ST. LOUIS -
"It's just about getting hot at the right time," Wilkerson said. "This isn't like most sports, where the effort can be turned up and you can do better just because you're trying harder. Every now and then, though, you get on a little hot streak and it all seems to come to you. Other times, when you're on the other side of it, this sport seems impossible and nothing is easy."
Wilkerson has raced to one runner-up finish and seven semifinal appearances during the course of the season. He is looking to move into the winner's circle and break a streak of 50 events without a victory.
"We haven't won a race since Seattle in 2011, and I don't remember a string like this in my career," he said. "We're running good but just can't win a race. We've gotten as far as the semifinals seven times this year, so that shows a lot of consistency, but it sure would be great to break this winless streak right now."
If Wilkerson were to win the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals it would be in front of numerous supporters as the Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang team calls nearby Springfield, Ill. home.
"We really do have a huge group of supporters in St. Louis every year," Wilkerson continued. "Some of them are the old original Wilk's Warriors from way back. On top of that, LRS brings so many people they have to rent a hospitality tent in addition to the space we have in our pit area, so all told we're talking about thousands of people who are there to support our team, and that's pretty neat."
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Gateway Motorsports Park for the second consecutive season after not racing at the track in 2011. The support from the area drag racing fans was second to none last year and Wilkerson and all the series competitors are eager to get back to the facility.
"It's such a great market," Wilkerson said. "The fans are terrific there, so it's easily one of the best stops on the whole tour for us. It's our home race, and we love racing at Gateway."
The Top Fuel field will feature 2012 world champion and event winner Antron Brown attempting to secure his second career Top Fuel title. Current points leader Shawn Langdon has five wins this season and along with Tony Schumacher, Spencer Massey, Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force and Morgan Lucas will be among racers in position to take home wins at the event.
In Pro Stock Erica Enders-Stevens will race her Husky Liners Chevy Camaro down the track in pursuit of her first career Pro Stock world championship and defend her 2012 event victory. Mike Edwards, Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Greg Anderson and Shane Gray will all be among the racers in the factory hot rod category thrilling fans during the weekend.
The two-wheeled warriors in Pro Stock Motorcycle return to Gateway Motorsports Park with Eddie Krawiec aiming to defending his event win from last season. Hector Arana Jr. has been the class of the field this season and leads the points prior to the start of event. Matt Smith, Michael Ray and John Hall have won races during the second half of the regular season and enter the Countdown playoffs with some momentum.
The race also will feature exciting competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. No other sport offer fans an up close and personal experience like NHRA.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Families can take part in a special ticket offer as children 12 and under will be admitted free in general admission and grandstand two with paid adult. A special 12 and under rate is also available in the Nitro 2 section.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27. Qualifying continues at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Tickets are available for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals online at www.gatewaymsp.com or by calling (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845).