Reid Wilson was involved in numerous sports while attending Huntersville Elementary School, but it was an interview with Jeff Gordon when he was in the third grade that provided him with the motivation he needed to become a race car driver.
“Ever since then, I’ve never looked back,” said Wilson, adding he was always interested in cars even before he interviewed Gordon.
Today, the 17-year-old Wilson competes in the Pro Cup Series and would like to enter UNC Charlotte’s motorsports program, eventually acquiring an engineering degree.
However, racing doesn’t consume all of his time.
Wilson also tutors elementary students at the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson twice a week, is involved with the Charlotte Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Team, and has been named the SafeTeen Driving Ambassador for the Alive at 25 Program.
Wilson speaks to young drivers taking the Alive at 25 Defensive Driving Courses offered by the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina, a non-profit organization.
Looking back, though, it was the interview with Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports for Wilson’s school magazine that changed the course his life would take. Prior to the interview with Gordon, his school had received a pamphlet about the Bandolero cars. Then, after meeting Gordon, Wilson told his father he simply had to race.
“My dad was nice enough and dumb enough to get me a race car at the age of 7,” Wilson recalled. “I’m serious about the dumb part, because the first time we ever went out with that race car (a Bandolero) I hit the wall and flipped it at Concord Speedway. My parents’ reaction was the best.”
Instead of forbidding their son to race, they felt more comfortable with him competing because the wreck showed them the car’s safety features.
Wilson continued to compete in the Bandoleros and in 2010 finished fourth in the national championship. The following year he moved up to Legends cars, and in his rookie season in the Young Lions division collected two victories, nine top 5s and 14 top 10s.
Also in 2011, Wilson began competing in late model events and claimed the Carolina Competition Sports Limited Sportsman Touring Series title. Last year he moved to the Mooresville-based Pro Cup Series.
“I had to take in a lot of information I had never known about before,” the Huntersville resident said about 2013. “Last year was a very good learning year. I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully, this year I can get a few wins.
“That’s our goal. If we could come out with the championship that would be an amazing opportunity for my crew and me, but we really want to focus on getting a few wins.”
Wilson said he elected to compete in the Pro Cup Series because it’s not as expensive as a NASCAR K&N Series effort, and the series’ races pay $10,000 to win. With sponsorship from Bojangles and a $100,000 budget, Wilson can gain valuable experience in the Pro Cup Series. He noted the Pro Cup Series races normally have long green-flag runs because the fields are smaller, thus allowing him to learn tire management.
Even though everyone in the Pro Cup Series has been helpful to Wilson, he said four-time series champion and Mooresville native Clay Rogers had become his mentor. He cited the most valuable lesson he learned last year from Rogers was to not let people draw him into a race that would cause him to abuse his equipment.
Wilson would like for his racing career to continue to advance, but he’s realistic about the situation, knowing sponsorship dollars are critical.
“I’ll be happy wherever I race,” Wilson said. “It’s in God’s hands.”
Nemechek to enter 10 Truck races
John Hunter Nemechek will compete in 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events this year with SWM-NEMCO Motorsports.
The 16-year-old driver’s schedule will consist of short tracks and 1-mile ovals as well as a road course and a dirt track. His first race in 2014 will be March 29 at Martinsville Speedway.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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