Tim Wilkerson was intent on not letting his Countdown qualifying efforts be in vain. Headed into the fourth of six playoff events, he's ascended from tenth in the point standings to fifth. This weekend in Reading, Pa., he's all for continuing the upward trajectory and cut into the 164 points lead Ron Capps holds over him.
Wilkerson is five points out of fourth, and the deficit he trails Capps is the equivalent of eight rounds and four qualifying points. The odds are clearly against him with only 12 rounds left in the season.
"I'm proud of my guys, the way they've hung in there during what's actually been about a 13-week stretch for us, counting match races on a couple of open weekends," Wilkerson said. "They're showing what they can do under the toughest circumstances, and the fact we're moving up shows you how dedicated they are. It hasn't been easy so far, and we've had to beat a lot of really good teams with very fast cars to do it, but now the really hard stuff happens.
"If you want to contend for this deal, you won't get any breaks from here on in to Pomona. There are some great teams that didn't make the playoffs, so you know every team in the deal is stout and they earned their spots the hard way just like we did. You get up here in the top half of the Countdown standings though, and you're looking at really elite teams that hardly ever make a mistake. You better bring your A game to this fight."
Wilkerson's move into contention began at his hometown race, the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill. There, he qualified second and went on to finish as a quarter-finalist. Since then he's won 13 rounds in 10 races.
"We can't gain nine rounds in one race, and it would be nearly impossible to do it in the three we have left, but until the numbers say we can't win it all we'll just keep pushing and going for it, and even if the numbers finally get too big to conquer, we're not going to let up," Wilkerson said. "To be honest, the championship was never really the focus for us. We just wanted to get the LRS Mustang into the playoffs, and we worked a long time to do that. Since then, we've had nothing to lose and that's a good way to approach this thing.
"If we trip up a little in Reading, or in Vegas or Pomona, so be it, but we're swinging for the fences every time, I can promise you that. We won't look back on 2012 and wish we had pushed it a little harder. We pushing it as hard as we can and my guys are enjoying the ride. I don't know where we'll end up, but I'm going to be proud of this group whatever the number is."
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