WILKERSON ENJOYS RENEWED COMMITMENT FROM FORD
Blue collar Funny Car sensation Tim Wilkerson has a lot to be grateful for 2018, and even more to look forward to in 2019.
Wilkerson reaffirmed his commitment to the Ford Motor Company for next season, extending the working partnership to a decade.
"We're really excited about the new Ford Mustang bodies," said Wilkerson, a ten-time winner with the Mustang body. "We're hearing that [Ford] should be coming out the middle of December or near the first of the year. We'll get one of the first ones, and then it'll go to [longtime chassis builder] Murf McKinney to mount, then we'll send it off to have it painted. All of that takes time, so we may not have it before we do our pre-season testing, but we're excited."
Ever since Wilkerson cloaked his Funny cars in a Blue Oval brand, he's finished in the top ten of point earners.
"What we're most looking forward to in this next year is Ford coming back to NHRA in the Funny Car class," Wilkerson continued. "We've had offers from other manufacturers to jump ship over the years, but we believed that these Ford Mustang bodies are the best. We stuck with them and won some races, and I tell you what, we're proud to be part of the Ford family. Historically, each time there has been a new Ford body released, it's shown improvement. I expect this new one will be as good as or better than what we've had."
Wilkerson not only has a first-rate Funny car body to look forward to in 2019, he's also heading into a season where he will dial in a personal milestone -- his 500th career professional event.
"It's also great to have that No. 5 on the car for 2019," Wilkerson said. "That's the highest number I've had for a long time, so I'm pretty happy – but of course you always want to do better."
Over the course of the season, Wilkerson reached three final rounds to gain valuable points towards his strong finish. Most impressively, his first final of the year came in Epping at the New England Nationals following a massive blow-up. The team rallied and recovered efficiently from the fiery engine explosion to send their boss to the 40th final round of his nitro Funny Car career.
Two months later, Wilkerson made the Countdown to the Championship with a clutch move as the sun set on the regular season at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, tallying enough marks to lock in and fight for the title. When the Countdown began at the next race, Wilkerson and his team were starting their ascension from the No. 10 position, but they were more than ready to move up.
The group launched into the most critical six races by reaching the final at Maple Grove Raceway and followed up at the next event with a final round at their home track, Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis. A semifinals finish in Dallas capped their Countdown success.
"The cream rose to the top there at the right time," said Wilkerson. "As soon as we got our difficulties behind us, we could see that we had a pretty good car – and everyone else could see it, too. It was a lot of fun, especially in the Countdown."
The upcoming season brings a renewed approach to the working man's favorite Funny car driver. He'll refine some procedures in the pursuit of perfection.
"What we struggled with the most early on was our procedural parameters; that's it," said Wilkerson. "Next year, I'm going to be more of a stickler on getting things right, and I think that's going to make us better as a team.
"We've got a real chance at continuing this performance roll we've been on, and I'd like to see us stay in the top 5 all season long. I believe we can. There is parity in the class, and the competition is just crazy good, but I'm up for it. We'll be even better next year than we were this one."