By Tim Wilkerson Racing
With Gremlins Exorcised, Dan Wilkerson Ready To Win It For Summit
When Team Wilkerson agreed to represent Summit Racing Equipment at their home race in Norwalk, with Dan Wilkerson driving a Summit Racing Shelby Mustang Funny Car, the team asked to also run in Bristol, one week before. The reasoning behind the request was based on wanting to have all the bugs worked out before taking their act to the big Summit Racing stage, at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals. In hindsight, that appears to have been a very intelligent decision.
D. Wilk did make the field in Bristol, extending his mini-streak of qualifying as a pro to four races, but he did so after four imperfect laps on Friday and Saturday, and he landed in the No. 16 spot in the field. Racing against top qualifier Bob Tasca in the opening round, Wilkerson's Summit Racing Ford shut itself off while he was backing up from the burnout, thanks to a sheared mag drive in the ignition system. With that disappointment behind them, the young driver and his team hope they've gotten all the bad luck out of the way and all the gremlins removed, as they head to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park for this weekend's race.
"I think, between my dad's team and mine, we made this whole Funny Car racing thing look about as difficult as possible in Bristol," Wilkerson said, referring to his father Tim who also suffered fluke mechanical woes in round one. "We were happy to make the field, and we knew we were up against a really fast car and a really good driver in round one, but to not even be able to stage the car and take a light was a real letdown. Hopefully, all that nutty stuff is behind us.
"Getting all the weird stuff ironed out is exactly why we went to Bristol, because we want to be as ready as possible for Norwalk. We appreciate the support from the people at Summit Racing, and our main goal is to represent them as well as we can. To do that, we not only have to be competitive, we need to have all the first-race jitters and gremlins worked out so we can give ourselves a chance to do something good. I think we paid some dues there, in Bristol, so hopefully we're ready to step it up in Norwalk."
Entering just his fifth professional NHRA race, Wilkerson is intent upon continuing his evolution as a Funny Car driver. As part of that equation, he hopes to again make the field and then find that elusive initial round victory.
"It's one step at a time, so the first step is to get in the show," he said. "If we can do that again, the number one priority will be to get a win on the board in round one. I know the car can run fast enough to do that, I'm feeling more and more comfortable in the seat, and we have enough experience on the crew to make it happen. It's just a matter of getting it all going and maybe avoiding some of the insane bad luck.
"The truth is, though, that this is a very tough thing to do and I never underestimate how difficult it is to race with the other teams out here. Some of these guys make more laps in a long test session than I have in my whole Funny Car career, so we're up against the very best. I looked at the entry list and right now there are 21 cars entered, so that's going to make the challenge even bigger, but I really think we're up for it. If we can race like we're capable, I'll be proud of that no matter what the results are, but I think we're about ready to earn a few new stripes."
With the shakedown cruise in Bristol behind them, and with the gremlins hopefully banished, it might be time for Dan Wilkerson to not only earn those stripes, but take the next step in what will surely be a long and successful Funny Car career.