WILK'S SEASON OPENER ENDS TOO EARLY Tim Wilkerson can, at least, look back on his season-opening Winternationals and take solace in the fact he's leaving Pomona 22 points better off than he did a year ago. He'll also look back with some studied...
WILK'S SEASON OPENER ENDS TOO EARLY
Tim Wilkerson can, at least, look back on his season-opening Winternationals and take solace in the fact he's leaving Pomona 22 points better off than he did a year ago. He'll also look back with some studied analysis, as he works to figure out why his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang failed to behave for most of the weekend. On Sunday, after two days of head-scratching qualifying, Wilkerson did his best to give Ashley Force Hood a battle, but his LRS Ford lost traction before half-track while Force Hood streaked to low elapsed time of the round in the other lane. Weekend over.
As an overall event, this Winternationals was often puzzling for Wilkerson. He went A-to-B in Q1, but only put a 4.182 on the board while other teams were dipping into the low teens or 4.0s. He spun the tires during Q2 on Friday, then again during Q3 on Saturday. Entering the final qualifying session he was sitting in the 10th position on the chart, but by the time he ran in Q4, under the lights after some lengthy delays, he had slipped to the 13th spot. Another A-to-B run was encouraging, and the 4.167 e.t. moved him back up a couple of notches to his final qualifying spot in 11th, but it was once again not exactly what he was looking for.
"Sometimes the car just does what you want it to do, no matter how little the tweaks are, and sometimes it just seems like it has a mind of its own," Wilkerson said. "We kept doing the seesaw thing in qualifying, either being too soft or too aggressive, up and down, back and forth. To tell you the truth, I'm glad we got it down there twice and got in the show, because we never did make a run we planned to make. The two full laps were slower than we wanted, and the other two qualifying laps were more aggressive than we thought they'd be. I love race cars. They're wonderful things."
Despite the frustration, Wilkerson still had the honor of coming to the race track on the first Sunday of the season, to compete in the Winternationals, and once the anthem is sung and the first pair are fired, anything can happen. In Wilkerson's case, whatever was about to happen was going to include Force Hood, who had a very fast race car.
As the sixth pair of Funny Cars in the first round, both teams had ample opportunity to see what might befall them by watching the first five sets of cars tackle the racing surface. There were side-by-side thrillers, including a race between Del Worsham and Jeff Arend that virtually appeared to be a tie, and there were pedal-fest wild ones, including a race between Matt Hagan and Gary Densham that featured two great driving efforts, finally resulting in a Hagan win with his 4.524 edging Densham's 4.572. The traction issues couldn't be exclusively pegged to either lane, and good laps were made in both, so even though Force Hood and team took what appeared to be the less-favored left side, it was clear they had a plan.
"I think the lanes weren't an issue at all," Wilkerson said. "You could run good in either one, and you could obviously mess up in either one, too. We were just hoping we could put another full lap on the board and maybe we'd have a chance to get there first, especially if they had any problems over in the other lane. They'd just seen their team car (Robert Hight) lose a race by smoking the tires and crossing the center line, so I'm sure they factored that into any last second changes they made."
At the flash of amber, it was Wilk away first and by a goodly margin. His .067 light was basically twice as good as Force Hood's .120, and Wilk stayed ahead of her at both the 60-foot and 330-foot timers. It was then, however, that his LRS Shelby began to spin the hoops, boil the hides, roast the Goodyears, or do whatever your favorite version of "smoke the tires" might be. Force Hood's Ford stayed stuck, and she powered to a 4.121 to take the win and pace the class.
"Our car hardly ever does that, which is just one more thing to be puzzled about," Wilkerson said. "We smoke the tires early just like everyone does, from time to time, but once we get to 330 we usually make it. Why it chose this time to blow them off out there is something we're going to have to figure out, and we have to figure it out before next weekend. We'll look for variables, or things that might be different from other runs, and try to narrow it down. I'm a lot happier when the car acts like it should, rather than when it acts like a brat. We'll be in Phoenix in a couple of days, and hopefully we'll have a better weekend."
"Better" equals "less puzzling" for Team Wilk.
-source: Team Wilkerson Racing