By Team Wilkerson Racing
D Wilk earns first pro round win, exits in round two
Dan Wilkerson did something he'd never done before, driving his Summit Racing Equipment Shelby Mustang Funny Car: He won a round as an NHRA pro. He also accomplished something he has actually done before on multiple occasions: He out-qualified his dad. In the end, young D Wilk landed in the top half on a brilliant final qualifying pass on Saturday, then took out Paul Lee in a very close race in round one on Sunday, before becoming yet another footnote in the incomprehensible career of John Force, by becoming the 123rd driver who has lined up next to the 15-time champ and lost.
"This was so much better than any of the other four races I've been in as a pro," Wilkerson said. "The first three, over the past two years, it really felt like I was a complete rookie and the team was in a little over its head. We were running around a little bit like kittens, out of control and all over the place. In Bristol, last week, we were a lot better but we still needed to get the kinks worked out and get our act together a little more. This weekend, I really felt like we came together as a team, and I'm proud that we looked and acted like we knew what we were doing.
"We were all under control, the car was mostly under control, and it all made a huge difference. Getting the first round win out of the way is pretty huge, but we almost let it slip away when the car started dropping cylinders at the top end. It might've been running on three when it crossed the finish line, but we'd built up enough of a lead to hold on. You only get to win your first round once, so that felt good. Then we had Force, and he was so cool. He came over and talked to me, kind of pumping me up, and that was awesome. I just wish we would've had a little more for him."
On a weekend where Friday was washed out and all of qualifying was held during the two Saturday sessions, D Wilk and his Summit team created all the drama they needed. They smoked the tires on the first run, and had to bump in during the final session. They not only bumped their way in, they leapfrogged all the way up to the No. 6 spot doing so, running the third-quickest lap of the session. That placement brought with it a date with Paul Lee in round one.
Lee was away first, but the Summit car was in the lead quickly and it held the lead to the stripe. With Mom watching from the line, girlfriend Breanna next to her, and Dad watching as well (Dan was in the first pair, father Tim was part of the final pair, in round one) the young gun etched his name in the win column, dropped cylinders and all.
Racing Force, Wilk's mount again began to mix up the cylinders and eat itself up, as Force tore away for the win. The only regret the junior Wilkerson had, on the whole weekend, was that he didn't lift earlier.
"That was dumb," he said. "I saw him out there and then I could feel it nosing over. It had its tongue out down there, really struggling, but I kept after it in case Force had any issues, and we blew it up pretty bad. I apologize to the fans and the other racers for causing a delay out there, and I plan to make that another learning experience.
"Drivers, man, they do the stupidest things. But seriously, I'll get better with more laps and we'll win more of these. It's fun to win a round against these teams and drivers, because they're the best in the world. I can't wait until we get back out again, later in the year, and hopefully we'll just keep making strides like this and keep representing Summit Racing and Ford as well as possible. I want to thank them both, for being so incredibly supportive. I'll never forget this."
It was the first of many to come.