WILK SLAYS FOUR GIANTS TO CLAIM SEATTLE CROWN The are good days, there are great days, and there are days like this. Tim Wilkerson entered the Northwest Nationals from the No. 7 spot, after a solid qualifying effort, and then had to ponder the...
WILK SLAYS FOUR GIANTS TO CLAIM SEATTLE CROWN
The are good days, there are great days, and there are days like this. Tim Wilkerson entered the Northwest Nationals from the No. 7 spot, after a solid qualifying effort, and then had to ponder the "Why me?" angle when he saw he was paired-up with Robert Hight in the first round. The answer to the "Why me?" question was this: Because it's meant to be your day.
Wilkerson competed in four thrilling races, against four of the fastest Funny Cars in the world, and he powered to victories in all four of them to win Seattle for the first time. Along the way, it was Hight, Mike Neff, Ron Capps, and then Tony Pedregon in the final, and the Levi, Ray & Shoup team did plenty of celebrating at the starting line, having claimed their first Wally trophy of the year. As wins always do, it brought with it a bucket of Full Throttle points, and Wilk ended the day in 5th place on the Funny Car points sheet, having moved up from 7th.
"Well, we started out with Hight and those are the rounds you fear, because they can outrun anyone, at any time, on any track," Wilkerson said. "What you fear is what we've been saddled with a lot this season; running a great lap but having the other guy run the best lap of the day and we lose by inches. When we got by that one, and we ran low e.t. of the round to do it, I thought we might be onto something, but thinking that and doing it are two different things."
Wilkerson's time in round one was 4.180, and that lap represented a mammoth jump from his 4.260 qualifying time.
Next up was Hight's teammate, Neff, which meant Wilkerson had to go two-for-two against John Force Racing just to earn his sixth semi-final of the year. This one was thrilling, exciting, and achingly close, but the LRS Shelby Mustang tripped the win lights with a strong 4.265 to nip Neff's 4.289 by a fender. Everyone in the LRS shirts was clearly thinking this might be the day the close ones all went their way, but none so much as spoke of it.
At the hit of the throttle, Wilkerson and Neff left the line nearly together, and they stayed that way for the full 1,000 feet. At the stripe, it was the LRS Mustang in front and Wilkerson was on his way to his sixth semi, though all five of the previous ones had ended in defeat.
In that semi, the opponent was only one of the most dominating cars on tour, as Capps and his Napa team lined up to aim for yet another trip to the finals and possibly their sixth win of the year. Wilkerson was simply looking for his first trip to the final round, and he needed that step before he could even think of grabbing his first win. 4.234 seconds later, Wilk's third consecutive win light was illuminated, and the final round beckoned, and again it was a side-by-side tussle that was settled by mere inches, as Capps posted a solid 4.291 in the other lane. The close ones continued to fall Wilkerson's way, and the thoughts of a trip to the Winner's Circle were now clearly being pondered by the gang in the teal and "berry" shirts.
In that final, all Wilkerson had to contend with was Tony Pedregon, who has two wins in the bank this year and is within shouting distance of the top spot on the points sheet.
"We took out three massive teams in a row, and it only got harder in the final," Wilkerson said. "And, it was getting late in the day and the sun was becoming a problem. I guess that would sound pretty dumb to anyone who lives in Seattle, that the sun would ever be a problem, but when you can barely see the tree and barely see the lane you're running in, it's a bit of a worry, let me tell you.
"I just pointed it straight and went on instinct, I guess, because I couldn't see much. I also couldn't see him, so that was a good thing, and then we got the win and all the craziness in the world let loose. Our guys have worked so hard, and they really deserved this. We have a lot of guys from last year, and a new group of people with us as well, and I think this win makes us a whole team for sure now. We were a team yesterday, but we're a tighter team, a family, now. This was huge for us.
"For Dick Levi, and everyone at LRS, it's a huge deal too. We love all of those people, and they really are like family, so I know there's a lot of cheering going on back in Springfield, Illinois right now. Believe me, we're cheering here too. And also, before this race, one of our crew guys had to go back home and leave the team, so I want Sam Mattox to know we're thinking of him, as well."
For the record, it was Wilkerson's 4.211 over Pedregon's 4.283, in the epic final round. Four races, four side-by-side battles. And the close ones all went Tim Wilkerson's way.
There are good days, great days, and days like this. Four huge opponents. Four huge races. Four win lights. And Wally is going home to Springfield!