Wilkerson Out-Smarts Racetrack, Leaves NHRA Gatornationals Elevated
Posted by: Kelly Topolinski
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19, 2017) – Tim Wilkerson and the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang had a tough time in qualifying for the 48th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, but in the first round on Sunday at the esteemed event, the struggles appeared to be in the rearview mirror.
The Springfield, Illinois-based NHRA Funny Car driver wheeled the Team LRS Mustang to its best pass of the weekend in the opening round, and it did so on the side of the racetrack that had given the competition a whole mess of trouble.
"We made a darn good run for that lane," said Wilkerson, who raced side-by-side with Jack Beckman down the dragstrip at Gainesville Raceway and recorded a strong 3.906-second pass at 327.66 mph. The only trouble was that Beckman clocked a 3.899, 329.83 to nab the win. The margin of victory was just .022-second.
"Richard [Hartman, of Team LRS] and I talked about that last night, and we changed the car around a little bit to get it through those bumpy transitions out there in that lane," continued Wilkerson. "You saw a lot of people not able to get down it, so we were pretty proud of that. Unfortunately, we just needed to be a little faster."
Wilkerson has had quite a strong start to the season, and he has wheeled his nitro Funny Car to his career best three times already. The driver who also wears the hat of team owner and tuner is optimistic as he leaves Gainesville.
"Today was a little bittersweet, but the car seems like it's okay, it just took me a few runs to get back to where we needed to be," said the 20-time NHRA Funny Car victor. "We're going to go to the next race with our head held high, and hopefully we can get back in it. I'm real proud of my guys. They did a real good job on the car. It's working flawless."
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang
Round 1: Jack Beckman def. Tim Wilkerson, 3.899-second at 329.83 mph to 3.906, 327.66
Next on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule is race 4 of 24, the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 31-April 2, 2017.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Funny Car Standings
(after Gainesville, race 3 of 24)
1. Matt Hagan, 308
2. John Force, 238
3. Ron Capps, 235
4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 209
5. Courtney Force, 177
6. Robert Hight, 150
7. Jim Campbell, 148
8. Jack Beckman, 144
9. J.R. Todd, 138
10. Tim Wilkerson, 117
11. Del Worsham, 116
12. Alexis DeJoria, 101
13. Cruz Pedregon, 95
14. Jonnie Lindberg, 92
15. Phil Burkart, 62
16. Gary Densham, 47
17t. Jeff Arend, 41
17t. Jeff Diehl, 41
19t. Dave Richards, 31
19t. Bob Tasca III, 31
21. Bob Bode, 26