Where Are They Now? Rick Wilson

Published On July 25, 2013 » 2219 Views» By Jan Shaffer » Blogs, Where Are They Now?

Rick Wilson has some unique milestones in his career.

He ran the Brickyard 400 only once, in 1997, and finished 21st, on the lead lap.

But he was the first non-Petty to drive for “King” Richard Petty’s storied team, had a chance to drive an Indy car at one point, still comes back to the Speedway periodically to work with A.J. Foyt and had the Indianapolis Colts as a sponsor at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rick Wilson with Richard Petty

“I was driving for ‘The King’ on that first test (at IMS in 1992),” Wilson said. “Richard went out first because it was a media day or some big deal, then I got in.

“I was looking for a ride, and he was looking for a driver. Robbie Loomis was just a kid, 15 or 16, when he was working on my cars. He worked his way up to crew chief with Petty, and I got the ride.”

For the 1997 Brickyard, though, Wilson was driving another mount.

“I was driving for a guy named Blair,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have much sponsorship. All I know is Tim Delrose and A.J. Foyt got involved, and the next thing you know, we had the Colts as a sponsor. I still have the helmet in my trophy case with the Colts on it.

“I was running part time then. There were a lot of cars there, and we had to make it on speed. What really helped me was the timing loops. You could get out, look at the printout and know on the track what you had to work on.

“It (IMS oval) is different. You have to hit your marks every time. There’s no room for error. In the race, it took me a little time to get comfortable, and we put the pit crew together that weekend. I would’ve loved to have gone back but didn’t get the chance.”

His Indy car opportunity may have been the shortest in history.

“Those cars take your breath away,” Wilson said. “I’d been there one time before, and I was doing a partial (stock car) schedule for Morgan-McClure. I was there to help A.J. and looking forward to an Indy car deal. I was young and fearless.

“We were in the garage, and I was sitting in the car when everyone on the crew was watching a television set because there was a big crash in Turn 1. I saw the wrecker come in with the car on the hook, and it was really torn up. That’s when I decided to stick to stock cars.”

Wilson, 60, from Bartow, Fla., said he drives “every now and then.” His last race was two years ago, a Legends race at Bristol.

“We’ve always had a family business,” Wilson said. “We sold out our construction business in 1991. Now, we buy and sell big iron (heavy equipment). We’re also in the cattle business and have some orange groves.

“My son Travis ran ASA cars for a while. When the economy went down, we lost our sponsorship. We still have a shop full of race cars. My son is kind of itching to go again.

“I was fortunate with the family businesses going. If I had to count on racing for a living, we might be in trouble.”

Although Wilson won’t be back for the Brickyard this year, he makes the trip to Indy occasionally on qualifying weekends.

“I was with A.J. in 2012,” Wilson said.


About The Author

I have seen 50 Indianapolis 500’s live, as a fan and in the media and motorsports PR business, plus two with Tom Carnegie’s son on closed-circuit TV in Kansas City when in college during the 1960s. I started my career as a sportswriter in Danville, Ill., Rochester, N.Y., and Pontiac, Mich., before moving into public relations in 1980. My PR stints took me from Michigan International Speedway to CART. I started Shaffer Communications in 1985 to handle media relations in auto racing and air shows and have worked with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in various capacities, including Daily Trackside Report editor and News Bureau editor, since 1986. My work travels also have taken me to the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska, Infineon Raceway in California and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, among other places. I’ve also survived working for A.J. Foyt at the Hoosier Hundred! I’ve flown an airplane (straight and level) and driven a sprint car on dirt and a midget on pavement (slowly, with few other people around).