Infinenon Raceway Sears Point
Wilk Focused On Sonoma Mission
The word "mission" has multiple meanings, with two of the most common being "a specific task or duty" and "a church or chapel". Tim Wilkerson, tuner/driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car, will coincidentally be continuing his mission of solidifying a spot in the Full Throttle Top 10 this weekend, at a race track located near the historic and northernmost Spanish mission built during the early 1800s. The picturesque Sonoma Mission is but a few miles north of Infineon Raceway, site of this weekend's Fram Autolite Nationals.
The "glass half full" version of Wilk's ongoing mission for a spot in the Countdown contains the good news that he is now in the Top 10, having defeated Johnny Gray in round one at Denver to move up from 11th. The "glass half empty" rendition notes that Gray is only 19 points behind, within easy striking distance with four races left to settle things before the playoffs begin. To make the challenge even greater, Tony Pedregon lurks in 12th, only 42 points behind Wilk, and Bob Tasca, who is currently in the 9th spot, is 79 points ahead of the LRS driver.
"We took a big step in Denver, getting by Johnny in round one, but that's just one step and there are some big moments left ahead of us," Wilkerson said. "Those guys behind us aren't going to let up, I can guarantee that, so we can't either. The guys ahead of us are all very good racers, with fast-running cars, and they have a pretty good cushion on us.
"We're going to have to scratch and claw to be in this thing, but at least we got ourselves into a position where we're in the spot now, and it's up to us to hold onto it. You can do it by yourself if you just win rounds. When you're behind, you usually need some help from some other people. I don't expect it to be easy, but a good weekend in Sonoma would sure help."
Wilk knows all about good weekends in Sonoma, and those memories have nothing to do with vineyards or Spanish missions. He has won at Infineon Raceway twice, beating John Force in the final in 2004 and Tony Pedregon in 2009. The '09 win was the second in a pair of back-to-back victories, with the first coming in Seattle a week earlier. With the Sonoma and Seattle dates now swapped on the schedule, Wilk has the chance to repeat that feat in reverse, but he's keeping his focus not just on the next race, but solely on the next lap.
"Being this close in the points, every lap is now extremely important," he said. "There are no throw-aways left because those individual bonus points during qualifying might end up being the points that get you in the Countdown. We hadn't been picking up many of those all year, but we got two of them in Denver and we'll see if we can't keep picking up a few here or there. We start with the first lap in Sonoma, on Friday afternoon.
"We think more in terms of rounds ahead or behind, rather than the strict number of points, and qualifying points and bonus points can really change that in a hurry. The difference between being 19 points ahead and 21 points ahead is actually a full round of racing. When a point or two can alter things that much, every run can help or hurt, and every spot on the ladder can change things too. Those little bonus points and qualifying points seem too small to matter, but right now they matter as much as anything. We have to stay focused and make the most out of every lap down the race track."
That's the mission, in Sonoma.
By: team wilkerson racing