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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 6, 2012) — Tim Wilkerson began the year on a promising note, advancing to the quarterfinals at Pomona by setting low e.t. in round one. He then took his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang to Phoenix the following weekend, where he was unintentionally able to change his flight home to a Sunday departure, after suffering an unfortunate DNQ in the desert. This weekend, at the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville, he’ll arrive incognito and hope that his nautically themed special-edition Ford can propel him forward at flank speed.

Running a one-race-only design, with primary sponsorship from longtime associate backer Diversified Yacht Services (based in Fort Myers) Wilk will not only be taking to the track in a car most won’t immediately recognize, he’ll also be racing on the famed Gainesville strip with a brand new Mustang body. The new 2012 Ford will make its debut at the Gators, clad in a design that features seawater and yachts.

“You’re never going to have a lighter body than a brand new one, and this one doesn’t even have a coat of paint on it, just the vinyl,” Wilk said. “When we planned this, we plotted it out with the delivery schedule for this new body and decided to haul it around with us to California and Arizona as our back-up body, even though it was raw carbon fiber. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to use it out there, so when we got back home it went right to Canham Graphics and got the vinyl installed.

“It’s probably unlike any design fans have ever seen, the way it was conceived by the Canham guys, so everyone should enjoy looking at it, but from inside the car I can’t see the design so all that matters to me is that it’s a lot lighter than the body we were just running. If we can dial our consistency back in, and make some nice clean runs, this body ought to help us run a little quicker. That’s the goal.”

The Diversified Yacht Services (DYS) special-edition body came about through Levi, Ray & Shoup, as LRS President Dick Levi also owns DYS. Wilk was more than willing to step up at the Gainesville race to give a boost of promotion to DYS as they prepare to open a new 60,000-foot marina with a massive 150-ton travel lift.

“We’d all happily do anything Dick wanted, in terms of how the car looks, how we look, or anything else, because I think he’s the greatest sponsor in the sport,” Wilkerson said. “The Florida tie-in, with DYS, has meant we’ve hosted a lot of their clients and employees at the Gatornationals, and this year we’ll make that extra-special with the DYS body. The bottom line is, we want to run well for all those folks. If we could get this Ford into the Winner’s Circle, we’d have to have someone blow that funny whistle and then we could give all the DYS people permission to come aboard, to join us for photos. That would be some big fun for everyone.”

On Friday afternoon in Gainesville, it will be time to weigh anchor and push off, to begin qualifying. Wilk hopes his ship will come in, well up in the field.