Tim Wilkerson entered the NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at zMAX Dragway without a No. 1 qualifier in the 2012 season - 17 races.
Wilkerson made sure his streak ended, with a 4.048-second elapsed time in qualifying to clinch his first No. 1 seed of the season and the 17th of the Springfield, Ill. driver’s career.
Wilkerson’s time gave his Levi, Ray and Shoup Shelby Mustang team some positive momentum in the first race of the six-race Countdown to One.
“It’s a good step in the right direction of winning a couple, three rounds a weekend,” Wilkerson said. “Two rounds a weekend. By the time we get to Pomona (for the season finale on Nov. 11), they’ll have to contend with us.”
Wilkerson earned the 10th and final spot in the Countdown. He makes his first start in the Countdown against Todd Lesenko, who earned the 16th and final spot at zMAX.
As for Wilkerson’s strategy, what will it be in the Countdown’s first race?
“I think we have cloud cover tomorrow that’s really more dangerous than what (drivers saw in qualifying) in reality. Then you’ve got tire shake problems that arise,” Wilkerson said. “We’re just going to race the racetrack and race whatever lane we decide to take, and if we can’t get down the racetrack that’s not going to be Todd’s fault.”
Wilkerson said he has his eyes set more on what he and his team can do than what any of his opponents may do.
“The strategy has to be, ‘don’t worry about who you race. Worry about where you’re at, the lane you’re racing and the conditions you’re racing under. That’s what we’re going to do,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson’s entry into the Countdown reset his hopes of a championship, which he says is a positive. He didn’t win a race in the 17-race regular season, but Wilkerson enters round one of the Countdown just 110 points behind leader Ron Capps.
“I think that you need to put it all behind you now and worry about the upcoming round and that’s it,” Wilkerson said. “Doesn’t really matter what we did the first 17 races. We’re going to go up there and do what we did in qualifying, which is try to be one of the quickest cars on the racetrack. You go into the countdown in 10th place with no place to go but up. We’re excited to be here.”
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