It started on Memorial Day in the garage in my hometown of Munster, Indiana. My dad working on his car, with the Indy 500 on the radio. I dreamed of one day racing at the speedway and becoming one of the heroes on the radio. A few years later, my dad took me to a friend's race shop. Inside were a bunch of Porsches and other cars I didn't really know. Upstairs in the drive up loft were USAC and Champ Cars galore. I sat in an old Gould car from 1979. I remember it being Tom Sneva's car, but now that I look back at it, it was probably one of Rick Mears' cars. I remember thinking that Tom Sneva had won that year, in a car with Gould on the side. For years while racing in the SCCA, I thought I had sat in the race winning car from the 1983 500. :) I think I put the two Gould liveries together in my mind.
I think that radio broadcast and that day with the steering wheel in my hands, those wheels way out in front of me - unable to touch the pedals without pulling on the bottom of the steering wheel Those two days were the days it all changed for me.
Years later, my father took me to my first Indy 500, an experience that I'll never forget. We went for many years, but that first time, the cars going faster and faster each pace lap, then screaming out of turn four and heading off into one that first time. I've taken a ton of people with me to Indy for the first time and that first lap is always the one that seems to make the biggest impression.
I look back and after all these years, it was that one Sunday in the garage listening to my heroes on the radio that hooked me, that got me interested in how to get started in road racing. Soon after I had pictures of race cars, 935s, 962s and 917s on my walls instead of lions and elephants.
I was the kid at the arcades who went straight to the go karts. I couldn't get enough. I wanted a real kart, but it was out of reach, so I played on the arcade karts and taught myself how to drive.
I crewed for a late model team at a local short track for several summers during middle and high school. I loved those nights at the track with all those passionate race fans - sharing in the Friday night experience.
I loved cars and was an avid reader of long gone titles like Sports Car Graphic and ones that are still here like Autoweek, Car and Driver and my favorite, Road and Track. Each month I read the stories by Paul Frere, Peter Egan and Stirling Moss and wished I could be a racing journalist. I started figuring out how to go to school to become an automotive journalist.
Little did I know that journalism really didn't pay. I worked side jobs after college and finally realized what I'd known all along, It was all about racing. I wanted to race, not just write about it. I dedicated the next several years to trying to become a professional race car driver.
Like a lot of aspiring young drivers, I knew next to nothing about the industry. I listened to people I shouldn't have and missed opportunities that were there but for the recognition. I started out autocrossing my little Honda CRX at local events in the summer of 1992.
By the end of the summer I had met several people in the autocross community and volunteered to help out Mark Utecht with his Dodge Omni in an SCCA road race event at Brainerd. I was absolutely hooked! This mad monks society of campers and racers - grassroots to the core was my new family. Not long after, in summer of 1993, I attended my first drivers school in a car I bought with money my grandmother had given me in savings bonds over the years - she really would have been proud. I wish I could have shown her the car.
I raced that car twice that year before losing an engine at Road America. Mark helped me replace the engine and I subsequently sold the car to buy a new one for the 1994 season. 1994 was a charmed season, but for two accidents - one roll over at Blackhawk and an endo at Brainered - pictured here. That year it seemed like we either won or crashed These were the only two DNFs that year - we won all the other races. Unfortunately, when this accident at Brainerd happened, we only had two weeks before we had to leave for the Regional Runoffs. Mark and Jay and Wade and Joe and I all dove in and re-built the car into a donor car and off we went. We set a lap record, won pole and won the race.
It was an unbelievable journey and a storybook end to 1994. It was a season of accomplishment for us.
We won the CenDiv, Land O Lakes, Milwaukee and Chicago region championships that year in our little ITC Civic. Mark won Crew Chief of the Year and I won Driver of the Year for Land O Lakes region.
We sold the car that winter and built a new ITA CRX for 1995. Unfortunately, we had several teething pains and ultimately wrote the car off in a large accident at Road America. We were presented the Brooke Kinnard award that year for displaying resilience in the face of disaster.
I've rallied a Ford Fiesta in the northwoods of Michigan in the Lake Superior Pro Rally, crewed for John Buffum's Hyundai Pro Rally Team, Raced on the frozen lakes of Minnesota and Wisconsin in Dodge Omnis and Honda CRXs.
But my fondest memories were of that ITC Civic and that ITA CRX. As you can see, I've kept that livery from the CRX and brought it forward to the Fiesta.
I've started the next chapter of my racing career, racing the #84 B-Spec Fiesta in the Hoosier Super Tour and SCCA Majors, culminating in the National Championship Runoffs. In 2017 we competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - back where the inspiration began all those years ago! In 2018 we visited Sonoma Raceway for our second Runoffs and scored a top 5!!
After a successful 2018 season, 2019 was even better. We won five straight events, including four straight Hoosier Super Tour races at Mid-Ohio and the June Sprints!! The June Sprints!! We won the Northern Conference Championship! It was a great year and I can't wait for 2020!
After a successful 2019 season, we're back for 2020 and more excited than ever to go out and compete with the best group of racers I have had the fortune to know. We all race hard, but all give room. Nothing's easy with this group. I wouldn't have it any other way.
We're proud to welcome back Mobil 1, Frozen Rotors, Hoosier Tires, MMB Imagery, Leroy Engineering, Hawk Performance and Ink Frenzy as partners for 2020. We're planning on competing in select SCCA Northeastern Conference Majors this season plus a couple of lifestyle events if we can swing them. I can't wait to get back out on track again! We've all learned a ton last year and I am super excited to put our off-season changes through their paces!
We've teamed up with Jasper Drengler from Drengler racing for 2020. It's going to be fun year!! We've got some great news about one more new for 2020 partner that we cannot share quite yet, but it'll come out soon!
Copyright © 2021 Fritz Wilke Racing - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder