SUSSEX, Wis. - Wisconsin's Matt Kenseth outpointed everybody else on the circuit to become the Winston Cup champion for 2003 as kind of a hybrid new/old school driver.
Before him, Alan Kulwicki represented the state in a decidedly old-school fashion and was the cup champ for 1992.
Now, a Slinger High School product carries the state's banner. He is very much a product of the modern era.
"I think 20 ago or 30 years ago, you'd see a lot of drivers that worked on their own cars, and that was how they'd make it," said Josh Bilicki. "They were good race car drivers, and they were very, very hands-on. Unfortunately, it's just not the landscape of the sport anymore. You still need sponsors, you know. You can't really build your own car. You buy your cars now. No team is building its own NASCAR Cup Series car this year. The chassis come from the same supplier. You need to buy from that supplier, so there is no Alan Kulwicki anymore."
There is a Josh Bilicki.
After driving a full season cup schedule for Rick Ware Racing in 2021 and recording one top 10 finish, Bilicki has moved on and (he thinks) up to Spire Motorsports.
"I wouldn't lie if I said there were a couple of races last year that just weren't fun, whether it was an ill-handling race car or just not a good situation to be in. There were definitely situations that weren't fun," Bilicki said. "That definitely kind of pointed me in the direction to where I am today where I took less races to be at a little bit more of a competitive level."
Any driver trying to stick at the top these days better be a quick study on the economics of the sport.
"Not only do you need to be a good race car driver behind the wheel, but you need to have those business skills and you need funding, too," said Bilicki. "So for me, I'd say 50 to 75% of my job as a race car driver is handling those relationships with partners. Without partners, you really don't go racing."
And in 2022, even if you do go racing, you better do all you can to be sure that folks know it.
Bilicki pays a great deal of attention to his social media profile.
"I manage it. I take a great deal of pride in managing my own social media, so you guys can reach out to me," Bilicki said. "We actually just launched some apparel yesterday, too, so if you want some Wisconsin local racing swag, go to JoshBilickiRacing.com. I think I'm the only Cup Series driver that handles all my own social media, all the business of the sport, all my sponsors, my apparel and everything, so I think that's one thing that sets me apart from a lot of other drivers. I just take great pride in handling it all myself. It really is a full-time job just to handle this, but then my perk is that I get to go hop in the race car on Sundays."