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On the Track with Josh Bilicki (May 2019)

Certainly, Josh Bilicki feels confident about his 2019 efforts with RSS Racing. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Certainly, Josh Bilicki feels confident about his 2019 efforts with RSS Racing. (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, Wis. native will answer some of NASCAR’s quirkier vocabulary.

Presently, Bilicki stops by to discuss his new NASCAR XFINITY Series racing home, RSS Racing, recruiting a brand new sponsor, and more of his old school approach!

Rob Tiongson :  It’s been a while since we last talked, but how exciting has it been for you to be with Ryan Sieg Racing and what are some of the things that you look forward to as the year progresses?

By all means, Bilicki relishes his latest opportunity with RSS Racing. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

By all means, Bilicki relishes his latest opportunity with RSS Racing. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Josh Bilicki :  I’m really excited!  My deal with the team came together pretty late in the offseason.  Going into Daytona was the best I’ve ever felt with being with a race team.  The people at Ryan Sieg Racing, as far as a team, is a notch up from anything I’ve ever been in.

It’s really good to have that knowledge surrounding me between the crew guys and my teammates Ryan Sieg and Jeff Green.  I can really relay a lot of information off of them and I can ask them questions and ask my team questions.  And they come back to me with the correct answers so it’s a really solid start to the year for us.  We’ve had top-20, top-15 speed almost every weekend so far so it’s really great to be here.

Rob Tiongson :  You’ve taken on a treacherous track in Texas Motor Speedway.  In your third start here but with a competitive car, how was it like for you?

Josh Bilicki :  We ran twice here last year but this is the best car I’ve ever been in at this track and the only composite car I’ve been into here.  We learned a lot in practice but I’m not going to lie – we struggled a little bit as we were on bring from home tires so they were about a year old.  It was a little bit harder and slower than the tires this year.

In qualifying, we had new sticker tires, so I was excited for that. I was a little anxious as we didn’t do a mach qualifying run, so you never know what the car has or how it’s going to feel.  You can’t go out there and push 100 percent because there’s a big chance for error there, and I just want to bring the car home clean after the whole weekend.  I was excited to get out there for race day with the 93 team.

Rob Tiongson :  What are your expectations and goals for this year that would at least have you deem 2019 as a successful season?

Josh Bilicki :  With us not running every race, I want to have top-20, top-15 speed every weekend.  With every race that I have sponsorship for, I want to have a solid top-20 finish and I think a win for us would be a top-15.

Looking forward a little bit towards the road courses, you know that’s my forte, but I want to be as comfortable as I am on road courses with ovals.  That’s going to take a little bit as I don’t have the oval background as a lot of these guys do.  But I’m looking forward to the road courses.  I think that we can go there with a legitimate shot at a top-five or a win.

Rob Tiongson :  I can tell how excited you are with this opportunity!  With the Dr. Squatch Soap video that you posted on social media, how did that come about?  I have to imagine it was hard work like being a salesman trying to get the deal to make it all happen.

Josh Bilicki :  All of my sponsors are cold calls.  I don’t have any previous relationships with my sponsors.  Dr. Squatch’s Man Soap, I saw them on Facebook and saw their ads and thought they were hilarious with millions of views on Facebook and YouTube.  So, I thought, “What the heck? I think this is the perfect target audience for the brand Dr. Squatch.”

I reached out to the CEO and I said, “I have this opportunity to race at Daytona with a very competitive team.  This is the best opportunity of my career.”  It took a little bit of persuasion but they came on board so I thought that was really cool.

Rob Tiongson :  I really liked that video as it showed a unique side to you that I don’t think a lot of fans got to know until the clip.  It showcased the personality I’ve gotten to know over the years.  How cool was it to show you’re OK about being outside of your comfort zone?

No doubt, the life of a racecar driver involves more than on track activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

No doubt, the life of a racecar driver involves more than on track activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Josh Bilicki :  I thought that was awesome.  A big part about sponsorship is social media and doing things off the track.  Even with my sponsor at Texas, The BOSS – Builders Outlet Super Store, I went to the headquarters and we made a video with them, so it was really fun!

Rob Tiongson :  You did a neat deal with the Young Racer’s Car Show at the Wisconsin Auto Museum/Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame.  What’s it mean to you to represent a region where many stock car legends hailed from?

Josh Bilicki :  This year, there’s not very many Wisconsin drivers here at the top level of NASCAR.  We’ve got some coming up too.  It means a lot to me to represent my whole area.  I grew up in the Slinger area which you’ve got Slinger Super Speedway which a lot of these NASCAR drivers, almost all of them, know what the track is.

A lot of them say it’s one of their favorite short tracks just because it’s so fast, high banked, and the highest speed quarter mile in the world.  I think that it’s pretty cool to be from that area and to be where I am today in NASCAR.

Rob Tiongson :  That’s true!  Matt Kenseth’s retired but there’s a handful still including you.

Josh Bilicki :  We’ve got Paul Menard, Johnny Sauter, Derek Kraus coming up in the Trucks part time, Ty Majeski, who’s running some ARCA races this year so that’s pretty cool to see for him, but in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, I’m the only Wisconsin driver all year, so I think that’s pretty cool.

Rob Tiongson :  You’re a rare breed!  An endangered species! (laughs)

Josh Bilicki :  Yea, I guess you could say that. (laughs)

Rob Tiongson :  In March, the eNASCAR Heat Pro League held its draft for Xbox and PlayStation 4 gamers.  How cool is it to know there’s that connection between actual on-track and virtual racing and might we see a situation where a virtual racer from this earn their way into an on-track ride in the future?

Josh Bilicki :  Coming from road course racing, it happened a lot.  They had the Gran Turismo Academy.  I have several friends who played Gran Turismo online with a steering wheel on PlayStation and they became professional racecar drivers.  So, it’s almost unheard of in NASCAR until a couple of years ago.  Gran Turismo has been doing it for a couple of years.

I think it’s really cool to bring that avenue.  It opens up a whole new avenue of drivers coming in.  I think iRacing is probably the most accurate form of online racing and you see a lot of drivers who come from not much experience behind the wheel of a real racecar will play iRacing, come to the track, and they can be consistent.  They can get in the car with very little time to learn because they’ve spent so much on iRacing.   

Rob Tiongson :  I think Kyle Larson even mentioned it that some of these gamers could be in the racecar if they had the chance.

Josh Bilicki :  That’s true.  iRacing is a very realistic game and it’s very close and cool.

Rob Tiongson :  A few months ago, Netflix released a 10-episode documentary following various Formula One drivers and teams during the 2018 season.  Do you think NASCAR could do something like that in the future, would you be a willing participant, and which drivers and teams do you think would be excellent for a similar project?

Indeed, Bilicki is an old school racer who works alongside his crew all weekend long. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Indeed, Bilicki is an old school racer who works alongside his crew all weekend long. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Josh Bilicki :  I haven’t watched it yet on Netflix but I want to.  I think that it would open up different points of views for a lot of people.  A lot of people see these cars on track and it’s almost like a glamorous side of racing.  But when you’re actually here in the pits and you see what it takes to make these cars go around the track, it’s pretty crazy.

The engineers behind our sport, the guys on the pit crew…it’s crazy.  There’s a lot of moving parts that it takes to get these cars on track going at the speeds that we’re at.  I think it’d be really cool to follow the drivers and teams around.

For myself, I’ve almost considered having my own film crew for a race weekend or two starting from the airport to what we go through on the track, just following me every weekend.  The average NASCAR fan may not know what’s going in between practices, meetings…they just think we get in the car and drive.

For someone like myself, I help the team out as much as I can.  I help push the car through tech and that’s something the typical NASCAR fan doesn’t see unless they get pit passes, so I think it would open up a unique avenue.

Rob Tiongson :  I saw this!  You pushed your car and I thought how cool and old school that was as some drivers may not like getting their hands dirty.

Josh Bilicki :  Yea, there’s a handful of drivers still, more on the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Gander Outdoor Truck Series side that still do it.  I don’t mind pushing the car.  I like to learn all I can.  Coming from road course racing, I don’t have the best knowledge of setups with oval cars.  They’re just so different.

So, I like to spend as much time with the team and see and know what they’re doing, learning, and asking questions.  I probably annoy some of these people sometimes asking them, “Why are you doing this?  What are you doing?”  But it’s all part of the learning process.

Rob Tiongson :  I’m sure there’s been that moment where you’ve felt initiated or welcomed into NASCAR.  What moment, good, funny, or bad, would you say was your “Welcome to NASCAR” moment?

Josh Bilicki :  My first NASCAR race ever was at Road America, which is my hometrack.  And coming from the Road America area, it was really cool to do the opening ceremonies riding on the truck.  Keep in mind, my deal at Road America in 2016 came literally three days before the race.  Riding in the back of the truck, you hear people yelling my name, “Josh!”  And I’m like, “Holy crap! This is really cool!”

One year passed and we went back in 2017 with BJ McLeod Motorsports and we had a better effort.  We had a solid top-12 finish.  I was shocked that all the people at the track who knew who I was and yelled “Good luck!”  I thought that was really cool so I’d have to say the 2017 Road America race at my hometrack but with a solid team.

Rob Tiongson :  And now I’m sure nowadays, people are getting to know you because of your social media efforts and on track efforts too!  Is it humbling when fans approach you for a selfie or an autograph?

As can be seen, Bilicki enjoys interacting with race fans on a weekly basis. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

As can be seen, Bilicki enjoys interacting with race fans on a weekly basis. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Josh Bilicki :  I think it’s really cool.  Fans are a big part of our sport.  I’ll always make time for the fans, whether it’s a photo or an autograph.  That’s a huge part of our sport.  Without them, we wouldn’t be racing here today.  So, it’s really cool when someone walks up to me and knows who I am.  Sometimes, they don’t but hopefully, give it another year, and everyone will. 

Rob Tiongson :  Has there been a time when someone’s confused you for a celebrity?

Josh Bilicki :  (chuckles) Not really – back home, some of the events that I’ve done in March, you kind of feel like it but you don’t really get that to your head.  I don’t really consider myself a celebrity. (laughs)

Rob Tiongson :  Alright, my friend.   It’s time for some Free Association.  Tell me the first thing that comes to mind with the following random words.  Dream vacation destination that you hope to check off one day.

Josh Bilicki :  Probably Hawaii.  I’ve never been there but I’d like to go.

Rob Tiongson :  Favorite guilty pleasure dessert.

Josh Bilicki :  Ice cream – mint.

Rob Tiongson :  Favorite superstition that you have?

Josh Bilicki :  I’ll pass on that as I don’t really have one!

Rob Tiongson :  Really? You’re not afraid of peanuts around your car.

Josh Bilicki :  Nope.  I don’t really have one at all.

Rob Tiongson :  Most overrated racing word that you hear every week.

Josh Bilicki :  That NASCAR is “redneck.”

Rob Tiongson :  (laughs) That’s a good one.  Diversity efforts.

Josh Bilicki :  It’s cool.

Rob Tiongson :  Most challenging racetrack that pisses you off but you respect a ton.

Josh Bilicki :  Texas – we crashed here last year and we blew a tire here.  Coming here, I’m not nervous but it’s a fast track so I’d say Texas or Darlington.

Rob Tiongson :  Family.

Josh Bilicki :  Love.

Rob Tiongson :  If I could change one thing about NASCAR to make it more equal…

Josh Bilicki :  It’d be money.

Rob Tiongson :  Do you feel like NASCAR has changed a ton with its leadership in recent times?

Taking to the high banks of Bristol. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Taking to the high banks of Bristol. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Josh Bilicki :  Certainly.  You see a lot of it in the Cup side and you see a lot of teams that aren’t spending as much money running more towards the front.  I think it’s evening it out.  There’s some drivers who don’t like it and some that favor it.

I’m in favor of the cars being harder to drive.  I think the Cup series is now a little bit easier to drive than our XFINITY cars, so I’d like to see that change.  The Cup Series, in my opinion, should still be the fastest.  I think we’re about a second faster than them at Texas.  I’d like to see the drivability come back but I like what they’re doing to even out the playing field.

Rob Tiongson :  Alright, my friend.  I know this is common knowledge for most folks, but newer fans, can you explain the difference between the scuff and sticker tires?

Josh Bilicki :  So a scuffed tire has laps on it already.  In the past, especially last year, I ran basically all scuffs, and they’re tires that have 10 or 15 laps, and we’ll buy them from a top-tier team, and we’ll use them.  Sticker tires are brand new tires, more grip, and longer life too, so that’s the difference.

Rob Tiongson :  So basically a sticker tire is like how refreshing it is to take a clean shower for the day!

Josh Bilicki :  Basically!  It’s pretty awesome to feel all of the grip it has.  And then when you’re 10 laps in, you’ve got to think that the tires that have 10 or 15 laps on them now have 20 or 25 laps while the sticker tires only have 10.  It’s just kind of a snowball effect where they’ll get worse, but stickers are pretty awesome!

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!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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