Tim Wilkerson will be the first to admit that, in terms of bottom-line results, it's been a tough go as of late with his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang Funny Car. His LRS Ford has been running better recently, even earning bonus points during qualifying sessions, but potential has yet to be replaced by performance on Sunday, so Wilk aims to turn the latter piece of that equation around this weekend at the Dollar General Summernationals in Topeka, and by doing so he will be honoring the memory of the late Carroll Shelby, who passed away on May 11 at the age of 89.
Although there are six full-time Ford Mustang Funny Cars in the class, only those driven by Wilk and Bob Tasca are designated as Shelby Mustangs, thanks to a longstanding close relationship between Shelby and the Tasca family. When Wilk was brought under the Ford Racing umbrella, at the start of the 2009 season, his new mount was made to match Tasca's, with the iconic Shelby designation and badging.
"When Ford brought us into the fold, the Tasca family was really interested in having us run the Shelby name and logo with them, and we've been honored to do that since the first day," Wilkerson said. "You don't have to be a car guy, or deep into the history of racing, to know the name Carroll Shelby. He really was a legend, and I can't tell you how cool it's been to be able to say I drive a Shelby Mustang Funny Car. With Carroll passing away just a few days ago, nothing would be better than to put that Shelby Cobra badge in the Topeka Winner's Circle. That would be a perfect way to honor the man.
"As frustrating as it's been here lately, we're really not that far away from doing some good things. At every race, we seem to get a better handle on it and do better in qualifying. We just need to cash those chips in on Sunday, and once we start to do that I don't think you'll be able to keep us off the board. We're that close."
Indeed, Wilk has qualified in the No. 5 spot at three of the last four races, and earning a position in the top half of the ultra-competitive Funny Car field with that kind of consistency absolutely requires a large amount of skill, both in the tuning room and in the cockpit. The lack of round wins, however, has kept Wilk out of the Top 10 all season, but he sees an opening and he plans to exploit it.
"If we just start living up to what we're capable of, and I'm not talking about doing something crazy or unrealistic, we'll be solidly in the Top 10 from here on out," he said. "We're a Top 10 team that's just underperforming right now, but once we get on a roll we'll start winning rounds, and when you win rounds you beat other teams. That's how you leapfrog right over people. You just beat them, and the points take care of themselves.
"So that's our goal right now. We're going to keep qualifying well. We're going to put some round wins on the board. And, we're going to beat some of those teams that have been ahead of us. We might as well start this weekend, in Topeka, and if we do we're going to try to take Carroll Shelby's name with us to the Winner's Circle. It's as simple as that."
Simple and effective. There could be no better tribute to the memory of one of the all-time greats.
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