If there is a time to have trouble, in drag racing, the best time is after you've secured the final spot in the Countdown and not before.
Case in point is Tim Wilkerson. Wilkerson clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship and then struggled through issues which if they had occurred one round earlier could have pushed him out of the list of drivers in the “Countdown”.
One round after securing a berth Wilkerson wasted an engine in the final round against Mike Neff which not only cost him a chance of winning the event but also ten points, leaving him only seven points ahead of Matt Hagan, who is now 11th in the point standings.
"We were eating pistons up all day, and I said before the final that we need to fix that or we'll go broke," Wilkerson said. "Well, it almost cost us more than money. It came real close to yanking that playoff spot right back out of our hands with the penalty. How bad would that have been? To get all pumped up knowing you'd done something pretty difficult by having a near-perfect day and then have it taken back out of your hands. Luckily, we had just enough cushion to keep it, and we'll have to win the championship out of the 10th spot, I guess. Tenth is way better than 11th.
"It's just a shame the motor wouldn't hold together for another hundredth of a second. That's about what we needed to hold him off for the win, and getting the Wally at Indy would've been a really big deal. We've won here before, but to put together that rally for a playoff spot and getting the win would've been the ultimate. We did all we could, but when parts break and you lose by a fender it's kind of out of your control. I'm happy for Levi, Ray & Shoup, Ford, Summit Racing Equipment, and all of our sponsors, that we were able to pull off what we did, and we hope we can make the most of it. What a race. What a race."
Wilkerson entered the event twelfth in the points, behind Jeff Arend, Bob Tasca III and Matt Hagan. He took matters into his hands by eliminating Tasca and Arend in consecutive rounds. He needed only to outlast Hagan once after advancing past the first round. Hagan lost in the semi-finals to Neff. By beating Arend, Wilkerson ascended as high as ninth in the standings.
"We were small-balling them to death out there, running 4.13s and daring anyone to beat us, but it worked and the car was really consistent," Wilkerson said. "It would've been great if all those guys lost in the first round, just to make it easy and simple for us, but it seemed like we had to find a way to pick them off one at a time, and each time we did we still had further to go if we were going to get in the playoffs. We just kept taking it one lap at a time, but we were watching the points really carefully. You better believe we were counting points."
In the end, those points added up despite a blown engine.
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