Veteran nitro Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson has proven time and time again that he’s someone the competition can’t forget about.
He proved that again Friday at the 20th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas.
Wilkerson clocked a 3.895-second lap at 323.50 mph to snare the provisional No. 1 spot on the qualifying ladder Friday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Wilkerson just edged Ron Capps for the top spot. Capps came in at 3.897- seconds in his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge. The last time Wilkerson qualified No. 1 was in Bristol, Tenn., in 2017.
“I have been really critical of the track prep stuff this year and I want tell them how great a job they did,” Wilkerson said. “I talked to Josh about that over the last week and we didn’t have a very good Friday at Phoenix or Gainesville. I said you guys have a big job ahead of you and he said, we think we know what we did and we’re going to fix it. Boy, good job to the guys prepping the track to be able to go that fast on a 110-degree track. The first run I made I decided that I was just going to try and go down through there and it was just a duck. It was so slow it was unbelievable.
We came back and looked at what we did wrong and tuned it up. Richard (Hartman, Wilkerson’s crew chief) asked ‘How fast do you think it is going to go?’ I said it will go 90 flat. He said, do you think there’s a 90 flat out there? I said, we will find out. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Wilkerson had a tough start to the 2019 season with first-round defeats in Pomona, Calif., and Phoenix, but rebounded with a runner-up at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., the last event on the tour.
“We do spend a lot of time looking at our parts and that’s one thing that I think makes our car as good as it is everywhere, we take it,” Wilkerson said. “It’s easy to be good at sea level or at one other place, but when you can go from what it was at Gainesville to what it is here (in Las Vegas) is proof my guys do a good job. They make all my parts close to the same and I can turn a knob and put a head gasket on it and it actually acts the same. It is just a good job that all my guys are doing. They really make it easy for me to do what I do. Richard Hartman leads them all and keeps me out of mischief up there on the starting line and we talk a lot about what we are doing right and wrong out there also, and that’s really come a long way.”
Wilkerson is upbeat about what he can accomplish in Las Vegas.
“I’m pretty comfortable based on last weekend,” Wilkerson said. “We have a good car and it has been going down the track consistently a lot and pretty fast. So, hopefully, with any luck I can keep from screwing that up. This place can be really strange on Sunday if the track gets to be 120 degrees. It will be anybody’s guess on how far you have to drag it backwards. These conditions are pretty rare for this track. I’m pretty excited about how they were and they will be that way again (Saturday). I don’t think that (3.895) will stick (Saturday), you will probably see someone go faster than that, maybe even me.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019