St. Louis: Tim Wilkerson final report

WILK REMAINS CONSISTENT, GAINS SPOT IN TOP 10 Tim Wilkerson is courting success, putting his best foot forward and making all the right moves, but translating uncanny consistency into a race win has so far eluded him in 2009. Here at the...

WILK REMAINS CONSISTENT, GAINS SPOT IN TOP 10

Tim Wilkerson is courting success, putting his best foot forward and making all the right moves, but translating uncanny consistency into a race win has so far eluded him in 2009. Here at the O'Reilly Midwest Nationals, Wilkerson strung together laps of 4.181, 4.150, 4.156, and 4.152, all of which earned him some serious achievements (a top-half spot in the field for the fourth time in the last five races, as well as his first Full Throttle Top 10 points position of the season) but this time the door was slammed in his face after the second round, when he lost a side-by-side thriller to eventual race winner Del Worsham. To this point, a final round appearance and a race win are still objects on Wilk's '09 "to-do list."

Looking back over the last two events, Wilkerson has simply had a bracket car. Other than a first session tire-smoker during Atlanta qualifying, and a back-pedaled lap in the Atlanta semifinals, Wilkerson has posted stunningly strong numbers, racking up 4.13, 4.15, 4.12, 4.18, 4.15, 4.15, and 4.15 in the interim. True, many in the Funny Car class would happily trade places with the Levi, Ray & Shoup star, but Wilkerson aims for the big payoffs, rather than the peck on the cheek.

"They say a tie is like kissing your sister, in other sports, so I guess running this well but not being able to line up against the right guys, or find a way to the final yet, must be like a nice hug from your cousin," Wilkerson said. "It's good, and you're happy to receive it, but let's face it; it could be better. The truth is, I really can't complain about how the car is running, other than a few things we're still working on to make it mile-per-hour a little better, and we've got the confidence that we can tweak it and lean on it when we have to, because it wants to go down the track and it's running well.

"We put four straight good laps on the board here, and we could've gone a lot further if we'd have just been able to line up next to somebody else, I guess, but the ladder is what the ladder is, and you go up there to face who you have to run. It's easy to get frustrated when you see other guys out there winning their rounds with slower times, but that's racing. That stuff happens every Sunday, so you just have to ignore the numbers and keep getting better. At some point, you'll get the payoff."

This weekend's excursion into "The Land of Consistency" was performed in front of a huge crowd of Wilk backers, whether they were LRS employees, their corporate guests, longtime friends, or just Tim Wilkerson fans of a general type. Of course, there was also the group that included LRS President/Owner Dick Levi, Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, Eastern Illinois University President Bill Perry, Memorial Health System CEO Ed Curtis, surgeon Steve Hazelrigg, retired CEO from Central Illinois Public Service Cliff Greenwalt, and the honorable brother of the honorable mayor, Kevin Davlin. That esteemed group spent the day with the team on Saturday, lending their invaluable support with wide smiles and loud cheers.

"This weekend had to set the record, just for most support and best crowd behind us," Wilkerson said. "It's always great to Dick Levi and his colleagues with us, as well as all the LRS marketing and sales people, and in the end we had close to 1,100 official 'guests' in the place at this race. On top of that, you've got what looks like about half of Central Illinois here, standing around the pit area and making us feel like big-shots, so it was all good. You can't help but be honored with this kind of support, and our whole team really handles it well. We weren't nervous, just real happy to have all these people here."

Though rain dampened the day on Friday, and the clouds danced through the area on Saturday and Sunday, Wilkerson and his LRS group were able to keep stringing the good laps together, rising above the fray and establishing the sort of consistency that is surely, beyond a doubt, absolutely, going to finally give them the results they're looking for. On this day, it was a big win over Mike Neff in round one before losing a thriller to Worsham in round two, and that second-round finish provided the impetus to move Wilkerson from outside the Top 10 into the No. 9 spot in the Full Throttle standings.

At the tour's next stop, in two weeks at Bristol Dragway, perhaps the LRS bracket car will find its way into that final round and maybe, just maybe, all the right moves will pay off in a big way. With no sisters or cousins involved with the kiss!

-credit: tw

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Tim Wilkerson , Mike Neff