WILK WINS TWO ROUNDS, MAKES FINAL FOUR
Tim Wilkerson entered the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 4-Wide Nationals with nary a round win on his 2011 record, having gone winless at Pomona, Gainesville, and Las Vegas. Better and better qualifying spots had been the first sign of improvement, despite the fact the better slots were not producing wins, but here in Charlotte he notched his best qualifying effort of the young year (No. 6) and then went on to advance out of his first two foursomes. That put him in the final four, where his stout and solid 4.158 was surely good enough for something, but ended up being the third-best run in the group. In the 4-Wide format, that represents a semifinal finish, and although it may have seemed like a bit of a letdown at the time, the two wins in the bank seemed to indicate he may be turning his season around.
Running four cars at a time, all weekend, is always a bit of a stressful deal, but Wilk handled it with the same calm and focus he always exhibits. On Friday, he smoked the tires on his first pass, as did most of the class on a fairly green race track, and he did so out of Lane 4. Moving to Lane 1 for the second session, he cleanly powered to the 4.111 that would land him in the 6th spot for good.
"The first one was just a guess, but we learned a lot and applied all of that to Q2," Wilkerson said. "That was a real clean lap, and it began to tell me that we were finally sneaking up on this car. It's been making monster power all year, but we've been behind the curve trying to keep it from smoking the tires. In Q2, we got it pretty right but we still left a little on the table."
Saturday was a weather reversal day, with strong overnight storms sticking around until mid-afternoon. When the rain finally departed, the thermometer plummeted and the wind kicked up, making it a difficult day for racers and fans alike. Wilk made a solid A-to-B lap in Q3, although it was not an improvement over his earlier 4.11, then got the front end of his car in the air on the final pass, making it impossible to steer. Before he could collect his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang, it drifted onto the center line and hit a timing block. The impact with the soft foam box put a hole in the nose of the LRS Ford, so Wilk was forced to get his backup body out for race day. Through it all, though, his 4.11 stuck in the 6th spot, and Wilk would race out of Group D on Sunday.
With blue skies and comfortable conditions acting as the payback for Saturday's misery, Wilk and his group went fourth, as the final quad of cars to run in the opening round. His opponents were John Smith, Matt Hagan, and Cruz Pedregon, and the first two in the group to cross the finish line legally would advance to the next round. Running out of Lane 3 in his quad, Wilk spun the tires at the top end but his 4.422 was second-best in his group and it moved him onto round two. It was also, of course, his first round-win of the year. John Smith also advanced, leaving Pedregon and Hagan as the defeated pair in the group.
In the second round match, Wilk lined up in Lane 3 once again, taking on Smith one more time, as well as Robert Hight and Bob Tasca. This time, Wilk was again second-best in the group, with a strong 4.158 to advance. Tasca joined him from the group, and they met up with Jack Beckman and Jim Head in the final four.
A good day, really, and a good weekend for us.
Running out of Lane 1 for the first time, Wilk streaked to another strong run (another 4.158) but Beckman and Tasca were slightly quicker, grabbing the win and the runner-up positions respectively. As third-best, Wilk earned semifinal points.
"Strong run, and we felt like we got better as the day went on." Wilkerson said. "My guys were great, and we were one of the first Funny Cars to fire in the pits after each service, so that' tells you they were on top of their game. I felt like we got our race car back a little more, and we're a lot better positioned to do some good stuff from here on out after this one. A good day, really, and a good weekend for us."
Three rounds, a final four finish, and a strong turn in the right direction for the LRS team.