CONCORD, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — CMS/John Davison photo —
DRIVER: Daniel Wilk
TOP FIVES: 10
TOP TENS: 10
FINAL POINTS: 446 (out of a possible 460)
BEST ON-TRACK MOMENT: Winning seven races in a row to kick off the 2015 Bojangles’ Summer Shootout.
BEST OFF-TRACK MOMENT: Donating a majority of his Bojangles’ winnings to feed the less fortunate.
No one expected a father and son team, with minimal outside help, to be able to come in and dominate this year’s Bojangles’ Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
That was what made Daniel and father Dennis Wilk’s run so special.
Not only did the duo come into the Shootout having swept the eight-race Winter Heat Series, they rattled off seven consecutive wins to begin their quest at a Shootout title — marking an unheard-of 15 wins in a row in the Bandits class on the CMS quarter-mile.
While the run ended after D.J. Canipe broke Wilk’s streak during round eight, the 11-year-old was able to use three more second-place efforts to seal the deal on his first-ever Summer Shootout championship, with a series-best average finish of 1.3.
Wilk downplayed his run every single time he got off the track this year, but everyone saw the relief in his eyes at the end of round 10, after he came up just short of his eighth win of the year to Carson Kvapil but claimed the championship belt for his summer-long efforts.
“I can’t say enough about my team and to what we did this year — sweeping both the Winter Heat and the Summer Shootout — is a really amazing feeling. Me and my dad have worked so hard for this after winning the Concord championship last year, and all the help we’ve gotten from Carson and Tony Ferguson, from Mike and Corey Gordon and all the people that believed in us, is more than I could have ever hoped for.”
With seven wins in the first seven weeks came $700 of prize money from series title sponsor Bojangles’, money that Wilk immediately decided he wanted to put to a higher purpose than simply using it for he and his own family.
“I realized that so much more could be done with the gift cards that could benefit those who truly needed it,” he said. “I knew that something needed to be done, whether that meant donating the food or giving the cards to people less fortunate.”
“Daniel and his father brought food to the kids and Daniel volunteered to pass the food out and serve everyone,” added Dominique Dahardt, a crisis counselor at The Relative Youth Crisis Center — one of the Charlotte-area organizations that Wilk chose to donate the meals to. “He introduced himself to the kids and answered all of their questions. I could tell he was very humble and he interacted with all of the residents very well.”
The cause was one that fit with Wilk’s thoughtful spirit, both on the track and off it.
“I was taught to not just think about myself, and to think about those less fortunate who may be homeless or struggling to have a meal every day,” Wilk said. “It makes me feel good knowing that I was able to make someone’s day and give them at least one meal, so they did not have to go a whole day without eating.”
“In that same idea, I don’t like dirty driving somebody, and I want them to race me clean, just like I race them.”
Wilk’s clean driving style was rewarded with the respect of his competitors, as well as numerous notes of congratulations from the entire garage area following his championship celebration last week.
“It was really overwhelming, to be honest, seeing everyone that came over and congratulated us or said something. I was really surprised and grateful for that, knowing how frustrating it can be when one person wins a bunch (laughs).”
Wilk will be looking to use the Shootout championship as momentum going into this weekend’s INEX Bandolero Nationals at CMS, where he will look to lock up his first Nationals victory and move one step closer to his first USLCI National Championship.
“I feel like we’ve learned a lot about the car and I’ve learned a lot about myself as a driver through this year’s Shootout,” Wilk explained. “I think I’ve learned how to be a lot more patient behind the wheel now and how to let my car come to me a little bit more than I did before. It’s been fun to be able to progress and get better over the past eight weeks.”
“Hopefully we’ll be able to go in and get one more checkered flag at Charlotte this weekend.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]