NICK DANNER, TIM WILKERSON CREW MEMBER, OBTAINS HIS SUPER COMP LICENSE
Working on the crew for Tim Wilkerson’s NHRA nitro Funny Car team gave Nick Danner an even bigger itch to drive.
Danner scratched that itch when he attended the renowned Frank Hawley Drag Racing School last month and obtained his Super Comp license.
“It was a passion of mine that was implanted in my head,” Danner said. “My father (Don) had been involved in drag racing back in the 1960s and 1970s. He told me a story about his time helping teams back then, and it just planted... A seed was planted in my head. And then... I mean, that was 30 years ago. Fast-forward through time, I worked alongside Brian Stewart my first three years on his nitro Funny Car, and Daniel Wilkerson, Tim’s son, was working on that team as well. So that helped in the transition when I got offered a full-time position with Tim (Wilkerson). I’m going on my fifth season now with Tim.”
For Wilkerson, Danner does tires and then also packs his parachutes.
“I also do a little bit of engine work when we break down the car, and then I also drive the hospitality truck trailer,” he said.
In Gainesville at Hawley’s school, Danner made seven runs.
“My seventh pass was an optional one,” Danner said. “That was totally on me. I was good with the six passes that we did in the class, but I’m just the type of person I want to keep going. If I could keep making laps, I would have. That’s when Frank gave me the opportunity or gave the class the opportunity to make more passes and whatnot; I absolutely said yes. And the funny thing about it was, was that seventh pass was my best pass of the weekend.”
On Danner’s seventh lap, he clocked an 8.272-second elapsed time at 159.76 mph.
“I would say, it’s one of those things, I have a passion for my work and where I’m at, but then also being able to do more than just go to work,” Danner said. “To actually race, to actually learn something more. I don’t know; it’s really a dream come true. The closest thing I have ever done to this, I would say, was I got my solo pilot’s license when I was 16 to fly like a Cessna plane, even before I had my driver’s license.”
Danner took a moment to describe the feelings he gets flying a plane and driving a race car.
“Well, everything has its own respective adrenaline rush, I would say,” Danner said. “The speed is also relative. You go pretty quick in an airplane too. It’s the amount of focus that you need to put into doing something in a short amount of time.”
As for his racecar driving future, Danner is hopeful he can get some more seat time sooner rather than later.
“I would love to continue learning Super Comp,” he said. “I do have a fellow co-worker that has a Super Comp car, as well as an old friend that runs in Division 5 up in Minnesota. Both have said, ‘Hey, if you want to, let’s talk about it.’”
Danner didn’t hesitate when talking about what he ultimately wants to steer.
“My end goal is to drive a fuel Funny Car,” Danner said. “This really is (part of the process). And with the people who I’ve talked to throughout my years of... With the teams that I’ve worked with, they’ve been really honest to me and said, ‘Take the steps to go a hundred and... To do an eight-second car and then work up to a five or six-second car. I understood that once they said that an owner of a Fuel Funny Car is going to look at somebody with at least some previous experience saying, ‘Hey, you did go 160?’ ‘Hey, you did go 240?’ Yeah, we can work with you.’ Instead of just saying, ‘Here, here’s a bunch of money. Can I jump in your car?’ It’s going to be in me for the rest of this season and until I go back to Frank’s, and we take that next step.”
When Danner does return to Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, it will be in a different class.
“I talked to a couple of people, and they actually suggested that there’s a nostalgia Funny Car class,” he said. “That’s what I... They said, ‘Well if you don’t want to go down the alcohol route, you can go to that.” And that’s... I’m leaning toward that. I’ve been really blessed to have gotten onto a team in the beginning with somebody that was close to home (in Brian Stewart), and then also be able to continue with the people such as Dan Wilkerson, and then transition over with Tim, working alongside him.”