|CAR||#10 Ford Shelby Mustang|
|SPONSOR||Levi, Ray & Shoup|
|CREW CHIEF||Tim Wilkerson|
|BIRTHDAY||Dec. 29, 1960|
It would be a misstatement to ever describe Tim Wilkerson as having a new fresh attitude or renewed determination heading into any NHRA season, or any individual race for that matter. The popular Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car driver carries the maximum amount of all those important attributes into his racing, pegging every gauge on the red line in his pursuit of success on the drag strip.
In 2013, though, so much is new and different around the Team Wilkerson camp that Wilk has found himself caught up in the fresh new start, and all the changes have him eager to get after it when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing campaign kicks off in historic Pomona at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals.
"We do have a lot of new stuff going on, and I guess it starts with a new season and a new series sponsor, in Mello Yello," Wilkerson said. "We're all excited to have such a famous brand from the Coca-Cola Company as the title sponsor of the series, and I think it gives us all a bit of a higher profile, so that's a good thing for everybody.
"Our team is pretty different too, with some new crew guys, some shifted positions, a new paint scheme that's pretty nice to look at, new uniforms, and kind of a fresh start. Our new crew guys aren't just new to us, either, they're both rookies, but I'm happy with how focused and attentive they are and I think they're going to do just fine. With the new look and the new blood, it's been a very different off-season and I think the guys' excitement about getting started is kind of infectious."
Cosmetically, fans are going to do a double-take when the LRS Shelby Mustang pulls to the line in Pomona. After four years with the same paint scheme on his Ford, Wilk knew it was time for a big change, so the team narrowed the new look to three options created by respected designer Greg Ozubko, and then let the fans vote for their favorite. The vote totals were nearly overwhelming, but the fans spoke loudly by selecting the design tabbed "Swoops" by a wide margin. New uniform shirts were then designed by Vicci Apparel, to match the new car design, and both looks are so bold it's clear the team will be hard to miss.
"The design looked really good on paper, but you never know until it comes out of the paint shop," Wilk said. "We're lucky to have Canham Graphics and Kim's Auto Body right here in Springfield, and between them they gave us a car that looks twice as good in person as it did in the rendering, and that's saying a lot because it was really nice looking on paper. It was time for a change, and we've made a huge one that will grab everyone's attention. I know the thing looks fast just sitting still, so hopefully we can tune it up and really make it go fast in Pomona."
On the human resources side of the equation, Ryan Wirth and David Shaff are not only new additions to the LRS crew, they are also both rookies in the sport and, coincidentally, they each join a brother on the team. Ryan joins his brother Travis Wirth, who has been moved to the clutch specialist position, and David joins his sibling Nick Shaff, the team's renowned cylinder head specialist. While they are new to nitro racing, both have high mechanical IQs and have adapted quickly.
"Like any team with new guys or guys in new positions, it's going to take them a while to gel and get totally up to speed, but what's made me feel good about it is how focused and attentive they are," Wilk said. "These guys take it very seriously, they ask good questions, and they want to do everything right. They're good guys, and they really want to do well, so that's a good thing.
"When you have so many new people and guys learning new positions, it changes everything from the top down, because you have to start over and focus on every little detail. I can't just show up and assume my crew is going to have everything figured out, because there are always a lot of questions or things coming up they haven't dealt with before. I think that's a good thing for all of us, because that new attention to detail is contagious. New guys, old guys, and this guy are all ready to get going. And right now, we're tied for first place in the standings with everyone else, so we're geared up to get after it."
Each season provides a fresh start for every team, but this 2013 NHRA Mello Yello campaign will see a bold new approach from Team Wilkerson. And they'll be hard to miss.