Terra Talks with Josh Bilicki, Vol 1.

Josh Bilicki walks with his team prior to the Bluegreen Vacation Duels at Daytona. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Josh Bilicki walks with his team prior to the Bluegreen Vacation Duels at Daytona. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Continuing through our “quarterly spotlight” journal for 2021, I sat down with NASCAR driver, Josh Bilicki. The Rick Ware Racing driver has been around the Cup garage for four years, however, 2021 kicks off his first full-time season in the Series. For this volume of Terra Talks, Bilicki shared his path to NASCAR, team goals, and reflections on his first Daytona 500.

Benefits of Full-Time

Terra Jones: First of all, congratulations on your first full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series! While you’re not a stranger to the series, with 35 starts over the past four years, you will now get to spend the entire season building with one team. Given that you’re accustomed to sharing a ride and racing a partial schedule, how beneficial do you feel this season will be for your career?

Josh Bilicki: The last couple of years I’ve driven multiple cars for different race teams, between Rick Ware Racing, Spire, Tommy Baldwin Racing…and when you bounce around like that, you’re working with so many different crew chiefs and engineers that you don’t learn as much…you’re always trying to adapt to new surroundings. So for me to be full-time with Rick Ware Racing in the No. 52 car with Peter Sospenzo as my crew chief for the full year, it’s definitely going to help me grow as a driver and help us get to where we want to be as a more competitive team. We want to be competing for top 20s and top 25s. With us having a full season this year, my hope is that it helps us achieve this goal much quicker. 

Becoming a more competitive team is the name of the game at RWR. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Becoming a more competitive team is the name of the game at RWR. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Looking Forward to Growth

Jones: Each driver has a unique path to and through the sport. For those new to NASCAR, or that don’t know a lot about you, would you share a little bit of how you got started racing? 

Bilicki: My dad has always been a big racing fan. In 1995, which was the year I was born, he built a 1965 Mustang into a race car. He just raced as a hobby, but since I was a baby and a toddler, and as long as I can remember, I was at the race track just being a toddler, doing toddler things, sitting inside the race car! I loved that! So I always wanted to be a race car driver.

When I was five, he bought me a go-kart for Christmas and that was the beginning of my racing career, in 2000. I ran karts for a while and I ran road courses. So my background and history is primarily road course racing. My first oval ever was in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

In 2016, my whole career took a different direction, most of that is due to sponsors and partnerships – NASCAR has a much larger audience. I really struggled to put together sponsorship deals and racing deals to go Sports Car and IMSA racing…but when I started running NASCAR races, people would be more interested in talking to me, which would lead to more partnership opportunities. 

So, since 2016, I’ve been fully engaged in the top three series of NASCAR. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done in the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to growing more as a driver in the next 10-15 years. 

Jones: That’s really awesome to hear your story. Now, you’re big into iRacing as well – fans can go on your social channels and learn that quickly. But do you have a hidden talent they would be surprised to learn about?

Bilicki: Oh, I don’t know. Anything with a motor, I’m good at! I like to think I’m pretty good at snowmobiling, and even riding dirt bikes and motocross. People probably don’t see too much of that!

 

First Daytona 500

Jones: Now, turning to the track for these last questions. You just competed in your first Daytona 500. It wasn’t your first visit to the track, but how did you prepare mentally and emotionally for such a prestigious race?

Bilicki: Yeah! My first Daytona 500! Like you said, I’ve been there a handful of times in the Xfinity Series and once last year in the Cup Series. Leading up to the Daytona 500, I was completely wide-open busy. It didn’t really quite settle in until I was at the track that, “I’m gonna be part of the Daytona 500.”

Josh Bilicki runs the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in his first Daytona 500. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Josh Bilicki runs the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in his first Daytona 500. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Because I was so busy, and I handle most of my partnerships by myself, and with all my partners on-board for the Daytona 500, it was just overwhelming, really. So I didn’t have time to just stop and think about the race until I got there. I probably didn’t prep for the race as much as I should have. I probably should have watched a bit more video, but I was busy handling deals! 

To answer your question, it wasn’t my first trip to the track – I definitely had the nerves on race day, but as soon as you get in the car, those go away. But on race day, it kicked in, “I’m gonna be one of the drivers in the 500.” It was a cool experience! 

Jones: And to recap your day, you started P37 and finished 24th. You avoided the chaos and were there at the end.  I feel like that was a good day for your team, would you agree?

Bilicki: Yes! For our small team, who operates at a fraction of the budget, it was a great day for us. We had three cars in the top 25 that were clean. We can build off that and go to Talladega, hopefully have a little bit more speed, and go compete for a top 20 or top 15.

Jones: And then throw in a six-hour rain delay to stretch out that intensity! 

Bilicki: (laughs) Yeah! It made for a long day! 

Jones: Did you go eat anywhere? We saw social media filled with various fast food. 

Bilicki: No, my team ordered pizzas! And the PR people watched a documentary on Tim Richmond, so that was cool.

 

New Races in New Places

Jones: I feel like that may have been a better culinary decision than some others! The Cup series has a re-vamped schedule this season with Dirt at Bristol and new tracks to the series like COTA and Road America – which is a home race for you. So, where are you most excited to race this season?

Bilicki: It is a home race! And definitely looking forward to Road America. I ran well there in the Xfinity Series, and I can tell you that the fans have wanted a Cup race there for the last 10 years. I know camping is already sold out. It’s going to be a huge weekend, and it’s the 4th of July weekend, which makes it even better!

Intense racing was compounded by a nearly six-hour rain delay, but Josh Bilicki avoided the chaos and brought his No. 52 Ford Mustang home in the top 25. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Intense racing was compounded by a nearly six-hour rain delay, but Josh Bilicki avoided the chaos and brought his No. 52 Ford Mustang home in the top 25 – a win for a team of their size. (Image: Rick Ware Racing Social Media)

Team Goals

Jones: Finally, goals vary from one end of the garage to the other. What are some goals for your team heading into this season?

Bilicki: We want to rack in as many top 25s as possible and stay consistent. I really want to work on myself, as a driver, making it to the checkered flag every single race, and minimizing my mistakes – whether it’s on pit road, or a scrape on the wall here or there. Staying consistent is key, especially driving for a small team. And looking at the big picture, when we’re consistent, we can eventually outrace some of the big teams just by being smart. 

Jones: I feel it helps fans to understand the intent behind what happens on the track, and even what might be considered a winning weekend for some teams, so thank you for being candid about that.

Bilicki: Yes! There’s a lot of fans, even sponsors and teams, who look at a win in NASCAR as placing first. But for a small team like us, a win is a top 20 or top 25. Obviously, a top 15 would exceed our expectations. In the garage, like you said, there are different definitions of winning, and a win for us is having those good results and staying consistent. 

 

A huge thank you to Josh Bilicki and his Public Relations Representative, Kate Fegley for allowing this series to happen. We look forward to catching up with Josh throughout the season and following his effort with RWR. Make sure to follow Josh’s social channels (Facebook and Twitter), as well as RWR on Facebook and Twitter for all up-to-date race and partnership information. 

Terra Jones

As a life-long NASCAR fan and lover of words, I'm fortunate enough to put the two together here at The Podium Finish to bring our readers and motorsports fans news, features, and interviews from the world of wheels. Originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I moved westward to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. I now reside in central North Carolina with my husband, our three boys, and our dog, Charlotte. While my heart is at the race track, I also enjoy watching baseball, as well as college football and basketball. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *