Tough Ending For What Had Been A Good Weekend
Tim Wilkerson has been pecking away at his tune-up, and at pesky clutch issues, all year. On this weekend in Bristol, he felt the energy that comes with solving a problem, and throughout qualifying he was happy with the response he was getting from his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang. At certain times, when the car would respond exactly as he had hoped, he was downright giddy. And then came Sunday.
The initial opponent on race day was Mother Nature, as rain showers set in around 9:00 a.m. and persisted until well after 2:00 p.m., eventually setting the original 12:00 noon starting time back to 4:00. Once it became clear that the race was, actually, going to be contested, the LRS team sprang into action to get ready what they knew was a competitive race car. Unfortunately, they were stopped by something remarkably difficult to believe, and they went down to defeat in the opening round.
"We put a new rear end in the car when we got here, because the last one had enough runs on it that it was time to put a new one in," Wilkerson said. "This thing was brand spanking new when we got here, and on its fifth lap of its entire life it broke. Unbelievable. From the second I hit the throttle, I knew something was wrong and the whole car was vibrating like your washing machine on the spin cycle. I knew it wasn't tire shake, and it never got better, so something was obviously wrong.
"We got down there around 800 feet and it just got sick and basically died down there. We weren't sure what the problem was, but I can guarantee you I wasn't worried about a brand new rear end. When we got back to the pit, my clutch guy knew the rear end was involved as soon as he started to take his part of the car apart. Sure enough, we opened it up and it's broken. That's a lousy way to end a very good and productive weekend."
The good and productive part came during qualifying, and with each pass Wilk was getting more and more pumped up about the new approach the team has taken in the clutch department. So much so, that rare high fives were exchanged after more than one qualifying lap.
"It's a world away from where we've been, and it's really going to be a good race car now," said the simultaneously excited and frustrated driver. "It's finally to a point where we can tune the car how we want and the clutch will follow us, instead of us being slaves to the clutch. We hit it right on the button on Saturday, just doing exactly what we wanted it to do and it was never in any trouble. I thought we had a chance to have a big day today, but I guess I was wrong.
"You know, I still can't believe we could be so unlucky that we go out there and break a brand new rear end. Who does that? How often does that happen? I'm not sure what to make of it all except that if adversity makes you stronger we're all going to look like power lifters here pretty soon. We'll just pack it all up, repair all the junk we broke, and head straight for Norwalk. It'll get better."
Wilk's son, Daniel, was also racing in Bristol and he made his fourth consecutive field in his young career. To add insult to injury, salt to wounds, and misery to company, young D Wilk lost his opening round race without ever leaving the starting line, when the mag drive sheared and the car instantly lost power backing up after the burnout.
"After a long day of sitting in the rain, we found two of the most ridiculous ways to lose all in about 15 minutes there," said the LRS driver. "I've seen a lot of goofy stuff, but this is a day we might try to forget, but I bet we always remember."