Tim Wilkerson Makes A Strong Showing at Indy

LEVI, RAY & SHOUP NHRA Nitro Funny Car

Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals
Lucas Oil Raceway Park Indianapolis, Ind.

Tim Wilkerson – No. 13 (4.086 seconds)

Tim Wilkerson Defeated Bob Tasca in round one Defeated Ron Capps in round two Lost to Jack Beckman in semifinal

Tim Wilkerson came into the U.S. Nationals with a lot on his plate, trying to make the Traxxas Shootout, then hoping to do well there, while also battling for one of the final slots in the Countdown playoffs. The first challenge had a lot of luck involved, the second needed performance, and the third was basically critical. Wilk won the fan vote, then parlayed that into a lottery win and a Traxxas berth, before he then capitalized on that when he stunned No. 1 seed Matt Hagan in round one of the special event, with a strong 4.086. In the next round, Wilk outran Cruz Pedregon with a 4.107 against a 4.124, but reaction time and staging approaches gave the win light to Pedregon with a slower time.  A solid Traxxas effort, but no cigar. In qualifying for this historic race known as “The Big Go” Wilk put himself in a bit of hole by missing the combination during the “hero session” run on Saturday evening. That left him in the bottom half, and despite two very solid laps on Sunday during the Shootout he could do no better than the No. 13 spot on the grid. That set up a first-round match-up with Bob Tasca (yet again) and much was on the line in terms of the playoffs. Wilk entered this race in eighth place, but there was one scenario he knew of and had to dread. If Tasca won in round one and then went on to the semifinal, while Robert Hight also went to the semifinal, while also at the same time Del Worsham won the race, all three would go around Wilk in the standings and leave him as the disappointed bridesmaid in terms of a playoff spot. It might not have been the most likely outcome, but it was real and it was there. Monday dawned with a surprising amount of overcast and cooler temperatures, dealing all the crew chiefs a new hand after three days of blistering heat, smothering humidity, and a few torrential downpours.  Wilk and Tasca would line up as the fourth pair in the opener, and the tension was sufficient to require a cutting device to slice through it. Basically, this was a big moment for the Levi, Ray & Shoup team, for Wilk, and for Wilk’s Warriors everywhere.

Tasca was away first, with a stellar reaction time of .058 and he was out front early. Wilk, however, made up the difference while Tasca lost traction, and the 4.028 that lit up the scoreboard was just a tick away from his career best of 4.026. The run clinched Wilk’s playoff position and advanced him to his ninth second-round appearance on the year. Another tough task awaited, though, as Ron Capps would be the opponent.

Like Tasca, Capps was on his game at the tree and his game is good. His big advantage had him well out in front to the 330-foot mark, but Wilk was the one who made a full clean lap while Capps struggled in the right lane. With a 4.155 at 300.26 mph, Wilk took the win light, gained another 20 points, and cemented his eighth-place playoff position.  He also moved on to his third consecutive semifinal and his eighth on the year. It’s been a semifinal kind of season for Wilk and his team. If Tasca and Capps were tough, it wasn’t going to get any easier in the semi, as Fast Jack Beckman lined up in the other lane. Wilk’s plan was simple. “We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot in the semis lately, making mistakes trying to do too much, so the goal was to just get to the other end and make them beat us fair and square,” he said. “They threw us a pretty good curve by scraping, dragging, and spaying the track as much as they did, and it was way better than we were tuned up for, but that’s the way this sport works. We wanted to get to the other end, one way or another.”

Beckman got a slight edge at the tree, and both cars tore down the track locked in a side-by-side battle of two strong cars. They stayed that way for the full 1,000 feet. At the stripe, Beckman edged ahead and took the win by a couple of feet. For those scoring at home, the numbers were 4.110 seconds at 309.42 mph for Beckman, with Wilk running 4.126 at 305.84 mph.

To sum it up, Wilk went to the semifinal in the Traxxas Shootout, he went to the semifinal in the U.S. Nationals, and he clinched his playoff spot for the seventh straight year. He also held onto his No. 8 spot in the points, and when they are reset after this race he will be within striking distance of the top. He hasn’t won a race since 2011, but if he can start winning them now he’ll have a shot at the Mello Yello Championship. “I’m not that bummed about losing the semi, to tell you the truth,” Wilk said. “We wanted to make it a race, and we did. We beat two great cars and two great drivers, and we came up just a few inches short against a third. We got in the playoffs, and we held our ground. I think we did ourselves and our sponsors proud, and I told my guys after we got back that every one of them should hold their heads up because they did great. We all did great. It was very good weekend. ” We had so much great support here this weekend, and the great people from Summit Racing Equipment were there with us every step. They put an ESPN pit cam in our pit, so my guys got some good face time on TV, and it was just fun to have everyone pulling for us as much as they were. It was a great weekend, and we’re going into the playoffs feeling as good about our car as we have all year. I can’t wait to get to Charlotte to kick off the Countdown.” It’s been a semifinal kind of year for Wilk but with his LRS Ford running this well, it might be time to grab a few trophies and make a run for the really big one.