The Champion of all Champions: A Conversation with Brian Gillespie

Speedway 660 is on the verge of crowning its 2013 division champions. This Saturday night, titles will be awarded in five divisions. In the 20 year history of Speedway 660, Brian Gillespie is our most celebrated champion. He won DMR Auto Sales & Service Street Stock titles in 94 and 95 and Martins Home Heating Sportsman championships in 98, 01, 02, 07 and 08. Wade Wilson recently had a conversation with our seven time champ.

Wade: Seven championships – wow that’s pretty amazing. You must be pretty proud of your success here at Speedway 660.

Brian: I am proud of those seven championships, but it took more than a driver to win those titles. Racing is really a team sport and I have been fortunate to have had a great team working with me ever since Speedway 660 opened back in 1994, the year we won our first street stock title. My crew and I have worked hard every week, during the racing season, ever since racing started in the Geary Woods. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep a car in tip top shape and to be competitive each week. And you know what, we’ve had a lot of fun doing it all of these years.

Wade: Of all of those championships, does one stand out above all of the others?

Brian: Winning a championship at Speedway 660 is always a big accomplishment, because the competition is so tough. And you never get tired of winning titles, just ask my buddy Rick Cashol! The one championship that really stands out for me is the Martins Home Heating Sportsman title we won in 2008. Going into that year’s Fan Appreciation Night of Champions we were leading the points, but had never won a feature. We went out that night and won the feature, which really put an exclamation mark on the season.

Brian Gillespie celebrates his fifth Martins Home Heating Sportsman championship in 2008. Gillespie won his only feature that year in the final point race to seal the deal and give the Nackawic Nite Train crew another title.

Wade: I remember how consistent you were in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman Division. Didn’t you win a championship one year without winning a feature?

Brian: You’ve got a pretty good memory for an old guy! In 2007 we did win the Sportsman crown without winning a feature. So come to think of it, we went back to back in 07 and 08, but only won one feature race in those two championship years. But we stayed focused every week, stayed out of trouble, made most of the dashes and managed to get good feature finishes every week.

Wade: The racing is pretty intense in all of our divisions. What does it take to win a title here at Speedway 660?

Brian: There’s a lot of pressure on the contenders, especially this week. They’ve got to make sure their car is properly prepared and they have got to stay focussed. We’ve all seen guys have melt-downs on the last point race. So, you’ve got to stay cool, bide your time, get a little good luck, have a great crew to give you strong car, some dedicated sponsors and a supportive family. There’s an old saying that goes like this: “In order to Finish First – First you have to Finish.”

Wade: It’s been awhile since you won a title at Speedway 660. You won your last Martins Home Heating Sportsman Sportsman Crown back in 08 before you moved up to pro stock. That’s been a tough nut to crack.

Brian: You got that right! The RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock Division sure is a tough Nut to Crack! Things happen real quick out on the track in this division. Lap times for the top five cars each week are only one to two tenths of a second apart and every year there seems to be a dominate team. The last couple of years it’s been Dave O’Blenis, before that Greg Fahey and fans likely remember Glenn Rassmussen, a four time Pro Stock champ. The Pro Stock drivers and teams are great and perhaps one of these years we’ll get it done. That’s the motivation to keep working hard and find the consistency it takes to be a Speedway 660 champion.

Brian Gillespie has been a driver at Speedway 660 since the track opened in 1994. The seven time champ (two street stock & five sportsman) is now running a RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock. Brian is still searching for that elusive championship in our tough Pro Stock Division.

Wade: You’ve had strong family support and an awesome crew to help you over the years. I know your Dad Willard, who recently passed away, was a big supporter and he was really proud of your accomplishments.

Brian: Dad was a great HELP. I think everyone who has been around racing at Speedway 660 over the last two decades knew him. Our family really appreciates all of the sincere condolences we received during the last couple of weeks. And he will be missed by all who knew him.

Wade: You have a great crew. Some of these guys have been with you for a long time. Tell us about the people who work in the garage back home and in the pits on race day?

Brian: Awhile back we had about ten people in our crew, some moved away to find work and some of the others are doing other things like boating, camping and spending more time with their families. Now we’re down to just a few crew members, but they are all great. I want to thank Doug who we all call Zippy, B.J., Richard, Tony, Jim, Woody and Jeff. It takes a lot of time and dedication to race each week and these are the guys who make the Nackawic Nite Train go around in circles! I also want to thank my wife Karen. She is so positive, always encourages me to race hard and reminds me to have fun!

Wade: And you’ve had some pretty good sponsors over the years to support your racing career.

Brian: W&R Gillespie has been with us for 25 years even before we started racing at Speedway 660, McLaughlin Roof Trusses for at least 10 years, Waynes Service Center, Martins Home Heating, Mycon and most of all Mom and Dad. We’ve had many other great sponsors along the way as well.

Wade: A lot of times championships are decided on the last point race. Sometimes we get big surprises on Fan Appreciation Night of Champions. Sometime drivers rise to the occasion and sometimes drivers crack under pressure.

Brian: Ain’t that the truth. We’ve come from behind in the points to win two championships on the last day and lost one when we went into the last day leading the points. We’ve got some great battles this year. I don’t think the Sportsman, Street Stock and Sharp Shooter titles will be decided until Joe throws the checkers in the features. And there’s a couple of good rookie battles too.

Brian Gillespie waves to the Speedway 660 crowd during 20th anniversary celebrations earlier this year, when we recognized our former champions. Gillespie has been with us since day one and is one of our most popular drivers.

Wade: As a guy who has won seven titles here at Speedway 660, do you have any advice for the drivers who are racing for championships this Saturday night?

Brian: Like I said before, stay cool, stay out of trouble and hope for some good luck.

Wade: We are seeing more young racers get into this sport than ever before. As a veteran, who has come up through the ranks, what do you think about these young racers and the future of our sport?

Brian: It’s great to see them get into racing. The kids coming up from the Bandolero and Sharp Shooter divisions are really good. They are breathing new life into our sport and are really starting to challenge some of the veterans, especially in Street Stock. We need some new young racers that’s for sure and if the opportunity arises they should move up.

Wade: Thanks for doing this Brian and good luck in the Auto Value 250 on SpeedWeekend.

Brian: Thank-you Wade, we’ve had a lot of fun this year. And that is the most important thing. It has to be fun or else you wouldn’t spend so much time, effort and money on your racing program. We’re looking forward to a good run this weekend on Fan Appreciation Night of Champions and hope we can have our best Auto Value 250 ever, when SpeedWeekend rolls around in less than two weeks. We’ll see you all at the track on Saturday night.

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