TEAM WILKERSON RACING
LEVI, RAY & SHOUP NHRA Nitro Funny Car
Lucas Oil Raceway
Tim Wilkerson - No. 5 (3.998 seconds)
Defeated Tony Pedregon in round one
Lost to Del Worsham in round two
SECOND-ROUND FINISH FOR WILK
It was a marathon. It was a steamy sauna. It was everything Indy is known for. And, for Tim Wilkerson it was a second-round finish capped by the clinching of his Countdown playoff spot. In addition, there was also a semifinal finish in the Traxxas Shootout. It was, in all ways, a very busy weekend.
It all began with a marathon within the marathon, as Friday stretched late into the night without the scheduled Nitro qualifying session ever being attempted. Rain, lightning, and a wet track with a high dew-point finally halted the proceedings around 9:00 pm, and that long slog of a fruitless day simply set the stage for two additional days of qualifying, followed by eliminations on Monday.
For Wilk, Saturday's effort included a 4.678 on his first pass, and the fact that slow number was good enough for eighth after one session is the key stat that indicates just how much tire smoke plagued the class during the late afternoon. In the nightcap, run under the lights in front of a massive Indy crowd, Wilk made the most of the prime conditions by clocking in at 3.998 to move into the fifth spot.
Sunday brought with it more stifling heat and a much trickier track. It also featured the eight-car Traxxas Shootout, in which Wilk had earned a berth with his win in Atlanta earlier this season. The first Sunday session was also round one for the Traxxas event, which has payouts for semifinalists and finalists, with the winner pocketing a truly "oversized check" for $100,000. Wilk opened his effort with a strong 4.035 to streak past Tommy Johnson and into the semis, which were then contested as a stand-alone between qualifying sessions and therefore did not count toward qualifying.
Wilk faced Robert Hight in the semis, and this time the Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang slowed to a 4.165 while Hight pulled away with a 4.102 to advance to the finals. He eventually lost there, to Jack Beckman. Wilk accepted a $7,500 bonus for making it to the semifinals.
After that Traxxas loss, Wilk immediately made the decision to skip the final session.
"It was really hot, my guys were exhausted, and I couldn't figure what I could possibly learn with another slow run on a hot track, so we made the easy decision to get our car serviced and then send the guys back to the hotel to get some rest," Wilk said. "I thought I learned a few things on the run where we lost to Robert, but you never really know until you get back out there on the track."
Monday dawned as the hottest and sweatiest day of an event that produced more than its fair share of perspiration. By the time the national anthem was sung and the first pair of Top Fuel cars were fired, the air temperature was 85, the humidity was a wet 60 percent, and the track was heating up to nearly 100 degrees. It only got hotter from there.
Wilk and Tony Pedregon were the fifth pair, as expected, and they watched Beckman, Tommy Johnson, and Hight all put 4.0s on the board before Del Worsham and Chad Head both suffered from a lack of traction, in the pair immediately preceding Wilk's.
Against Pedregon, Wilk lost traction late but feathered the throttle enough to get his LRS Ford across the stripe first, winning his 18th round on the season, with a 4.270. By qualifying for the event, Wilk clinched his Countdown spot. The opponent in round two would be Worsham, who surprisingly did not have lane choice, thanks to his even slower 4.345 in round one.
Before racing Worsham in round two, Wilk watched as Hight won his round and that meant the LRS team would have to keep pace in order to hold onto seventh place in the points, going into the playoffs, as Hight's win at least temporarily moved him ahead of Wilk.
4.132 seconds later, Hight's move was made official. Wilk's 4.132 came up just short to Worsham's 4.130, and the 2015 U.S. Nationals were over for the pride of Springfield.
"This was a tough one, in terms of the weather and the heat, but we won another round, we're going into the Countdown in eighth, and I'm really proud of my guys," Wilk said. "This group started the season really green, and they are every bit as good as any team out here now. We don't have the resources of nearly all the teams we'll be in the playoffs with, but we have a lot of heart and we have Richard Hartman bringing his expertise to the table. I can't tell you what place we'll be in after the season wraps up in Pomona, but I can promise you that this Levi, Ray & Shoup team will give it everything they have. I guarantee that much."
After a one week break, the NHRA Mello Yello tour will then head to Charlotte to begin the postseason and Wilk will be in contention for the title, starting the playoffs from the eighth spot.
Team Wilkerson Racing
NHRA Nitro Funny Car
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