Sunday, August 27, 2023

TRUCKS: Flat tire spoils Josh Bilicki’s first Milwaukee start

PHOTO: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Josh Bilicki picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Sunday’s Clean Harbors 175 at the Milwaukee Mile when his #02 Insurance King Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 9 of 175 laps.

The finish, which came in Bilicki’s 11th series start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since February 21, 2020 at Las Vegas, 84 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #02, the 187th from a crash, and the 437th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #02, the 1,350th from a crash, and the 1,911th for Chevrolet.

Coming into Sunday, Bilicki had made just one Truck Series start since 2020, which came at Sonoma last year. That day, Bilicki was a late substitution for Colin Garrett after a delay in receiving drug test results swapped Garrett out of the #30 11/11 Veteran Project / Un Broken Toyota. Bilicki qualified 26th, but was involved in a fiery crash at Turn 1. 

Over those same three seasons, Bilicki’s focus has instead been on the Cup Series and XFINITY Series. He earned his first full-time Cup ride in 2021, driving the #52 entry for Rick Ware Racing and earning his first top-ten finish in the summer race at Daytona. He’s since run a reduced schedule for both Spire Motorsports and now Live Fast Motorsports, then a road course-heavy portion of the XFINITY schedule. Most recently, he finished a series-best 8th at Road America, which had been NASCAR’s lone stop in his home state since the Milwaukee Mile was taken off the schedule after 2009.

Bilicki on track in the Randy Young #02.
PHOTO: Small Budget Racing, @BudgetRacing51

On August 16th, Bilicki announced he would be competing in the Truck Series’ return Milwaukee. The track had special significance to Bilicki, who grew up just 30 miles from the track and watched several open-wheel and stock car races from the grandstands. He’d drive for Young’s Motorsports in the #02, which has had five different drivers in the six races since the team parted ways with Kris Wright. Sponsorship came from Bilicki’s longtime backer Insurance King, plus several other Milwaukee-area sponsors in Creative Construction of Milwaukee, Allied Insulation, Willson’s Sport and Marine, and Calderone Club.

In practice, Bilicki ranked 31st of the 37 entrants, then qualified 31st as the last driver in on speed, clocking in at 118.249mph (30.901 seconds). The lone DNQ was another Wisconsin native in Dexter Bean, who restarted his own Blackjack Racing team that attempted Cup Series races with the #51 in 2009. Bean’s #21 Badger Environmental / IUOE 139 Chevrolet ranked 33rd-fastest, just over seven-hundredths slower than Bilicki.

Bilicki's truck about to be towed off pit road.
PHOTO: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet

Still another Wisconsin native caught the ire of officials during pre-race inspection. IRP winner Ty Majeski was tagged for an infraction relating to his right-rear tire on the #98 Road Ranger Ford. NASCAR confiscated the tire, ejected crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., and handed down both a tail-end penalty that negated his 13th-place qualifying effort and a pass-through after the green flag. Majeski was one of five drivers sent to the rear before the start: 26th-place Matt Mills for unapproved adjustments on the #51 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, plus 35th-place Josh Reaume in the #22 JAG Metals LLC Ford, 23rd-place Matt DiBenedetto in the #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet, and 36th-place Greg Van Alst in the #20 CB Fabricating Chevrolet for missing driver intros. For Van Alst, the last-place finisher at IRP, this was a redundancy as he’d already been the slowest qualifier.

Based on intervals, Majeski didn’t cross the line in last place, but was instead 33rd (3.903 seconds back of the leader) ahead of DiBenedetto (4.174), Van Alst (4.26), and Reaume (5.032). After taking the green, Majeski prepared to come down pit road for his penalty, and took over last place 12.325 seconds back of the leader, 5.095 behind the now 35th-place Reaume. Majeski returned to the track about 20 seconds back of the leader, and by Lap 6 had closed within 8.824 seconds of 35th place. He quickly cut the deficit to 7.272 on Lap 7, 5.954 on Lap 8, and 4.599 on Lap 9. By that lap, Bilicki had fallen to the 35th spot, and on the following circuit, Majeski was just 3.115 seconds behind him. 

But on Lap 11, Bilicki cut down a right-front tire between Turns 1 and 2 and bounced off the outside wall with the right-front. Under the first caution of the day, Majeski slipped past into 35th, putting Bilicki to last place as he came down pit road. The crew spent at least three laps working on the right-front corner, but there was too much damage. A tow truck arrived on the scene and towed Bilicki behind the wall, done for the day. The driver was also checked and released from the infield care center, after which he examined the truck with his crew.

Bilicki towed behind the wall.
PHOTO: Brett, @22fan4ever

The next two spots in the Bottom Five were filled after a hard crash in Turn 1 where Greg Van Alst’s #20 apparently had a stuck throttle entering the corner, collecting Brad Perez’ #30 Bread Rocket Toyota before hitting the wall. Perez had made an unscheduled stop around Lap 11, which put him a lap behind Van Alst and thus dropped him to 35th with Van Alst 34th. These were the day’s only three DNFs. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Josh Reaume, who finished four laps down in the #22, while Spencer Boyd took 32nd after a late-race spin in his #12 Cronauer Law Chevrolet.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #02 in a Truck Series race since November 13, 2009, when Terry Cook’s #02 Koma Unwind / Chevrolet fell out with brake issues after 3 laps of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix. This race preceded the series debut of Young’s Motorsports by more than two years – April 15, 2012 at Rockingham. 
*The #02 had never before finished last in a Truck Series race at Milwaukee.

36) #02-Josh Bilicki / 9 laps / crash
35) #30-Brad Perez / 62 laps / crash
34) #20-Greg Van Alst / 63 laps / crash
33) #22-Josh Reaume / 171 laps / running
32) #12-Spencer Boyd / 172 laps / running

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing, Young’s Motorsports (4)
2nd) G2G Racing (3)
3rd) AM Racing, Niece Motorsports, TRICON Garage (2)
4th) CR7 Motorsports, GK Racing, Roper Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (5)


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