What does team integration mean for Tim Wilkerson

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Tim Wilkerson prepares for the NHRA Midwest Nationals. (Nhrara photo)

Tim Wilkerson has been a regular participant in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Funny Car class for 27 years.

Over his career, Wilkerson has accumulated 22 wins, entered 48 final rounds and qualified for the championship countdown 14 times. And he did most of that as a pirate. But, as he said on Tuesday afternoon, it all comes to an end.

Wilkerson would merge the Funny Car team, Tim Wilkerson Racing, with Joe Maynard’s Top Fuel operation, JCM Racing, to form Maynard Wilkerson Racing. Wilkerson and Maynard would serve as co-owners of MWR, although Wilkerson would continue to drive the Springfield, Illinois, Funny Car operation as a tuner and driver.

“I’ve been doing it myself for 20 years,” Wilkerson said. “This relationship will take my show to the next level.”

The whole idea started with the team’s primary sponsor, SCAG Power Equipment.

SCAG entered the NHRA one year ago as the sponsor of Tony Schumacher, the full-time Top Fuel driver fielded by Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). When Maynard and his wife, Cathy Maynard, became majority owners of DSR in mid-2022 and renamed the team JCM Racing, SCAG continued to increase its drag racing presence with the new owners.

After finding the sport paired well with the company’s customer base, SCAG CEO Randy Gloedy reached out to JCM team owner Maynard to suggest adding a funny car to the operation. Gloede wanted to see the brand expand into another division of the NHRA, but his focus was also on building an experience for company employees and customers by giving them the opportunity to experience drag racing firsthand.

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Tim Wilkerson will drive the SCAG Power Equipment/Levi and Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang this NHRA season. (Photo by MWR)

“When I went to the first races and saw our dealers in the locker room, they were fond of being right there with the race team,” said Gloedy. “It’s not like any other sport we’ve been a part of.”

With Gloede pledging support, it was up to Maynard to choose who would fill in for the funny car opening.

According to the new owner, the decision was not difficult.

“My mind immediately went to Tim Wilkerson,” Maynard said. “I can think of nothing better we can do for a sport we love than to help Tim Wilkerson get that one championship we all want him to have.”

With the additional manpower and financial growth provided by the partnership with SCAG and Maynard, Wilkerson believes being part of the trio could bring him closer to the joy car moniker that has eluded him. Or, at least, he could stop Fear Racing.

“Last year, when we hit the engine at Penn State, I raced the next three races with one chassis and one body,” Wilkerson said. “Now, I won’t have to race scared anymore. A little money really makes a big difference.”

To put it in perspective, the 62-year-old driver has been buying used cylinder heads for the past 10 years. With his new venture, he’s looking to buy new parts.

Wilkerson doesn’t see a downside to the new setup. The core of TWR will remain the same, as its Funny Car team will keep the same staff, continue to operate out of Illinois and Crew Co-Chief Richard Hartman will remain Wilkerson’s “right-hand man”. Even his new teammate – Schumacher – is an old friend.

The two used to race against each other in the Top Alcohol Funny Car division, but they will be competing in their respective NHRA classes at MWR this season. The way Wilkerson looks at it, having another engine to power past ideas might be an advantage. There are already a few things that Wilkerson is considering asking Schumacher.

But is this team the missing link that kept Wilkerson from the Funny Car moniker?

Time will tell, but Wilkerson is optimistic about MWR’s chances.

“I think you’ll see some good things from us,” Wilkerson said. “We already have a darn good car every weekend. If we could improve it 10 percent, we’d be in the top five, easily.”

SCAG will be the primary sponsor for his Funny Car through the next season, but Wilkerson has also maintained a relationship with his major sponsor of 22 years – Levi’s, Ray & Shoup. The LRS badge will still appear on the vehicle.

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