O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals
Wilkerson conquers the Lone Star State
Houston, Sunday: While preparing for the 17th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, Funny Car pilot,Tim Wilkerson predicted that the Levi, Ray & Shoup/White Night Monte Carlo will enjoy a great outing in Texas this weekend. But Wilkerson did not expect the weekend would end in the coveted winner's circle, with the LRS team earning their first win of 2004.
Wilkerson easily advanced through the rounds taking out his competitor's one at a time. In the first round, Wilkerson ran low E.T. of the event, a 4.824 at 310.77 mph, against a tire-smoking Bob Gilbertson. Wilkerson's second-round opponent, Eric Medlen ran 6.845, which was no match for Wilkerson's 4.918 second 308.00 mph run. In the semifinal round, Wilkerson faced fellow Monte Carlo driver Del Worsham. Wilkerson has lost to Worsham by the slightest of margins many times, but today it was Wilkerson who earned the win light. Thanks to a holeshot, Wilkerson's 4.964 second 303.16 mph run sent Worsham and his 4.963 to the trailer. In the final round, Wilkerson faced Jerry Toliver. Toliver had struggled all day and had a few lucky breaks, but in the final Toliver ran a good, clean 5081 E.T. at 277.03 mph. But the Springfield, Ill. native put an end to Toliver's luck by becoming the Funny Car champion with his 4.896 at 303.30 mph.
"I can hardly believe it, to tell you the truth," said Wilkerson. "I thought we had a better chance of winning Las Vegas, because I thought we had a better car there. But we're very exciting to get our first win of the year. When I called home, the kids were yelling and jumping around. And when we were coming up the return road, Dick Levi called to congratulate us. He was following the race on the Internet and really was excited and sorry he couldn't be here with us.
"I'm so fortunate. I have a great wife and kids who give me their love and support. Plus I have great sponsors in Levi, Ray & Shoup, White Night, Craftsman Tools, Summit and Chevrolet. And I couldn't go week after week, round after round without my team. I have such a great bunch of guys. I only have three fulltime guys and the rest are fly-ins, and yet they work so well together that they make all this fun."
Wilkerson qualifies No. 2
Houston, Saturday: For the second day in a row, Tim Wilkerson showed the crowd at the 17th Annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park that the Levi, Ray & Shoup/White Night Monte Carlo is the Funny Car to beat.
In the first round of qualifying today, Wilkerson smoke the tires and coasted across the finish line at 80.59 mph. However, it was on the second attempt, in the heat of the afternoon, that Wilkerson showed what the LRS Monte Carlo could accomplish. Wilkerson's 4.874-second 305.08 mph pass was the best Funny Car pass of the day. This run moved Wilkerson into the No. 2 qualifying position, a spot he enjoys being in going into race day.
"I knew we could run out there in the middle of the day," Wilkerson said, "but I really expected a 90 flat or something like that. So were pretty happy with that; it made for a pretty good day for us. I'm a little reluctant to beat my chest too hard, but it was a really nice pass for the time of day. And it wasn't even in trouble, so that's the good thing about it. We took a little clutch off of it because the track was 120 degrees, and it trucked right down through there.
"The track tomorrow morning should be around 100 degrees so we should be able to run a mid 80 again. And then after that, it will be a crapshoot as far as I'm concerned. We still have the tire issue to contend with. We have one set of bad old tires and one set of really bad old tires, so our job tomorrow is to make sure that they last us four rounds."
Wilkerson's first round opponent will be the No. 15 qualifier, Bob Gilbertson. This will be the second time this season the two Funny Cars will match up in the first round of competition, with Wilkerson being 1-0.
Wilkerson makes his contribution in Houston
Houston, Friday: The weather was great and the fans were treated to some exciting racing at the opening day of qualifying at the 17th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. Levi, Ray & Shoup (LRS) Funny Car pilot, Tim Wilkerson had nothing to do with the weathe, but did contribute to the great racing.
In the first round of qualifying, Wilkerson didn't let the green track surface or the new tire stop him from landing the No. 1 spot. Wilkerson ran a 4.994 at 289.76 mph, which was the only four-second run of the session.
"It was on a nice 4.90 run," said Wilkerson, "but it started to spin the tires, so I shut it off at about 1,000 feet."
The night qualifying session saw many more four-second runs, however Wilkerson wasn't one of them. The LRS Monte Carlo slowed to a 5.099 at just 231.71 mph, which placed Wilkerson in the No. 9 spot.
"That run was full of problems," said Wilkerson. "First, we dropped a cylinder and then we lost the blower belt. We have really been plagued with dropping cylinders, but when we were taking the engine apart tonight we think we may have found something. So we'll fix it, and wait and see if we can keep all of our holes lit tomorrow."
Wilkerson looks to continue performance in the Lone Star State
Houston, pre-race: Funny Car pilot Tim Wilkerson has enjoyed good performance from his Levi, Ray & Shoup (LRS) Monte Carlo so far this season; in just the second full year for Wilkerson and LRS. Wilkerson is looking to continue that performance this weekend at the 17th Annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, even with two new factors that the teams will have to overcome, thrown into the mix.
First of all, the nitro classes are learning to deal with a new tire that Goodyear has built for them. Wilkerson made one pass on it at the last event in Las Vegas, and found that it really affected the car's performance.
"When we ran the new tire in Las Vegas we saw that it stuck so much better than the old tire did," Wilkerson said. "It drug our car to it's knees, so it appears that we're going to have to change the way we run our car. But it did run good and it showed us some promise. I do believe we're going to have a transition period with the new tires, and I'm a bit concerned about it. I'm a little hesitant to say that we can do it in one or two passes. So I hope the weather cooperates this weekend and we get four qualifying attempts, so we have time to figure things out before race day."
Secondly, work has been done to Houston's quarter-mile racing surface. Last year at this event the condition of the track caused the Funny Cars some difficulties. Over the winter the track was re-surfaced, which could be good for the cars or could be a problem.
"The Pro Stock's ran here earlier this year," said Wilkerson, "and they said the track was smooth and really good. So it may surprise us and be great or it may be green like Gainesville was."
Wilkerson, who took the No. 1 qualifying position and advanced to the semifinal round at the Gainesville race, wouldn't mind if the Houston track was still green.
"It could be great for us if Houston is like Gainesville," said Wilkerson. "The fresh surface didn't bother us. We were able to figure it out, but some of the high-powered teams weren't so lucky. But whatever the track condition, you know that every race is anybody's guess. So, if you ask me and the team, our guess is that this weekend the Levi, Ray & Shoup/White Night Monte Carlo will enjoy a great outing in Texas."
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