SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals
Wilkerson wins, breaks four-year drought
, Sunday: Tim Wilkerson is the Funny Car winner of the ninth annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals. Those are some of the sweetest words imaginable to the ears of Wilkerson, his family, his talented team, Dick Levi and all the great folks at Levi, Ray & Shoup, the Wilk Warriors, and the hordes of Wilkerson fans in
“What a great day,” exclaimed a jubilant Wilkerson. “I don’t have words to express how I feel. I hope my top-end interview wasn’t too corny, because I was feeling a little emotional. I am so pleased with my team, Jeff [Jacobs], Rich [Schendel], Jon [Gimmy], Brandon [Lavely], Nick [Shaff], Sammy [Mattox], and Mike [Mack], and I want to thank them for all their hard work. Most of my guys have never had a win, so this is special for all of us. I am so glad to win for Summit Racing, Mac Tools, Diversified Yacht Service, and, of course, Levi, Ray & Shoup. Dick Levi called to congratulate us, and it feels good to make him proud.”
Wilkerson had the car to beat today. In the first round of eliminations, Wilkerson took out Jim Head as he laid down the quickest run of the session, a 4.943, which was very impressive for the conditions. In the second round, he again posted the quickest time as he took out reigning world champ Tony Pedregon with his 4.966. In the semifinals, Wilkerson triumphed over Ron Capps, but this time Wilkerson’s 5.179 wasn’t the quickest. So, for the first time of the day, he lost lane choice to Ashley Force as they faced off in the final round. But being in the tougher right lane didn’t stop "Wilk." He was three-hundredths better off the line and never looked back. Wilkerson took the car-length win with a 4.962 to Force's 4.993.
Wilkerson made his climb to the winner’s circle look easy, but he had his share of troubles.
“We dropped a cylinder at the hit on our run against Capps,” said Wilkerson, “so we had to change motors. I want to thank the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco guys who came over to help us. And then in the final round, we kept dropping cylinders as we went down the track. By the time I got to the finish line, I had a five-cylinder race car. So we were fortunate to get the win. But I held on and never saw Ashley. I really wasn’t concerned about having the right lane for that last run, because I got down it yesterday in qualifying, so I was pretty confident that I could get down it today.”
It’s been 82 races, nearly four long years, since Wilkerson’s last win. And in that time, Wilkerson struggled, knowing he could win, but the coveted Wally continued to evade him. So today’s outcome was brewing deep in the hearts of the man and his machine for a long time.
“I knew this was coming,” said Wilkerson. “We finally got our program all put together. I knew that if I could get my tuning mistakes under control, we’d be in great shape, and that showed this weekend. We’ve got more in it, and we’re planning to make some lives miserable. They haven’t seen the last of us.”
Wilkerson leaves The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway just five points out of first place behind Force in the NHRA POWERade world championship points standings.
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