On the Track with Josh Bilicki (October 2017)

Following "Road Course August," Josh Bilicki talks oval track racing on TPF! (Photo Credit: Hilary Frank)

Following “Road Course August,” Josh Bilicki talks oval track racing on TPF! (Photo Credit: Hilary Frank)

Each month, NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor Josh Bilicki will provide his insights on his recent racing efforts. In addition, the Menomonee Falls, WI native will answer some of NASCAR’s quirkier vocabulary.

This month, Bilicki recalls “Road Course August,” muses about iRacing versus actual on-track action, and handling tires with care. No doubt, let’s roll into this month’s edition of “On the Track with Josh Bilicki!”

Rob Tiongson :   Firstly, “Road Course August” started with promise at Watkins Glen and ended with a solid top-15 finish at Road America, your hometown track.  Did you feel your confidence build with each race, particularly at Mid-Ohio and Road America?

Josh Bilicki :  I certainly did.  We came into the road courses knowing that we had a pretty good shot at a top-20 or even top-15 at all three races.  After running so well at Mid-Ohio, my confidence was very high going into my home race at Road America.

After finishing 12th at Road America, my confidence was even higher.  Knowing that we ran down teams that are spending almost four times our budget is pretty cool.  Hopefully, we opened up some eyes and we can put together an even better road course program with B.J. and the team!

RT :  You’ve logged laps on iRacing as a sort of tune up before your Xfinity Series starts.  How much has that helped and do you find you can carryover information from there to your on-track efforts?

All things considered, Bilicki's take on iRacing and actual on-track experience's quite relatable! (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

All things considered, Bilicki’s take on iRacing and actual on-track experience’s quite relatable! (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

JB :  Since I have only raced on a handful of circle tracks, I use iRacing to help me learn these new tracks that I have not been to.  It certainly helps you get used to visuals around the track, such as brake points, turn in points, and pit road.  Also, it helps me learn how to race around other cars on ovals.

Racing on an oval versus a road course is a lot different, and passing on ovals require more time.  That’s really where the simulator comes in to play.

The only disadvantage to iRacing is that there is no “butt-feel”, meaning you do not feel the elevation, g-forces, or when the car is about to break free.  However, I believe that driving without that “butt-feel” will definitely help you become a better driver in real-life.

RT :  Recently, you took on Dover, better known as “The Monster Mile.” Did this one-mile track live up to its expectations in terms of being a physical track, particularly when entering those steep corners?

JB :  Dover was an awesome experience, so I’d say it lives up to its expectations!  It’s very fast and physically demanding.  The track takes a major toll on your body due to the g-forces being so high.  You’re actually turning for almost 2/3rd of the lap!

Things happen very quick, which I learned during the race.  We ended up getting hit in the right-rear early in the race by a car that hit the wall and bounced to the bottom of the track.  Fortunately, we recovered and finished the race.  Overall, it was a great learning experience and I’m ready to be more competitive next season!

RT :  NASCAR has taken measures to control costs for teams as they introduced the composite bodies for the Xfinity Series.  In layman terms to fans, what’s the main difference between the current bodies and the new ones and how will this help teams in the long run?

Arguably, Bilicki enjoyed racing at Dover, make no composites about it! (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

Arguably, Bilicki enjoyed racing at Dover, make no composites about it! (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

JB :  To be honest, I have not driven a new composite body yet!  We were one of only six cars still racing the heavier steel body at Dover.

The composite body is a lot easier to attach to the car, which will reduce labor costs.  Instead of being welded to the chassis like the steel body, the composite body is bolted and can be easily taken off if needed.  It’s also supposed to keep its shape a lot more than the steel body.

Another big difference is weight, as the composite weighs almost 100 pounds less.  The side skirts are a lot more flexible and brittle, as well.

Overall, I think it is a good decision and once the initial investment is done by the team to purchase the new bodies, I think it will help save both time and money.

RT :  Clearly, there’s a lot of young, exciting talents, including yourself, who are making their way into NASCAR.  What are some things that can help increase viewership and attendance at the track?

JB :  I think that NASCAR does a great job with this right now.  Kids can attend the Xfinity and Truck races for free, which I hope draws more of audience!   This year, NASCAR has hosted concerts and even a live fight prior to the race to help attract more fans, which I think is a great idea!

However, I would like to see NASCAR cover more of the lower budget teams, especially during the races.  Without us, there would not be a full field and NASCAR would not exist.  Other than that, I think NASCAR does a phenomenal job.

RT :  Let’s talk some about tires, particularly with the limit NASCAR places on the sets of tires used during a race.  Does this vary each week and as a driver, do you see it as an interesting wrinkle or a detriment, particularly when tire wear is an issue at some tracks?

JB :  Personally, I don’t see this as an issue.  Xfinity teams are allowed less tires per weekend than the Cup teams, while rookies get an extra set.

This season, we have been purchasing used tires from top-tier teams.  Due to budget, we usually purchase sets of tires with around 5-15 laps on them, saving us anywhere from $500-$2,000 per set.  This way, we can have enough tires to last us the entire length of the race.

RT :  When you first came into NASCAR, was there a routine that made you ponder, “Why do we do that?”

Make no mistake, Bilicki takes pride with his progress as a racer. (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

Make no mistake, Bilicki takes pride with his progress as a racer. (Photo Credit: Daylon Barr)

JB :  Sadly, I don’t have an answer to this one!  I’ve been racing my entire life, so nothing in the racing world really surprises me anymore!

RT :  What’s your prospects looking like for the rest of this season?  Are you looking to do more races or planning for 2018?

JB :  Unfortunately, at this point I have no more NASCAR races planned for the season, unless I am able to find a last-minute sponsor.  Right now, I am putting all my focus towards 2018 and trying to find more sponsors.  I would love to do a full season and continue learning each track!

Author’s Notes :  Thanks again to Josh Bilicki for taking the time for his monthly blog on The Podium Finish!  Be sure to check out TPF for next month’s edition of “On the Track With Josh Bilicki!”  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Josh, “Follow” him on Twitter, “Like” his Facebook page, and “Visit” his official website!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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