Monday, October 5, 2009
Scary crash overshadows NHRA races at Memphis Motorsports Park
The first-round of eliminations of the funny car portion of the National Hot Rod Assn. races at Memphis Motor Sports Park got off to a rocky start. Daniel Wilkerson lost control of his car and crashed in spectacular fashion on Monday. The race was postponed a day because of rain. Wilkerson said the conditions at the track on Monday were a little misty. His first-round opponent was Ron Capps.
"I just wanted to apologize to all the other racers for causing a mess and huge delay," Wilkerson said. "We sat out all of Sunday, then it kept misting this morning and we weren't sure if we were even going to run, and before you know it my race car goes out there and basically comes apart and I'm into the wall making a huge mess. And, I knew my mom was going to be back there worried sick, so I wanted to let everyone know that I was okay.
According to a report from Wilkerson's team, various sources provided photographic evidence that both rear wheel assemblies were off the car before it hit the wall, but the team has yet to do any forensic research to track the problem or discover the cause.
"It was really pulling hard off the line, and it sure felt like it was on a huge run, then just a fraction of a second before it all went bad I felt it start to wobble and sashay a little bit," Wilkerson said. "Next thing I know, it feels like I'm riding on the ground and it's making a hard left. For a bit I thought I had it, with the wheel cranked hard right, but then the wall was right in front of me and I knew I was going to hit it. I just held the wheel, gritted my teeth, and held on. With no rear wheels, I basically had no brakes, so then I just skidded down the track until the thing came to a stop."
Jeff Arend won the funny car portion of the races at Memphis. He beat Tony Pedregon in the final. It was Arend's second career NHRA funny car win and only his third career NHRA funny car final appearance.
Ashley Force Hood took over the lead in the funny car standings by three points over John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight. Force Hood advanced to the semifnals at Memphis, losing to Arend.
"We are bummed we didn't win but we are pumped that we went to another semifinal," Force Hood said. "That is our third semifinal in the first three Countdown races. Our Mustang ran really good this weekend that semifinal was just a really good close race. That will sometimes bite you. I don't know if we would have done anything differently. That was one of our best runs of the day. We will just take that and know that we have a really good running car and even in these crazy changing conditions we managed to still have a handle on our Mustang.
"We’ll go to Richmond and I’ll assume the conditions will be cool like this. That is a plus for us. We’ll try and go some rounds there. Semis is our goal every race. If we can just semi-finalize them to death we’ll be good. You are getting a lot of points and if you can get to that second half of the race you are doing well.”
Pedregon, third in the funny car standings, beat Capps in the other semifinal race.
Photo: NHRA funny car driver Daniel Wilkerson swerved across the race track at Memphis Motorsports Park and crashed in the first round of eliminations on Monday. (NHRA)