Tim Wilkerson of Springfield will compete this weekend in NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
MADISON — Call it a homecoming for Tim Wilkerson this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The Springfield resident will compete in the Funny Car class during the NHRA Midwest Nationals at the local track. Action starts Friday, continues Saturday and concludes Sunday.
“The St. Louis race is such a huge event for us in terms of Levi, Ray and Shoup guests, Springfield fans, and family and friends,” Wilkerson said. “That’s what sets it apart for us and for me.
“We have so many people in attendance at Gateway that it makes for an overall intense weekend,” he said. “I think the fans were always pretty great in St. Louis. The ownership and management group that’s in place there is fantastic and they’re doing all they can to make it fan-friendly.
“After the race, when we decompress, I’ll be able to look at how we did and have a better idea of what that means in terms of the Countdown playoffs,” he added.
The veteran racer has responded with strong performances at the first two Countdown races. That has kept him in championship contention in a Funny Car class that has only tightened over the first two playoff races.
“Considering we needed another rally just to make it in at the 10th spot, I have no complaints,” Wilkerson said. “Two races in and we’ve won three rounds. What I think is interesting is that instead of the guys at the top pulling away, the whole thing seems to be compressing. We’re ninth, but we’re within one good race of being right in the hunt. I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy with how we’re doing.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. The Midwest Nationals mark the halfway point of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Wilkerson trails points leader and reigning Funny Car world champion John Force by 135 points. Wilkerson is just 41 points out of fifth place after advancing to the semifinals last weekend in Dallas.
He’s taking the same approach the remainder of the season, including the Gateway race. He’s aiming for his first Funny Car win since 2011.
“I try not to do anything different, no matter what’s going on,” Wilkerson said. “Every time I go against that, I seem to mess up.”
He noted, “We try to take on every race at the same intensity level, and if you really want to analyze that you could make the case that every person on the team has a different ‘game face’ and they approach each lap with their own personal mentality.”
The Mello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Sept. 26, with sessions at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Gateway Motorsports Park at (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845) or visit www.gatewaymsp.com.
For more information about the NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.