Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rain, drivers expected for NHRA season opener

It's supposed to rain in Southern California this weekend, which means it could be a wet start to the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Rain or not, the top drivers in NHRA are expected to converge on Pomona for the first race of the year.
Tim Wilkerson, the runner-up in the NHRA Funny Car division, will be there. He has formed a technical alliance with Bob Tasca III and Tasca Racing, which should lead to better resuts in 2009. After finishing second in the Funny Car standings last year, there's only one way to improve.
“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think that we have to do anything different," Wilkerson said. "We had a great car all year long; my guys did a terrific job working on it. I think the Mustang, again, will really help our cause and the alliance with the Tasca. And to have some technology that we’ve never seen in our life with being with Ford. So I think that is going to be a first step for us."
The NHRA implemented a playoff system a couple of years ago, the Countdown to One. After a few tweaks, the playoff system makes it possible for the top 10 drivers in each national division to compete for the championship. Wilkerson finished second to Cruz Pedregon last year.
"And the second step, we just need to not screw up in the playoffs," Wilkerson said. "That’s all it was to it. I just had some bad luck there in the playoffs and my predecessor that won the thing really did a better job, so he deserved to win. He got the wins when he needed and he was hot when we were cold. Hopefully, we can just stay consistent like we were this year because I think that was our key last year, we were consistent all year long. We weren’t the fastest guy, but boy, on Sunday if you made a mistake, we were right there beside you showing you what you shouldn’t have done. So hopefully we can just show that consistency again and bring a trophy home.”
Tasca begins his second season in the NHRA Funny Car division. He is looking forward to heading to Pomona for the season opener, even if it is a little different than the other races on the NHRA schedule.

“Pomona has a little different format," Tasca said. "You run once on Thursday, once on Friday and twice on Saturday. Where typically, we run twice on Friday, twice on Saturday and then go into Sunday. Pomona is spread out. As a driver and as a team, you want to race. To go out on Thursday and hit the gas one time, then you have to wait until Friday, then you hit the gas one time, then you go into Saturday where you have the back-to-back runs. Our strategy is to get down the race track Thursday. It is very important that you hit the track; you go A-to-B, and not try to set the world on fire."
Despite the different format, Tasca and his team have a strategy to attack the weekend.
"You want to get the car qualified on the first day and get data that you can use on Friday," Tasca said. "Then you can be more aggressive on Friday and on Saturday you’ll start to see conditions that you’re going to race on Sunday. For me, going into Pomona, with Tim Wilkerson, arguably the best race car on the circuit last year, to have that team alongside our team and the data that we can start to accumulate is amazing. We don’t have four qualifying runs anymore; we have eight because of the alliance. You can’t stress the importance of that kind of information. We have the same clutch. We have the same chassis. We have the same car body. We have different engine configurations.
"Tim is going to try some things that he thinks will work. At the end of the day, the crew chiefs get together and they talk about what went right, what went wrong and that’s what I most looking forward to about Pomona and this whole season. I’m looking forward to having two triple-A caliber teams working together with two fast race cars to compete for the championship. I really feel that Tasca Racing and Wilkerson Racing together are a whole lot stronger than we are on our own. And that says a lot because Tim almost won the championship last year, on his own, and he has put a lot of value in this relationship. It will be an exciting race. It will be great to just get back together with the all the guys. You are really family with a lot of these teams, drivers, telecasters and everybody there: you’re around them so much. It’s almost an eternity to get back to Pomona. But it is right around the corner now.”

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