Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson, who is currently enjoying one of the finest starts to a season in his racing career, had a less-than-stellar moment during the opening round of eliminations at the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday that derailed some of the momentum he and his Levi, Ray & Shoup team have built.
Wilkerson, with two wins already this season, entered the Topeka event third in the points standings and, with the debut of a brand new chassis and Ford Mustang body, felt poised to clinch a third event crown. But it wasn’t to be, as during the semifinal round of eliminations opposite of Jack Beckman, Wilkerson endured a freak incident that saw his flopper careen out of control right at the hit and slam nose-first into the guardrail. The car then spun around and vaulted into the opposing guardrail, with a small fire evident under the body. Wilkerson quickly got the fuel and ignition shut off and climbed from the car, clearly dejected about not only the round, but the damage to his brand new machine.
“We still don’t know what happened. From the tracks here, it looks like the car probably broke an axle or scooped a hub out because it was going along and just made a right turn,” said Wilkerson. “After it made that turn, the car hit the wall and got itself in its own oil with one tire still spinning. The car was like a top going in circles.”
The team has since confirmed that the rear end and axles in the car are fully intact, showing no sign of failure of the axle, hub, or other related components, leaving the cause of the incident a mystery.
Wilkerson was uninjured in the excursion and, despite the setback, maintained his third position in the Funny Car points.