Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang
Wilkerson looking for luck on the mountain
Denver, prerace: The 26th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway is the first stop on the famed, yet grueling three race Western Swing. Three back-to back races puts heavy demands on the teams, the crew chiefs, and the drivers. And when you own, tune, and drive the Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car, as Springfield, Ill. favorite Tim Wilkerson does, you deal with all the responsibilities, details, decisions and problems that come with being an integral part of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series tour.
Wilkerson is enthusiastic and ready for what the next three weeks will bring. His 53-foot transporter, the team's shop on wheels, is filled to the brim with spare parts, engines, tools, and of course, an extra car.
"I feel we're going to have a good Western Swing," said Wilkerson. "We certainly are ready for it. We've got all of our junk with us. We're taking everything we own. I think we're prepared for anything that comes our way."
Starting the swing at beautiful Bandimere Speedway, set in the shadow of Dinosaur Ridge in the Rocky Mountains, creates a unique set of challenges. The mile-high altitude makes the thin air difficult for people and racecars to breathe. But the challenges are ones that Wilkerson always seems to master. He has qualified in the top-half of the field every year, but runs into some bad luck when going rounds. However, this year since coming off of a final-round appearance at the last event in St. Louis, Wilkerson's luck may be on the good side.
"We're going to be alright in Denver," explained Wilkerson. "NHRA is going to allow us to use 90% nitro, so my plan is to go back and do what we did last year. We had a chance to do well on Sunday, but we dropped a cylinder and threw the blower belt. In 2002, we blew-up the motor, the only one we destroyed that whole year. On each run we were ahead of the other guy and should have won the round, but we just don't get any luck."
"I don't get too worried about Denver. We run well there, we just don't have luck. If we could just get some luck there this year, we might be able to go some rounds."
And with the way the Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car has been performing of late; Wilkerson may not need luck to go rounds.
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