Phoenix: Tim Wilkerson preview

WILK'S '09 SHELBY TO HAVE ITS FINAL FORAY IN PHOENIX PHOENIX (February 16, 2010) -- It's been a nice ride with Tim Wilkerson's 2009 Ford Shelby Mustang, but this weekend's NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway will mark the...


PHOENIX (February 16, 2010) -- It's been a nice ride with Tim Wilkerson's 2009 Ford Shelby Mustang, but this weekend's NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway will mark the final race for what is now, officially, an outdated body. Immediately after Phoenix, beginning at the next Full Throttle event in Gainesville on March 12 -14, Wilkerson plans to bring out a new chassis and a new 2010 Shelby Mustang body, joining teammate Bob Tasca III and the full John Force Racing organization with the new 2010 cars. Until then, however, Wilk's '09 car will have one last weekend to shine in the Arizona desert.

Wilkerson joined the Ford family prior to the start of the 2009 NHRA season and he campaigned with a pair of '09 Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby bodies throughout the season, picking up two race victories, one runner-up finish, and a 4th-place spot in the points. Both bodies remain with the team, and both are scheduled to be put on the shelf after this weekend's Phoenix event.

"We're pretty much known for not being very hard on our bodies and these are tough cars that are well designed, so it doesn't surprise me one bit that we still have both of the '09 cars with us today," Wilkerson said. "I guess I better go knock on wood or something, after having said that, but other than a little bit of the wear-and-tear you'd expect after a full season, they're both in good shape and to tell you the truth I don't even think about them that much. They just keep on going, lap after lap, and they're good bodies that are really fast.

"The 2010 is already out there and we've had a chance to work with the Tasca team as they've gotten their new one on the track, so I don't expect to be surprised by anything when we get to Gainesville. Bob did great with his car in Pomona, and Force won the race in his, so we're looking forward to getting our '10 on the track. Before we do that, though, we'd sure like to win a few rounds with the old '09 warhorse on there. These two bodies have done everything we've asked of them, and they deserve to go out with a celebration."

Wilkerson and his team didn't get to do much celebrating this past weekend in Pomona, opening the season with an first-round loss after having qualified 11th, but even that result puts him 22 points ahead of his 2009 pace, when he failed to make the field at the Winternationals. One year ago, Wilkerson entered the Phoenix race with only the 10 points a racer earns for having made an attempt. This year, he comes in with 32 Full Throttle markers in the bank, and is in the 12th spot in the points.

'Typical deal, early on in the year when we're all bunched up tight in the points," Wilkerson said. "I don't even think of the points until we get five or six races into the season, because you can't get too far ahead and you really can't get too far behind this early on. You're worrying too much if you fret over it, and you're fooling yourself if you're too proud of where you are, so we just keep our heads down and try to win some rounds.

"And, with the Countdown, the whole goal is to be in the top 10 after Brainerd. Winning races is fun, and it's good for everyone who gets to share in it, but winning rounds is what counts during the regular season. Once we get to the playoffs, it's all about being hot at the right time, but until then we want to gain some consistency and be solidly in the Countdown. We need to get that first round in the books this weekend, and then go from there."

Wilkerson did just that one year ago, when he bounced back from his Pomona DNQ with a semifinal finish in Phoenix, despite the fact both of his round wins came via pedaling efforts. By out-pedaling two opponents (John Force and Jack Beckman), he got those first two wins in the book. This year, he'd like to win a few rounds the old-fashioned way.

"A win is a win, and I've never handed one back yet, but it is better to run well and get the light," Wilkerson said. "When you win by out-pedaling someone, it's a lesson in what not to do with the tune-up, which is valuable in its own way, but outrunning the other guy with a good lap is better. That gets you on a roll and gives you confidence. That's what we're after this weekend."

And an old-fashioned shootout would be just what the old 2009 Shelby Mustang deserves, in the way of a retirement party.

-source: twr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Bob Tasca III