even more difficult for any father, but Wilkerson also knew that he would have to strap into his own Funny Car just minutes later, to race Bob Tasca in the first round at the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals. Perhaps the term "professional" was never more a more appropriate description as it was just then.
After a motor-scooter trip to the top end of the track to check on his son, and then a ride back up the return road with Daniel waving to the crowd from the rear portion of their two-wheeled transportation, Wilkerson waited out the lengthy clean-up with plenty of time to stew over the reality of it, as well as the possibilities that did not occur, but he then was belted into his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang, did his burnout, and staged his car. If the earlier drama had any effect on him it was not apparent, as Wilkerson put a strong .076 reaction time on the board, then drove his LRS Mustang right down the center of the lane to take out Tasca with a huge 4.104, at 306.88 mph, far outpacing his qualifying time of 4.130. Tasca posted a strong 4.158 in the other lane.
"We were two pairs behind Daniel, who was part of the first pair of Funny Cars to run, so we were around the corner a little and I couldn't actually see his crash," Wilkerson said. "Needless to say, everyone was on the radio immediately, and I knew he'd hit the wall about as hard as you can in a Funny Car, but within seconds Daniel was on his radio talking to us, so we knew he was okay. I don't know how, but he's actually completely fine. It must be nice to be 21 and so resilient, because he hit hard enough to do some real damage, but he's fine and I had to put that behind me and go race my own car.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I was able to turn off the switch and not think about it, but you have to give these cars 100 percent of your attention, so I was able to get into my race mode and we did okay. The run was actually great, and it was important for us to get another round win. We just tried to stay focused so we could do some good here, on what could've been a really bad day."
In the second round, with Daniel watching from behind the starting line, Wilkerson staged his car alongside Ashley Force Hood, and again he kept the LRS Shelby in the groove for the full 1,000 feet, clocking in with a strong 4.132 at 305.84 mph. This time, however, it was the car in the other lane running a bit quicker, as Force Hood took the win light with a 4.115 to end Wilkerson's day, and long weekend.
"If we could've just gone out there and repeated, we probably would've won, but these cars don't have a button that says 'repeat' on it," Wilkerson said. "They're temperamental, and they're touchy, and as we all saw today they're pretty mean when they want to be. We wanted to go all the way, today, and we probably needed to at least get to the final for us to have a realistic chance of really being in this thing at the end. I haven't done the math yet, but we're back here in the pit packing up and three teams ahead of us in the standings are still going, so that's not good.
"At some point tonight, I'm sure this will all kind of sink in. We were all just so relieved that Daniel was okay, it was kind of easy to just put it behind us and go racing. The kid can drive, and this thing certainly wasn't his fault. He was just along for the ride once the wheels came off down there, so we'll have to get a good look at what's left of the car and figure out exactly what happened. We sure don't want to see it happen to anyone else, at any time."
Wilkerson will now head to Richmond, for the fourth and final stop on this late-season quadruple set of races. After Richmond, the season will take a two-week hiatus before finishing up in Las Vegas and Pomona.
All in all, Memphis provided a round win in the bank and a strong running race car. The long weekend also brought with it more drama than any member of Team Wilkerson cared to experience, but that was followed by an immeasurable amount of relief.
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