SEATTLE. (August 1, 2012) — Tim Wilkerson can’t escape the happy truth, which includes the story about the underdog owner/tuner/driver who has won the Seattle stop on the NHRA Full Throttle tour for three consecutive years, but there’s another plot line that demands his focus. While completing the “grand slam” by winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals for a fourth consecutive season would be the ultimate, what Wilk really needs is a win in the opening round. And then another. And another. One at a time.
Having lost in the first round at both Denver and Sonoma, on the first two legs of the fabled Western Swing, Wilk heads to the Pacific Northwest 69 points behind John Force (10th) in the Funny Car standings, while he’s also 82 behind Bob Tasca, who currently sits 9th. With but three races left to set the Countdown playoff field, it’s basically now or never for the Levi, Ray & Shoup driver.
“To be honest, if we came in here in something like fourth place for the playoffs, with three or four wins under our belts, then we probably would be thinking ahead to getting back to the Seattle Winner’s Circle for the fourth time in a row, but our focus is much more one step at a time right now,” Wilk said. “There’s no big picture at this point, no time for looking too far ahead. The most important thing on our plate right now is getting qualified. After we do that, the most important thing will be winning round one. That’s the mountain we’re in front of, not winning the race. We have to win a round, and if we do that we’ll see if we can win some more.
“We did a really good job of narrowing this thing down with the runner-up in Norwalk, but then we gave a lot of it right back in Denver. I guess you could say we got a little lucky in Sonoma, because we got spanked but both Force and Tasca lost in the first round, too. If the glass is half full, that was our break and we have to take advantage of it in Seattle. It’s all about the points right now, not winning one particular race four years in a row.”
Wilk’s final-round appearance in Norwalk tightened the battle for a playoff berth to just 30 points, but an opening round loss in Denver, combined with Force’s semifinal finish there, widened it back out to what it is now, basically a four-round deficit. With 12 rounds of racing left before the playoff field is finally and firmly established, Wilk is the one battling the current, while he’s also chasing some outstanding teams.
“Can you imagine being outside the playoffs and looking up there to see Force in the 10th spot?’ Wilk asked. “You’re talking about the greatest Funny Car driver in the history of our sport, and one of the coolest customers to ever turn on a staging bulb. There’s no way for us to get lucky and back into this deal. We have to earn our way in by winning some rounds. If we don’t, then that’s how it’s going to be.
“As much as we want to get a rally going here and move up, it’s also not the whole world to us. The truth is we may have three races left in the regular season, but we have nine left in the full season, and that’s nine chances to win races, serve our sponsors well, and have some fun. The good thing about the Countdown is that we get to keep playing, and we don’t have to go home like non-playoff teams in other sports. If we make the Countdown, that will be outstanding and that’s definitely our goal, but if we don’t we’re still going to be out there to win every round we’re in. LRS, Summit, Ford, and all of our sponsors expect nothing less out of us, and I feel the same way. We’re not going to tuck our tails between our legs and give up. We’ll be out to win every round we’re in, right through Pomona, and the next chance to do that is this weekend in Seattle.”
The rest of the season begins Friday, with Q1 set to go off at 2:30 Pacific Time. Tim Wilkerson is looking no further ahead than that.
Team Wilkerson Racing
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