Daniel Wilkerson, son of popular Funny Car owner/driver Tim Wilkerson and a rising star in his own right, will make his 2012 debut at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway May 4-6. With backing again from Summit Racing Equipment, Wilkerson is also set to join the Funny Car field at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk July 5-8.
D. Wilk has raced sporadically in the past three NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series seasons while he concentrated on earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois. With his diploma in hand, the young driver is eager to get back on the track with an eye toward a much larger involvement in 2013.
"Getting my degree was the No. 1 priority, so that came first the last few years," Wilkerson said. "We've been able to get out there a few times, thanks to the great people at Summit Racing Equipment, and I can tell you for a fact that I have withdrawal from it when I can't be racing, so I'm really excited to get back in the car.
"My dad is always working on finding new avenues for us to get me out there on a more steady basis, so hopefully some of these opportunities can come together in the near future. Nothing would be cooler than to do this full time, but in the meantime, I feel really lucky to have a great company like Summit Racing behind me for a couple of races this year. It means a lot that they believe in me enough to do this."
A sponsor's belief can sometimes be founded on speculation about a driver's potential, and it can be based on a solid record on the track. In the case of D. Wilk, it's a combination of both. He has clearly shown a knack for handling a Funny Car with both natural and learned skills, and in his brief Pro career, he is 6-for-6 in qualifying for events entered. At his most recent race, the 2011 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, he stunned the class by qualifying sixth, then defeated Johnny Gray in round one. Not bad for an extremely part-time driver with a volunteer crew.
"Once we go racing full time, we'll have a professional crew just like the other big-budget teams, but if we're only going to be racing a couple times a year, it pretty much has to be my buddies, a lot of whom actually have a lot of experience. They may be volunteers, but they've all worked on this car and my Top Alcohol car, and we have Fred Mandoline around to oversee everything, not to mention my dad helping out with the tune-up.
"To be able to qualify at all six races we've been to is kind of surprising on one hand but also not surprising on the other. I give most of the credit to the guys and my dad, and my job is to make sure the driver does OK. We've won two rounds now, so I'm pretty proud of everyone involved with this deal. I can't wait to get to Atlanta, and we'll see how we can do there."