WILKERSON LOOKS BACK WITH NO REGRETS, LOOKS FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE: Tim Wilkerson came into the 2008 NHRA season with five career victories and left the season with 11. He entered the campaign having just come off a 15th-place finish in 2007, but finished the 2008 season in second place after a storybook run.
To all who were witnessing this remarkable "arrival," the Levi, Ray & Shoup driver seemed fully capable of turning everything around, including the startling ability to erase the memory of seven DNQs from the year before by recording absolutely none in 2008. He also improved his round record from a pedestrian 14–16 in 2007 to an astounding 42–18 this year, a mark no other Funny Car driver could match.
In the end though, it was the final day and the ever-so-close, but narrowly missed, chance at a championship that far too many people remember.
Having spent most of the season leading the Funny Car points chase, Wilkerson entered the Countdown to the Championship knowing full well what the rules were and how they worked. By virtue of his first-place standing after the regular season, he began the Countdown at the top, but his lead was cut to 30 POWERade points, and the nine other drivers on his tail had once again picked up the scent.
It was not going to be easy, especially for a driver who had never finished higher than seventh in the standings and had no prior experience with the breathtaking pressure of a real championship run. But as Wilkerson saw it, nothing is ever easy in one of the world's most challenging sports, and there's no reason to look back with any regrets.
"It's all hard, everyday against every team," Wilkerson said. "You don't get any free passes, and no one takes it easy on you. We've seen the hardest of the hard times just trying to qualify, or sometimes even trying to break a streak of multiple DNQs, but we came into the year thinking we were better.
"It turns out, we were better and we had a great year. I'm not going to waste a minute of my time wishing anything different. It would've been a dream come true to win it, but we didn't so now the dream is still there.
"But like I said, it's a dogfight out there every week. If you want to know how tough it is, just look at our first two races this year, where we had a fast car, and qualified at the top in both Pomona and Phoenix, but we lost in the first round at each race. It almost didn't matter where you qualified this year because all 16 cars in the field could win."
ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE 2008 NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP YEAR IN REVIEW DVD TODAY: Just in time for the holidays, the "2008 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship Year in Review" will make the perfect gift for the number one NHRA fan in your family. All the drama, passion, heartbreak and excitement that were welded together into the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season can be experienced again with the 2008 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship Year in Review.
This must-have documentary follows the battles for the four 2008 NHRA POWERade world championships from start to finish. Hosted by acclaimed NHRA announcer Bob Frey, the DVD contains more than 90 minutes of in-depth interviews with drivers who had memorable moments during the season, as well as plenty of side-by-side racing action from all 24 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events. Also included are special never-before-seen bonus features.
The "2008 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship Year in Review" DVD will deliver all the action you can handle at 300 mph. Pre-order the "2008 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship Year in Review" DVD for $19.99 (plus shipping, handling and applicable taxes) in the United States and Canada. The scheduled release date for the DVD is mid-December 2008 for the holiday season. Pre-order your copy today by visiting www.nhra.com.
CHEVY WINS 17TH MANUFACTURERS CUP TITLE: Following an incredible season, Chevrolet won the 2008 NHRA Manufacturers Cup for the 17th time, the most ever by any automobile manufacturer. The title is Chevrolet's second straight and third this decade, having also won in 2002.
Chevrolet won its first NHRA Manufacturers Cup title in 1966 in what was the first of four straight for the car builder to dominate the late '60s. Chevrolet also dominated the '70s, winning in seven of 10 seasons in the midst of a nine-year streak that lasted from 1973 through 1981, then won again in 1983.
Team Chevy's on-track drag racing accomplishments in 2008 were impressive, especially in the Pro Stock category, where Chevy drivers earned 11 victories, 23 final-round appearances, and eight No. 1 qualifying awards. Four Chevy Cobalt drivers made the Countdown to 1, and three Team Chevy drivers finished in the top five of the POWERade standings, including Jeg Coughlin, who captured his second straight NHRA POWERade championship behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.
Multiple victories at NHRA divisional and national levels by Chevrolet's stampede of Sportsman competitors were a key component in the Chevy Red Bowtie's 2008 NHRA Manufacturers Cup. More than 20 different Super Stock drivers competing in 2008 Chevy Cobalts contributed to more than half of Chevy's points total.
Chevy Super Stock stalwarts included Jimmy DeFrank, Ryan McClanahan, Justin Lamb, Jeff Lane, Peter Biondo and Justin Jenkins. Lucas Oil Sportsman national champions driving Chevrolets in 2008 included Frank Manzo, who captured his 12th Top Alcohol Funny Car crown with his Monte Carlo entry; Dan Fletcher in Comp with Rick Braun's Cobalt; and Ricky Decker in Super Stock with his Camaro.
Pontiac, which has won 10 NHRA Manufacturers Cup titles, finished in second place with 4,400 points.
The NHRA Manufacturers Cup has been awarded since 1964. It is presented to the automobile manufacturer whose current models in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock earn the most points for qualifying and category victories at NHRA Drag Racing Series national and divisional events.
Points are awarded to entries in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock as follows: 60 points for an eliminator victory, 40 points for an eliminator runner-up and 20 points for an eliminator qualification.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
LASORDA ENJOYS WHIFF OF NITRO: Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda served as Grand Marshal for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, California. The baseball icon encouraged the fans to support their troops, enjoy the race and cheer on the Dodgers next season as they chase another World Series title. Lasorda said he was “overwhelmed” by the experience.
“I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did,” he said. “I'm totally impressed, particularly with how fast the cars go. I was impressed with how nice the drivers were, with the attendance and with how well the track is operated."
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
72: That’s the number of days remaining until the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season kicks off at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California, with the 49th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals, February 5–8, 2009.
DID YOU KNOW…
… that a group of NHRA diplomats, including Pro Stock drivers Jim Yates, Jason Line and Warren Johnson and Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan, are on a special mission to visit U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East and Europe.
On their first stop during the tour they visited Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. Camp Arifjan provides permanent support facilities for American forces in Kuwait. Fred Simmonds and Jeff Romack coordinated the tour and are leading the group, who will make their next stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.