TEAM WILKERSON RACING
LEVI, RAY & SHOUP NHRA Nitro Funny Car
WILK'S READING FORECAST FEATURES FAST RUNS
READING, Pa. (September 29, 2015) -- It's an annual event run in conjunction with the NHRA Keystone Nationals, and in its own way it's a rite of autumn. It's called "Follow The Forecast" for the popular race in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, just outside of picturesque Reading, and it seems to come into play nearly every season. How cool will it be? How wet will it be? How fast can they go? All pertinent questions when it comes to this time of year at Maple Grove Raceway.
For Tim Wilkerson, who currently holds the ninth spot in the Mello Yello points standings in the Funny Car class, it's actually not an issue at all. The veteran owner/tuner/driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car tries to spend as little time as possible worrying about things he can't control, and weather is certainly at the top of such a list. He'll simply be where he's supposed to be, at the appointed time, and then he'll make the calls based on what he's presented with, in terms of conditions.
"Never in my entire career have I had any input or impact on the weather, so I don't worry about it," Wilk said. "The way the schedule works out, we seem to head to Reading every year right at the most unsettled time, when the weather is typically pretty full of adventures and then sometimes you can get a tropical storm or even the edge of a hurricane thrown in, so you just bring extra socks and deal with it.
"If it stays dry, it will typically be pretty cool and that's when Maple Grove makes its mark. It's a fast track, with tons of oxygen to burn out there in the woods, and you can turn the dial up pretty high and take your shot at it. Just give us overcast and something in the 60s and you'll see crew chiefs salivating on every run. That's why the fans pack Maple Grove every year. They know they're going to see some really fast runs, and maybe a little history."
While this weekend's forecast is not exactly full of "sunshine" icons on any weather website, any veteran NHRA racer knows not to put too much stock in the prognostications. With Reading being located in a unique meteorological location, where west-to-east weather fronts run into south-to-north coastal systems, everything is subject to change on a nearly hourly basis. Even the best forecasters have a hard time nailing down the correct calls on a day-to-day basis.
"Like I said, I can't control it so I don't worry about it, other than for the added expenses if the weather is so bad we can't race at all," Wilk said. "We've seen some bad forecasts, in the past for Reading, and at some of those races we never missed a session or a round, and we've seen some really nice forecasts where we were up to our ankles in water, so we just plan to be there ready to run and we'll try to go fast when they send us out there.
"We've been doing a pretty good job of running with the fastest of them when we have good conditions, and that will have to be the goal in Reading. Look at the air, look at the temperature, look at the track, and try to go as fast as that combination will let you go. You can't run a 3.95 on a 4.15 track, but you also don't want to run a 4.15 on a 3.95 track. This time of year, we can fly. It will be fast."
It's the race track in the woods, surrounded by quaint farms and winding roads, and it's always fast. The huge throng of fans who pack Maple Grove every season know it well, and they salivate for low numbers just as much as the crew chiefs.
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