Tim Wilkerson relishes his role as Funny Car’s ultimate underdog.
Friday night, the dog’s bite was a lot bigger than his bark.
Wilkerson, armed with a 4.048-second run, sped to the top of the Funny Car leaderboard during first day qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway outside of Charlotte, NC.
Wilkerson then improved on his first round qualifying effort, and in doing so, snagged the lion’s share of qualifying bonus points. He pulled to within four points of ninth place Jeff Arend by earning six bonus points.
“We’ve had a pretty good car for the last two or three races,” said Wilkerson, who clinched his place in the playoffs last weekend in Indianapolis. “We are trying to capitalize on that a little bit. We are trying to make better runs. We’ve had a good bit of success with it. Hopefully our run will keep us in the top two or three. Our goal this season is to not draw a superstar in the first round.”
Lately Wilkerson is the one who has filled the role of superstar. He entered last weekend’s NHRA U.S. Nationals as the twelfth ranked point earner and in reaching the final round, ascended as high as ninth in the point standings before an oildown penalty dropped him to tenth.
“The bonus points are going to be a big part of this,” Wilkerson admitted. “Those bonus points are what got me here. I wouldn’t have been in the Countdown without them. I curse them during the regular season when I am doing bad and praise them in the playoffs when I am doing well. I’m the perfect politician.”
Just like politics requires walking a fine line, so does earning the bonus points. Wilkerson had a meeting prior to Friday’s qualifying with his crew to express the importance of attention to detail.
“My team manager Bob Wilber walked into the pits this morning and said, ‘It seems a bit tense',” Wilkerson explained. “I think at this point it has sunk in with the team we have a good car which can go rounds and possibly win the thing. I think if you look at this from a crew member angle, it puts the pressure on all four of my full-time crew guys.”
An average top tier team carries about ten full-timers.
“I got my team together and reminded them they are a good group of guys,” said Wilkerson. “I let them know what has been happening to the car was not their fault. It’s not their fault. I’m tuning around some inferior parts and things are going to get better. I stressed the importance of making sure their part of the car was bolted together properly. I let them know I wasn’t going to let them down.”
How did the team respond?
“We had a group hug,” Wilkerson admitted.
All articles and photography published in CompetitionPlus.com are protected by United States of America and International copyright laws unless mentioned otherwise. The content on this website is intended for the private use of the reader and may not be published or reposted in any form without the prior written consent of CompetitionPlus.com.
|< Prev||Next >|