Volume X, Issue 11, Page 3
Words and photos by Bret Kepner - 12/2/2008

Although his efforts during the 2008 NHRA POWERade season fell just short of winning the Funny Car championship, Tim Wilkerson was feted during a massive gathering of his most loyal fans at the Northfield Civic Center in Wilkerson’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. In an event produced by the famed Wilkerson’s Warriors, a group comprised of the driver’s friends and fans from across the nation, Wilkerson was honored by both the drag racing community and Springfield Mayor Timothy J. Davlin, who issued a proclamation marking Saturday, Nov. 29, as “Tim Wilkerson Day” in the Illinois state capital.

Mayor Timothy J. Davlin (right) with the guest of honor.

With a backdrop of the POWERade Winner’s Circle banner from the 2008 NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals (donated by host track Gateway International Raceway) and a display of Wilkerson’s NHRA Event Winner trophies from the 2008 season, Davlin took the stage to present Wilkerson with his second community tribute of the year. After Wilkerson’s hard-fought win earlier this year at the Gateway event in Madison, Ill., which Davlin attended, the Mayor named June 3 as “Tim Wilkerson Day” during a packed Springfield city council meeting in honor of the team’s victory in their home state.

For the second proclamation, Davlin thanked Wilkerson for uniting the city during the 2008 NHRA season, stating, “Tim made us feel like a million bucks when he won and we hurt just as bad when he didn’t. Everybody in the town followed him every step of the way and experienced the thrill of the battle for the championship firsthand. Those who were never aware of the sport of drag racing suddenly became fans and followed his progress through every race on the circuit.”

Mayor Davlin presented Wilkerson with the proclamation parchment and delivered a well-researched chronicle of Wilkerson’s achievements and statistics to the standing-room-only crowd.

Davlin also acknowledged Wilkerson’s primary sponsor, Dick Levi of Levi, Ray & Shoup Technology Solutions, as “a Springfield business owner who invested in another Springfield business to the benefit of the entire city.” The Mayor also praised the large number of Springfield residents and business owners who assisted Wilkerson throughout the year as “those who contributed to a common goal of behalf of everybody in Springfield.”

Each member of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car team accepted awards from the Wilkerson’s Warriors fan club.

Scott Gardner (left) of Cordova Dragway Park presented Wilkerson with several awards on behalf of a variety of donors, including this pictorial chronicle of Wilkerson’s 2008 season created by Mike and Lynn Garland.

Attended by a large contingent of local electronic and print media, the event also included the announcement of “Tim Wilkerson Night” at the December 5, 2008, hockey game of the NAHL Springfield Junior Blues at the Springfield Nelson Center. Wilkerson and team will attend the game and display the Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevrolet Monte Carlo Funny Car.

Once at the podium, Wilkerson offered an emotional speech thanking his many friends, fans and sponsors. “There are so many of you in this room who were with us when we had nothing,” said Wilkerson, “and I can never express just how much your support has meant to us through the years. After we finished fifteenth in the NHRA POWERade series in 2007, we made a commitment to go for the championship in 2008 and, with Dick Levi’s blessing, we simply ‘went for it’. The effort put forth by our team was a ‘thank you’ to everybody who has stuck with us for all these years even back to our alcohol funny car days. Because of all of you, we raced the best and held our own all across the country.”