(Photos courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: With two wins and tied for Funny Car lead, Tim Wilkerson has his swagger back

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Even though he’s been drag racing for the better part of his life, you might say Tim Wilkerson is making up for lost time.

Prior to last season, the Springfield, Illinois native had not won an NHRA Funny Car national event since 2011. Then, when he got to Atlanta Dragway last spring, Wilkerson ended his long winless streak.

But that was only the start.

Thus far this season, the 55-year-old Wilkerson already has two wins in the first six races of the 24-race national event schedule.

Equally as impressive is Wilkerson, who now has 21 career wins in NHRA competition (20 in Funny Car), is now tied with Courtney Force for the Funny Car points lead.

2016_Tim_Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson

And now Wilkerson finds himself right back where he started things last year: Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, for this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.

“It’s been a good start, no doubt,” Wilkerson said about his season in an NHRA media release. “I’m excited to do as well as we’ve been doing and I think we’ve shown a lot of potential.

“We’ve got a good car and we’ve created those opportunities. We want to beat somebody that’s tough to beat and I think we’ve proven that so far this year, and having a good car has really helped our cause.”

Wilkerson’s wins this season have come at Phoenix and Charlotte, and he just barely missed a third triumph in the most recent race at Houston. After qualifying No. 1, he roared through eliminations before just barely losing to Courtney Force in the final round.

“We did some crazy, bizarre things (in Houston) and the car seemed to respond,” Wilkerson said. “But we got beat in Houston and I was not happy about that.”

Still, Wilkerson managed to accumulate enough points to tie Courtney Force for the lead in the point standings.

“It’s a long year and it really is a marathon and not a sprint,” Wilkerson said. ‘You can be a hero today and a zero next week. But we’ve got a car that we believe can win its share of rounds this year and that’s a good feeling to have.”

Or, as Wilkerson added, “We’ve got our swagger back a little.”

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Dean Wilson out for rest of Supercross season

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“Such a massive gut punch on Saturday,” Dean Wilson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye.”

With that post, Wilson announced that he will be out for the remainder of the Supercross season, which includes races at East Rutherford, N.J. and Las Vegas, Nev. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a shoulder injury. He also sustained damage to his kidney in a Lap 8 accident while he was running in the top 10.

Wilson’s injuries will not require surgery.

Wilson’s season began with a lot of promise. Earning the holeshot in the season-opening race at Anaheim, Wilson led for a time before narrowly missing the podium in fourth.

Two weeks later, Wilson finished fifth overall in the Triple Crown event of Anaheim II. Those are his only top-fives of the season.

“The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year,” Wilson continued.

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Such a massive gut punch on Saturday. Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye. Started off Denver topping free practice then went on to qualify P1 in qualifier 1. Qualifier 2 didn’t get the cleanest laps but ended with a 4th. On to the main event I was running around 7th on lap 7 moving forward and as I came around for the rhythm section I tripled in and something freak happened causing the bike to nose dive after I tripled in and pile driving me into the ground. The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year. It’s tough just hoping to have a ride each year. 2nd part is people saying “wilson’s hurt again, big surprise there” when it was something that wasn’t my fault. It’s a tough pill To swallow.. I injured my shoulder and got a contusion on my kidneys. Got MRI and good news is I dodged a bullet on my shoulder and I am just going to give it a few weeks of rest and therapy and see where we are at. Huge disappointment to end my SX season like this. Thanks to my whole team for everything and everybody checking in on me. I really appreciate it. I will be back.

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Next Race: East Rutherford April. 27, on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Gold

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