TEAM WILKERSON RACING
LEVI, RAY & SHOUP NHRA Nitro Funny Car
O’Reilly Route 66 Nationals
Route 66 Raceway
Tim Wilkerson – No. 2 (4.052 sec)
Defeated Dale Creasy in round one
Lost to Jeff Arend in round two
ONE UP, ONE DOWN FOR WILK IN CHI-TOWN
Tim Wilkerson parlayed his strongest qualifying position of the season into an important first-round victory, and looked to be in good position to continue his winning ways at Route 66 Raceway, where the weather was schizophrenic and the racing four-hours delayed. Instead, a strong run by Jeff Arend in round two, combined with a bit of tire spin by the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford, added up to a second-round loss.
Rain plagued every day of this event, but every session was completed between the drops that sometimes fell and sometimes flew sideways in strong winds. On Friday, Wilk completed a solid pass on his first lap, landing 7th on the strength of his 4.198, but then missed the combination under the lights later that night, not too long before yet another violent storm descended on the Joliet area. Clinging to the 12th spot overnight, Wilk came back on Saturday to kick his placement up one tick in Q3, running a 4.183 to move into the 11th spot, but this time around the Illinois favorite saved his best for last. In Q4, he blasted to a big 4.052 at 308 mph, to jump all the way up into the No. 2 spot for race day. He had qualified 5th on four occasions this season, but the No. 2 position ranked as his best in 2012.
The dreaded precip was again in the forecast for Sunday, and as Top Fuel competed in the opening round of racing the warnings were sounded. A thick band of heavy weather was headed for the track, with potential for damage, and with one pair of Top Fuel cars left to run, the order was given to head back to the pits and secure all awnings and loose furniture, while the fans at Route 66 were asked to seek shelter under the massive football-style grandstands. The rain appeared right on schedule, but fortunately it was not as violent as the storms that hit earlier during and after qualifying. The downpour was significant, but no damage was reported, and roughly four hours later the sun returned to Joliet and racing got underway again, right around 3:30 p.m..
Wilk took on another Illinois runner, Dale Creasy, in round one and although he didn’t run as well as he wanted, the 4.23 was good enough to leave Creasy’s 4.27 behind and Wilk had claimed his fifth round win of the year.
Facing a short turn-around late in the day, as race officials hurried to make the ESPN2 deadline for Sunday’s telecast, Wilk and his LRS crew were in the lanes early and ready to go against Arend, who has had a certifiably hot and officially consistent race car recently. The LRS driver knew he’d have his hands full.
“They’re running really well right now, and so is Jeff’s teammate Alexis DeJoria,” Wilk said. ”What you see happening over in the Kalitta Funny Car camp right now is the value of having two cars, because the Patron team and the DHL team are helping each other enormously with data. It seems like those two run almost identical laps every time out, and we figured they’d run a solid teen against us. We thought we could outrun them, though, and we were plenty ahead for about 350 feet, but then we just overpowered the track and it started spinning.
“I feathered the throttle, and for a split second I actually thought it might hold on and make it, but then it dropped a cylinder and the spin was just too much. It’s too bad, because that was a case of just having too much power at a time when we needed to finesse it a little more. I feel like we let that get away a little bit, but they ran great and earned it. It’s tough out here right now, and everyone is running strong. It’s a challenge, but we’re getting better every week and we’re ready to get to Norwalk next weekend. Full speed ahead.”
The NHRA Full Throttle tour reconvenes in Norwalk, Ohio next weekend, and Daniel Wilkerson will be once again joining his father, competing in his Summit Racing Equipment Shelby Mustang.