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DEARBORN -- For Tim Wilkerson, driver/owner of the Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang Funny Car, the third time just might be the charm. After struggling to get past the first round during the first two races of the season, Wilkerson finally was able to take his Mustang to the finals and win the NHRA Gatornationals last weekend in Gainesville, Florida. The win marks Wilkerson’s 14th career victory, and his third Wally with Ford Racing.
Q. TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN THIS WEEKEND.
A. We started the weekend with a brand new chassis so I was trying to kind of sneak up on the thing as we were going. It was responding well and it was the first weekend for our new 2010 Mustang body. It was something we weren’t quite sure of, but we had a lot of data on it. Until you run it yourself though, you are a little weary what to do. As we went along we changed the spoilers on the body and changed our car up here and there and it kept responding. We were very fortunate. The new body is spectacular. I can see why everyone wants to have one so badly now. It seems like aerodynamically it is heads and shoulders above the rest.
Q. THIS WAS THE FIRST RACE YOU WERE ABLE TO GET PAST THE FIRST ROUND. DO YOU THINK THE NEW BODY HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT?
A. If I had the new body in Phoenix we probably would have gotten past the first round there because we spun the tires at the end of the track, although that lane was a little suspect. From there I just had some bad draws. I ran into Ms. Ashley in the first race and Robert in the second race and they were both low ET of the round. When you run into somebody that is low ET of the round you are going to have to be pretty fast or you go home. We had some bad races out there the first couple weekends but we are pretty resilient. We realize these things happen. When you go racing, sometimes you don’t get good draws. We got a good draw at Gainesville then my car put a hole out when it did a little looptie and we were lucky enough to be racing somebody that malfunctioned on me and after that I was a better car then all the other cars that we raced.
Q. A FORD DRIVER HAS BEEN ABLE TO MAKE IT TO THE FINAL ROUND EVERY RACE THIS SEASON. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
A. I think what we have more than anything is the quality of cars we are teamed up with. We have the Force camp, which obviously has the best equipment available and the best manpower. They have had Ford on their side for many years now. Then you have Bob [Tasca] and I who are, in my opinion, the best up and comers there are. I think it is going to propel the Ford Racing funny car team through this whole season. I wouldn’t be surprised if all five of these cars don’t end up in the countdown and at least one of them in the championship. I am a Ford teammate of John Force, but it is Bob and my plan to whup ‘em both. I want to thank Ford for being on my side. They have a lot of guys out there they could take care of. Bob Tasca introduced me to Ford Motor Company and it has been one of the best things to ever happen to my race team. We certainly appreciate them more than they know.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING FOUR-WIDE IN CHARLOTTE?
A. Well, I wasn’t there when they first talked about it, but I think it is pretty distracting. After a second look at it, I think anything that brings attention to the sport and gives my sponsors and Ford Motor Company more exposure is a good thing. That is what it is all about. We are out there as entertainers and I think it will be a neat thing for the fans, no doubt about that. It will be something that they can talk about forever. I think we will sell some tickets and have some fun with it. Hopefully it will be smooth as silk. I will be interested to see if at the last minute the first car with lane choice decides to change lanes to see how we will be pushing our cars around in circles to figure out which lane we have next.