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Veteran WIlkerson knows Norwalk is ideal place for turnaround

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Jun 22, 2018 at 7:30 AM

NORWALK — It isn’t panic time for Tim Wilkerson as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season reaches the halfway point at the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk on Friday.

But the Funny Car veteran and Team Summit racer knows he has work to do if he wants to advance to the Countdown to the Championship and secure a top 10 finish for the 11th straight year. Wilkerson is 13th in points in a loaded Funny Car class and with only six races following the stop in Norwalk before the countdown, Wilkerson knows his Mustang has to perform at an optimal level.

"We're biding our time, there is no doubt about that,” Wilkerson said. “We sure don't want to end up at Indy having to pull off a miracle, but there are four or five other cars — John Force included — that are in the same boat.

"We aren't going to throw up the tragedy flag, because nothing positive happens when you're freaking out," he added. "We have a good car, and we're going to do what we normally do: focus and go round-by-round. You do that, and the round wins will come."

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Wilkerson, a 20-time event winner, has advanced out of the second round on only one occasion through 11 races, posting a semifinal appearance in Houston. But he remains in championship contention, sitting just 86 points behind 10th-place Bob Tasca III.

Wilkerson is confident his best showing this season is still to come. A number of small issues have plagued the team thus far, but Wilkerson is driven to persevere and get everything corrected to hopefully continue his impressive run of top 10 finishes.

"It really means a lot to us that we've done so well over the last 10 years, especially with the level of competition out there,” Wilkerson said. “It doesn't get any better than it is right now. Those cars are tough. I've spent the last five years being able to keep up with the best in the country, but now I have to figure out how to make my race car as consistent as those best cars. I'm very proud that we've consistently been in the top 10, and I like that people know racing me isn't an easy draw."

With his Team Summit affiliation, getting on track at Summit Motorsports Park would be an ideal scenario. Racing at the facility brings out the best in Wilkerson and he will be plenty motivated competing against Funny Car standouts like Courtney Force, the current points leader, defending world champion Robert Hight, who won in Chicago, Pomona winner Matt Hagan, defending event winner Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and J.R. Todd, who has two wins in 2018.

"First off, we're real proud to be a member of Team Summit,” Wilkerson said. “Especially with this being their 50-year anniversary — that is pretty special. It's always great coming to Norwalk and Summit Motorsports Park. Bill Bader does a good job, it's a great facility, and the fans are just terrific. Of course, they're all Summit Racing fans, and that's cool."

Steve Torrence is the Top Fuel points leader thanks to three wins. He’ll try to get past the likes of Clay Millican, who has two wins, defending champ Brittany Force, Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett.

There have been eight different winners through the first nine races in Pro Stock, a list that includes defending champ Bo Butner, Erica Enders and Vincent Nobile, who has two wins. Points leader and Summit drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line will try to join that list in Norwalk.

LE Tonglet is after his first win of the Pro Stock Motorcycle season as he tries to track down the likes of points leader Andrew Hines, defending world champ Eddie Krawiec and Matt Smith.

Also at Norwalk, the NHRA Pro Mod series makes its seventh of 12 stops in the 2018 season. The event also features thrilling competition in the Lucas Oil series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Hanna Motorsports First Strike and Top Secret Eastern Raider Jet Funny Cars. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.

Those in attendance will have the opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Summit Nationals include Shirley Muldowney and Mark Pawak.

As always, fans will also have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re given direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise and food options.

Mello Yello series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5:15 and 8:15 p.m. on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12 and 3 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.

To purchase tickets, call Summit Motorsports Park at 419-668-5555. Tickets also are available online at summitmotorsportspark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult.

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