CONCORD, N.C. — A week may have passed since round six of the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but don’t tell that to 13-year-old Daniel Wilk.
As far as the Pineville, N.C. teenager is concerned, life is still on cloud nine after his career-best run in a Legends car on the quarter-mile frontstretch oval.
Though Wilk is a former Bandolero Bandits division champion at the Shootout and ran in the Legends Car Young Lions division last summer, he moved up to the Pro division prior to this year’s summer stretch in hopes of getting out of some of the mid-pack chaos and inevitable carnage that plagued his attempts a year ago.
A clean race car and five-straight top-10 finishes through the first half of the summer validated the decision, but Wilk wanted more, and ended up getting just that in his sixth Pro start.
He caught some luck on the invert pill after qualifying sixth last Tuesday, a run that locked him in via his lap time for the first time all summer, and ended up on the pole for the 25-lap Pro division main event.
That was a moment when Wilk said things got real very fast.
“My heart dropped,” he admitted with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Oh no, this is gonna be crazy.'”
And yet, he managed the pressure like a veteran, jumping out to a five car length lead early on and maintaining the point following a lap two caution that bunched the field back up.
“After the initial start, I was really excited … because we had a good, sizable lead … and then the caution came out,” he said with a shake of the head. “I didn’t want any cautions while I was out in the lead, so I just kept trying to run away (from the field) as long as I could.”
Though Wilk gave up the top spot following a well-timed bump-and-run from Kaden Honeycutt on the sixth round, he maintained consistent pace and stayed within the top five all the way up until the race’s final caution came out with eight laps to go.
That forced a late-race restart in which Wilk was shuffled back to sixth after a tight squeeze with Jordan Stillwell, and while it was one position short of where he wanted to be when the checkered flag flew, Wilk focused on the positives of “the biggest learning night” of his young career.
“It was a great night,” Wilk said. “It felt like a win, honestly. We’ve been trying stuff every week, and something finally clicked last night (in practice) that had me really optimistic. We rolled in on race day and things finally fell our way for a change. That was the biggest relief for me, was that we had a little luck on our side finally.”
“I had to be pretty aggressive, because those guys (up front) are always bumper to bumper and you have to establish yourself when you’re racing them. I felt like I was able to do that finally and earned some respect.”
Knowing that, how does the young racer feel his final four races are shaping up now?
“Now I know we can race against them (the frontrunners),” Wilk smiled. “This gave me a ton of confidence that I can do this … and I have no doubt we can meet our goal of finishing top-five if we keep pushing forward.”
Round seven of the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout kicks off Tuesday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Legend car and Bandolero racing in seven classes, as well as a school bus race featuring local clergy, on the frontstretch quarter-mile.
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.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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