Top Seeds Falter As Countdown Begins At ZMAX

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 15 2012

Underdog Tim Wilkerson has the provisional pole at zMAX as the NHRA's playoffs get under way. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. –  The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series’ season comes down to six races as the Countdown to the Championship begins this weekend at zMAX Dragway. It’s an intense stretch where one bad race can quickly end a team’s championship hopes. And for the Countdown’s top seeds, Friday’s two qualifying rounds didn’t go their way.

Top Fuel point leader Antron Brown was 12th with 4.353 at 207.08 mph; Funny Car’s Ron Capps also came in 12th with 4.143 at 303.78; Pro Stock’s Allen Johnson was fourth with 6.563 at 211.23; and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Eddie Krawiec was second with 6.853 at 195.51 mph.

Those who left the Dragway Friday night smiling – those who had won provisional poles – were: Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon, 3.807 at 324.12; Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson, 4.048 at 309.70 mph; Pro Stock, Vincent Nobile, 6.548 at 211.03; and Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines, 6.851 at 195.82.

If all four are able to maintain the top positions through two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday, it will be the first time any of them have been a No. 1 qualifier at zMAX Dragway. It will also translate into valuable bonus points in the Countdown.

“Every point will matter in the end,” Langdon said. “As you can see with a lot of the past years, things are separated by a round and if you can pick up a couple of little bonus points throughout the deal you can make up a round or two throughout the Countdown.”

The top three drivers in each qualifying session receive points. Once qualifying is completed points are again awarded. Points also are given on Sunday for each finishing position and if a record is set. A driver could come away from zMAX with 150 points.

“This would be the perfect time to peak,” Langdon noted. “We’ve been making a lot of changes to the car and it’s been responding very well. I’m definitely counting us in for the championship.”

Wilkerson’s performance Friday was a major boost to his small team.

“We’ve had a pretty good car the last two or three races and we’re just capitalizing on it a little bit,” said Wilkerson, whose team consists of four full-time people. “The bonus points are really going to play a part in this. Bonus points got me here. If you look at Brainerd and Indy both, I probably wouldn’t have been in the Countdown without those. I curse them during the year when I’m doing bad and I applaud them when I’m doing well. I’m a perfect politician.”

Wilkerson noted his team “scavenged” some parts from John Force Racing and he believed they would help.

“We just need to stay focused and that puts a little bit of pressure on a crew member,” Wilkerson said. “All four of my full-time guys, I got them all together, told them they were a good group of guys, ‘what’s happened to the car the last few races is not your fault, it’s my fault; I’m not tuning it properly. We’ve got some inferior parts we’re working around and things are going to get better. Everybody keep your head on straight and make sure your part of the car is bolted together correctly. I’m not going to let you down.’”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 15 2012
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