NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


As the Countdown to the Championship looms, so does Tim Wilkerson

with the field for the Countdown to the Championship taking shape, the 2023 Camping World NHRA Funny Car title is very much up for grabs, and Tim Wilkerson has every reason to think he’s one of the favorites.
19 Aug 2023
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Tim Wilkerson

Take a quick look at the history of Tim Wilkerson in the Funny Car class, including 15-straight years of Top 10 finishes and a best of No. 2 in 2004 and suddenly, the notion of him winning the Camping World NHRA Funny Car final isn’t so far-fetched.

When it comes to consistency, few can match Wilkerson who has accumulated 24 professional wins during his career, which is approaching 30 years.

Wilkerson has every reason to think this might be his year including his two wins in Chicago and Seattle, and his runner-up finish at the Las Vegas Four Wide race last spring.

“We’ve been good this year; pretty consistent for most of the season, but just not as fast as we’d like to be. I’m sure it’s all in the bellhousing,” said Wilkerson, noting that clutch tuning is perhaps the most important element of success in nitro racing. “I do have a stash [of clutch parts] put away and it’s almost time to bring them out and see what we can do during the last six races.”

The ever-frugal Wilkerson, who comes into Brainerd as the No. 7 ranked driver in the class, doesn’t plan to test between this weekend’s race in Brainerd and the upcoming Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, and given his experience, he’s one of the few who likely doesn’t need to test.

“We’ll just put it in and go,” he says. “Indy is important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not part of the Countdown and we get five [qualifying] runs so that will be our test. Besides, I can’t afford to test. Well, actually I can but we still have a problem getting parts so I try to be careful there.”

These days, Wilkerson does have two things that he’s never had previously in his career; a second team car and a team owner who is willing to go the extra mile in order to be successful. The team car belongs to Chad Green and it’s capably tuned by Wilkerson’s son, Daniel. The rest of the equation is team owner Joe Maynard, who has provided the resources and the support to make sure that Wilkerson, and his SCAG/Levi, Ray & Shoup team remain in contention.

“I look at what Daniel has done with Chad’s car and it’s impressive,” said Wilkerson. “Yes, they’ve gotten a few breaks along the way but they’re making good runs and they deserve all the success they’ve had. That car is a twin to mine, and we talk every run to make sure we’re on the same page. That keeps us from getting too far upside down, or at least that’s the game plan.”

While Wilkerson has two wins in three finals, Green has been a semifinal magnet, reaching the final four seven times in 13 races along with a runner-up last month in Sonoma.

“This whole class is so tough that it’s not a given to even get out of the first round anymore,” Wilkerson said. “I think that’s what other teams have learned about Chad. Don’t take him lightly.”

When it comes to his affiliation with the Maynard family, Wilkerson insists that little has changed in regard to structure.

“Now, I just forward the invoices to Mr. Maynard,” Wilkerson laughs. “Seriously, we discussed this very early in our relationship and we agreed that there would be very few changes. We have an agreement that works very well for both of us, and I think we’re both very happy. I still take a look at the books, but that’s just because some old habits die hard.”