On the Track with Josh Bilicki (December 2018)

Certainly, Josh Bilicki learned a lot in 2018 and hopes to excel as a NASCAR contender in 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Certainly, Josh Bilicki learned a lot in 2018 and hopes to excel as a NASCAR contender in 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

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.

As we head into the holiday season and offseason, Bilicki discusses his take on his rookie efforts, video games, and his plans for 2019, among other topics!

Rob Tiongson:  Recently, you wrapped up your first full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series season effort. You scored five top-25’s, including a pair of 20th place finishes at Mid-Ohio and Kansas.  What’s some of your favorite moments of the year and for you? And what’s the biggest takeaways from this season that you will bring into 2019?

Josh Bilicki:  I’ve made a lot of great memories this year, but I’d have to say my favorite memories were meeting all of our great fans, especially the younger ones!  I remember going to races when I was young and if I met a driver, that’s all I would think about for days.  Spending just a few minutes with fans and giving them something as simple as a hero card or even a lug nut can make their day, and I think that is priceless.

My biggest takeaway from the year would be learning the ins and outs about the sport, both the driving side and the business side.  I have now driven every track the NASCAR Xfinity Series competes on, so next season I can go and feel much more comfortable right from the start of the weekend.

Tiongson:  As the year progressed, would you say that you’ve built a solid rapport with not only your team, but your fellow competitors in NASCAR?

Bilicki:  I would definitely say that.  I’ve become good friends with a lot of the drivers, and I think I’ve earned their respect, as well.  That includes many of the top drivers, as well.  I always gave the leaders plenty of room when they would go past us to make sure I would not ruin their race.  I’d also say I’ve raced cleanly with the drivers around me, as well.

Tiongson:  One of the coolest things I’ve seen with you this year has been the fanbase you’ve built as an authentic racer.  When you have fans like J.P. Windschitti present you with a die-cast replica of your car, or Dylan Bauerle look up to you, does it humble you to be welcomed into the NASCAR family?

Emerging as a fan favorite, Bilicki understands the give and take demands of the NASCAR circuit. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Emerging as a fan favorite, Bilicki understands the give and take demands of the NASCAR circuit. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Bilicki:  It really means a lot to me to have such a solid and great group of fans.  But I consider my fans to be my friends, and I think that is the difference.  I always try to make time for them at the track and talk to them.  It was just a few years ago where I was only a fan at these races.

Tiongson:  I can imagine that you sometimes watch replays of races from home, be it your XFINITY efforts or even a Truck or Cup race.  Are there times that you can learn from these telecasts?  Do you enjoy the different insights and approaches by NASCAR’s TV network partners?

Bilicki:  Of course!  While I’m preparing for a race weekend, say it’s Bristol, I’ll watch the previous broadcast several times.  I’ll also try to watch the Cup race from the same track.  If you pay attention, you can pick up what the track does as the race goes on, what the cars do, where cars pass, etc.

Tiongson:  NASCAR Heat 3 was released for major video game consoles and sure enough, you’re in the game!  Were you excited to see your regular ride in the game?  In the past, who have you raced as on your computer or console?

From a race fan to professional racer, Bilicki's No. 45 is in NASCAR Heat 3! (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley)

From a race fan to professional racer, Bilicki’s No. 45 is in NASCAR Heat 3! (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley)

Bilicki:  Yes, it’s awesome!  I remember playing NASCAR on PlayStation one when I was only five or six.  Jeff Gordon was my man!  But more recently, I’d always build and paint my own cars in the game.

Tiongson:  I’ve got to put my journalism hat on for this edition of your journal on TPF.  What’s your 2019 plans looking like and might we see you in Cup for select races?

Bilicki:  I’m still working several different angles, but I certainly think you’ll see me back in the Xfinity Series.  I would love to race more Cup races, but we will see what sponsorship looks like.

Tiongson:  We’ve talked about various technical aspects to racing like valences, the carbon fiber body, and track bar adjuster.  Let’s talk about tires for this month.  While most know about differences between stickers and scuffs, talk about the advantages with both and when you’d likely use them.  Also, from your perspective, how much do teams roughly spend on a set of either of these tires?

Bilicki:  Sticker tires are brand new tires straight from Goodyear.  Scuffs are tires that may have a lap or two, and used tires are tires with anywhere from five to 30 laps on them.   Some teams and drivers prefer to qualify on scuffs at select tracks, such as Dover.  However, there are many lower budget teams that run on mostly used tires, which is a disadvantage.

At some tracks, such as Talladega, the used tires will not make a difference.  But at a short track or a track with an older surface (Darlington), tires fall off very fast.  The teams that run on used tires will always have at least one set of stickers for qualifying, but that’s about it.

Top tier Cup Series team will likely spend $25,000+ a weekend on tires alone.  XFINITY Series teams, around $15,000+.  Lower budget teams could spend half of that or even a quarter.

Tiongson:  Like any walk of life, there’s the fair share of good and tough days.  How do you keep humble during the times that seem easy and what do you do to keep positive during the difficult ones?

Level headed and cool under pressure, Bilicki understands the journey ahead in his NASCAR career. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Level headed and cool under pressure, Bilicki understands the journey ahead in his NASCAR career. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Bilicki:  In our sport, you can have a great race one week and the next weekend can be a disaster.  It’s easy to get discouraged, but the best thing for me to do is to put my head down, evaluate the situation, and work harder.  The good days that you have usually come from a result of the hard work.

Tiongson:  What’s one movie, from any genre, that you can recite nearly line-by-line, during any moment, be it during the race weekend, or with family and friends?

Bilicki:  That’s easy.  Talladega Nights!  “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”

Tiongson:  With the offseason now here, what’s your plans for the holidays?  Do you have a favorite movie or a tradition that you follow with family and friends?

Bilicki returns to the TPF team in 2019 with more racing adventures to share with fans! (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Bilicki returns to the TPF team in 2019 with more racing adventures to share with fans! (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Bilicki:  I really love Christmas movies.  My favorite would have to be Elf or the Grinch!  No special plans. But, this is my favorite time of the year. So, I’m just going to enjoy the time home and soak it in before the race season starts!  To be honest, it’s only been weeks and I already miss being in a racecar! (laughs)

Editor’s Notes  

Thanks 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! Happy holidays to all and to all, a wonderful finish to 2018 and an equally stellar start to 2019!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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