Local racer wins midget car title
Special to The R-C
One of our local racers put his name in the record books this year along such greats as racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, current stars such as Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne, and west coast veterans like Floyd Alvis and Sleepy Tripp. Those drivers all excelled in Midgets among their many accomplishments. Bobby Wilson of Dayton, in his first full season with the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA), won not only Rookie of the Year honors, but also the overall Midget Championship.
Wilson comes from a racing family. His dad, Vuki Wilson, is a local racing legend and his grandfather, Al Wilson, raced Midgets, Modified Hardtops, Jalopies, and more at the old Baylands track in California. His uncles and brothers race as well, and a Box Stock Outlaw Kart sits in his shop for his 5-year-old daughter. Racing is a family business.
Bobby has been racing since he was 4-years-old, starting on quads and motorcycles, then moving up to Outlaw Karts, and Dwarf Cars. He won the Nevada 80cc Quad championship at the age of 10 in 1989. He was the 125cc Outlaw Kart champion in 1993, and won the Rookie of the Year and Stock Division Dwarf Car championship in 1995. Track championships in the Dwarf Car division include Tonopah Speedway in 2001 and Reno-Fernley Raceway in 2004. Almost all his racing has been on dirt until this year in the Midgets.
The big move began in 2015, when local Midget racer J.R. Williams put Bobby in a car for three races. Bobby started out with J.R. this season, but soon decided to purchase the car and race on his own. It was a dirt car, and he ran it in both dirt and pavement races.
“It’s quite a bit taller than a pavement car, and the center of gravity is higher,” said Bobby.
This put him at a disadvantage, but his driving ability enabled him to beat more experienced drivers in pavement cars. The 2016 season consisted of 19 races, 11 on dirt, eight on pavement. Champions were crowned in both divisions, with the overall title going to the driver with the most aggregate points in both divisions combined. Bobby had a consistent season, winning only once (a heat race at Marysville), but scoring high finishes and gaining enough points to tie for third in the pavement division with veteran Floyd Alvis. He finished fourth in the dirt division, and won the overall championship over nine-time champion Alvis 1,052 points to 1,021. Because Bobby ran the first few races for J.R. Williams, dad Vuki was only credited with second place in overall owner points instead of first. Bobby credits the expertise of his team members, all racing veterans, with much of his success. Tom Silsby, well known in West Coast racing circles, handled the setup for the pavement races.
“Tom knows so much about chassis setup, he made some changes to the car that really worked,” said Vuki.
Gary Owen did the car setup for the dirt track races, and Charlie Correia and Levi Bonnett added their considerable expertise. “I couldn’t have done it without those guys,” Bobby said.
The team is expanding for 2017. Besides the original car, the team has acquired two Stewart chassis pavement cars from Bob Roza, as well as a ton of spares. The shop walls are lined with racks of axles, shocks, tires, and suspension parts. Two more cars, TCR chassis, came from Dan Simpson in exchange for work Vuki had done at Fernley 95A Speedway, bringing the total to five chassis. They also have two Gaerte engines, one in Ford configuration for pavement and the other in Chevy trim for dirt. These engines put out between 350 and 400 horsepower, and with a total weight of 1,100 pounds (with driver) for the car, Midgets have a better power to weight ratio than a Sprint Cup stock car.
In most forms of motorsport, there’s great camaraderie among the competitors, and Midgets are no different. Bobby got lots of help and advice from other teams and told about one of them.
“Bob Bock told us he’d help us until we beat him. We beat him the third race out, but he still kept helping us,” laughed Bobby. The team had contemplated going to the Chili Bowl in January for the Race of Champions, but with the amount of work to do on the new chassis, it looks like 2018 may be Bobby’s debut at the Midget classic in Oklahoma. Who knows, he may have two championships under his belt by the time the 2018 Chili Bowl rolls around. He needs sponsorship to compete for next year’s title, and would be happy to put a local or regional company’s name on one or both cars for the season.