DENVER, Colo. (July 23, 2017) – Sunday in Denver was a tough day for Tim Wilkerson and the Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang team. They poured their hearts into preparing their back-up car for eliminations after a wheel stand ended with a bent A-arm in the final round of qualifying, but in the first round of eliminations at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the feisty Ford was wheels-up once again, and when it came down hard, the second chassis was injured. It was a rough start to the three-race Western Swing that begins in Denver, brings the tour to Sonoma, and ends in Seattle.
“Right now, we have no car,” said Wilkerson, whose race shop is all the way back in Springfield, Ill. “I called [chassis builder] Murf McKinney, and he has a third chassis that he is front-halving. He’s going to try to get that done, and we’ll be at his place on Wednesday to try to pick it up. Then we’ll go straight to Sonoma. It looks like we could stop once, maybe, and be there [in Sonoma] Friday morning. We’ll have to swap all the parts from one car to the other, and with any luck, we’ll be able to make the second qualifier on Friday. If not, we’ll be there Saturday to make those two runs.”
In the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Wilkerson, currently No. 8 in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings, was set for a match with J.R. Todd – the driver nipping at his heels in the points. Wilkerson was fired up for the round, and his .068-second reaction time gave him a smidge of a head start over Todd’s .073. Then things got hectic.
“I really thought I had that round won,” said Wilkeson. “I was truckin’ down through there, smiling for the camera already. Then it came up, and when it did I said, ‘Well I’m not just going to shut the throttle.’ So I shut it about halfway, and it stayed there. I thought, ‘I got it whipped now.’ As it started to come back down, I stepped back on it again, and when I did, it put a hole out. It slapped onto the ground, and that was it. It’s crazy that it still went 4.203 and with the front end in the air for about 300 feet. It was cool, but it bent the left side of the chassis.”
Although Todd did gain some ground with his winning 4.072-second pass at 316.30 mph, he was ousted in the second round. Wilkerson’s position in the points was not jeopardized, and his team is prepared to go to battle to protect their position as the 2017 Countdown to the Championship playoffs draw near.
“These boys, including Richard Hartman, all have my demeanor, and that’s a good thing,” said Wilkerson. “We all know this is the job, and we have to fix it. We’re not here to drag our chins on the ground and say, ‘woe is me.’ We’re a team, and thank goodness, we live and die as a team. That’s the rule for 99% of the teams out here, and that’s what makes me proud to be part of this NHRA family. We all work that way.
“We’ll regroup and win some rounds on the western swing. Man, we gotta be there for this deal. These people are catching us and I don’t like it.”
The next event on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour is the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, Calif., July 28-30, 2017.
**Full results posted at DragRaceCentral.com**
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Funny Car Standings
(after Denver, race 14 of 24)
1. Ron Capps, 1244
2. Matt Hagan, 1058
3. Robert Hight, 973
4. Jack Beckman, 970
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 925
6. Courtney Force, 793
7. John Force, 757
8. Tim Wilkerson, 634
9. J.R. Todd, 612
10. Cruz Pedregon, 538
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Tim Wilkerson Racing
– Tim Wilkerson, 20x NHRA Nitro Funny Car Winner –