8/26/2019 5:00:00 AM
For the second year in a row, Ariens® sponsored NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Wisconsin native, Josh Bilicki, at his (and our) home track at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the CTECH Manufacturing 180. Last year, the Ariens logo took real estate on Bilicki’s trunk lid and left and right rear quarter panels, but this year, the Ariens name was wrapped from bumper to bumper as the primary sponsor.
“I’m proud to have had the opportunity to represent Ariens at our home track, Road America,” said Bilicki. “It’s fitting that our race car, which is custom built from top to bottom, is riding with a brand that prides itself in handcrafted durability and reliability.”
As pre-race wound down, race teams pushed their cars to the starting grid where they checked tire pressures, stocked their pit boxes with fuel and tires, and hooked up their high-pressure air hoses to impact guns. Drivers too were making preparations. After an introductory lap around the 4.048-mile racetrack, photo ops, an invocation and the national anthem, Bilicki strapped on his helmet and was assisted into the cockpit of the number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro.
By the time the tires got enough heat in them, the green flag dropped on the 38-car field and the engines roared open. Track conditions on a mostly sunny and dry day with temperatures in the mid 70s provided the cars with more grip than slick, high-banked oval tracks, but the tricky part about this historic, 14-turn track is braking. Top speeds up to 170 mph allow more air to enter the brake cooling vents, but Road America features very heaving braking zones that superheat the cars’ brake rotors to abusive levels. With each touch of the brake pedal, heat builds into the brakes and makes them increasingly less effective.
Through the first half of the race, Bilicki picked off a few drivers from his starting position in 16th place and worked his way up to the 12th spot. But as brakes started wearing, turning became difficult for other drivers, triggering crashes and caution flags, which bunched the field together and caused more aggressive racing on restarts.
“We had a great car during the race and probably our strongest run of the year. We were shaping up to have a great finish when we got taken out with only two laps to go. I was able to limp the car home to a 20th place finish, but I truly believe we could have fought our way to a top 10,” said Bilicki.
Though disappointed in the way this act played out, Bilicki still has 10 races left in the season to edge out a win, and we’ll be rooting for him the whole way through.