Pomona Funny Car Preview

WILKERSON STALKING FIRST NHRA FUNNY CAR VICTORY POMONA, Calif. -- If 1998 can be characterized as a breakthrough season for NHRA Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson, then the Springfield, Ill. driver hopes 1999 will be the season that...

WILKERSON STALKING FIRST NHRA FUNNY CAR VICTORY POMONA, Calif. -- If 1998 can be characterized as a breakthrough season for NHRA Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson, then the Springfield, Ill. driver hopes 1999 will be the season that he finally breaks into the winner's circle. Wilkerson, 38, hopes to improve on an impressive season that included two final round appearances and top qualifying honors at two events, including the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. The JCIT Pontiac Firebird driver says he's optimistic about his chances for winning some races in 1999 given the experiences his team gained on the way to posting a No. 7 finish in the Winston point standings in 1998. Wilkerson will have an opportunity to start the new season in grand style at the season-opening 39th annual AutoZone Winternationals, Feb. 4-7 at Pomona Raceway. The $1.7-million race is the first of 22 events in the $40-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. If not for a missed setup in a final round encounter with Ron Capps at the Winternationals one year ago, Wilkerson might not be talking about winning for the first time. He enjoys racing at the historic NHRA venue. "We did well at Pomona at both events last year," Wilkerson said. "We just missed a win to open the season; and then we qualified well but didn't do well on race day during the Finals. We're looking forward to going back to California. We're very excited about getting the season underway." Wilkerson sold most of his 1998 equipment during the off-season to NHRA newcomer Scotty Cannon. In 1999 the JCIT team will feature all new equipment, including new Pontiac Firebird bodies, new chassis and engines, and even a new team transporter. "We're going to look as good as a shiny new quarter, that's for sure," Wilkerson said. "Our program is basically the same -- our team is still together -- but we do have a lot of new equipment. We've spent our time testing new stuff this winter." Wilkerson says the team has also spent a lot of time developing a game plan for the new season. "We're doing everything in our power to make this the year that we get a win," Wilkerson said. "Our goal is to race smarter. Like a lot of teams, last year we had some trouble reading track conditions at some places. That really hurt our chances. It seemed like we would go all weekend and run great numbers and then when we made it to the final, that's when we would mess up. We chalk all that up to youth and inexperience. We've got more experience this year and we feel a lot more confident." He says he'll need that confidence entering a battle that features some tough warriors. "(John) Force seems to always be able to find a way to go quicker and faster than everybody," Wilkerson said of the eight-time NHRA Winston champion. "Now that Cruz (Pedregon) and Wes Cerny have spent a year working together, they're only going to get better." * About Pomona: Wilkerson says Pomona Raceway is one of the trickiest on the circuit. "Pomona is a strange track," Wilkerson said. "It seems to be really good in the evening and the morning. It's typical of an older track because it tends to get a little greasy when the sun hits it. But overall, we enjoy racing there. Traditionally it's a track that seems to always produce a surprise or two in the semi-finals. Like last year at the Finals, no one expected Jerry Toliver and Dale Pulde to make it to the semis. That was a case of two guys who figured out the track conditions and capitalized."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Scotty Cannon , Tim Wilkerson , Jerry Toliver , Dale Pulde