Billy Brickley – Illinois Lightning Sprint Star
Originally printed June 2020 – Dirt Monthly
By; Ashley Zimmerman
The town of Wataga, Illinois, is one of those blink- and-you-will-miss-it kind of places. Wataga has a population of 793 people, and besides a Casey’s General Store located along the highway, not a whole lot sticks out about this town. But, hidden quietly in the population is someone whose love for the loud pedal, fast dirt track action and victory lane has given him a permanent place in the history of Illinois Mini Sprints and puts this tiny farm town on the map in the corner of the world of dirt track racing.
Billy Brickley, commonly known as “Buckshot” or the “Buckshot Bandit”, began racing Go-Karts in Florida but it wasn’t until his family relocated to Illinois that he was even aware of the possibilities dirt track racing had to offer. “We didn’t have dirt tracks down in Florida, I knew absolutely nothing about them until we moved to Illinois, and that’s all there is in Illinois! I had to change and adapt.” While Brickley was in a whole new world with dirt track racing, it didn’t take long before he spread his wings and flew off into this new world to adventure. He drove everything from a Modified to a Hornet.
Ultimately, Buckshot settled on keeping a little bit of winged action in his new found dirt track state of mind. It was the speed and intensity of Sprint Car racing that drew Brickley in. “I love Sprint Car racing. You’re strapping yourself to essentially just a motor and on the edge of out of control.” Just like Brickley would strap himself to “a motor”, he strapped himself to Sprint Car racing from Micro Sprints to 305s, he would show skill and lightning fast speed. Quickly, the very quiet demeanor Billy Brickley began making a name for himself through his consistency of always landing his notoriously fast budget racing based Sprint Cars in victory lane. Victory lane became so familiar to Buckshot and the black 00 car that, in 2013 alone, they found themselves the Peoria Speedway champion. In Billy's racing career entirety, he would amass over half a dozen track and series championships throughout the Midwest, over 25 career victories and multiple quick time track records.
While Buckshot came into dirt track racing a mere stranger, he quickly made himself at home on dirt and on top of the wing. While Billy Brickley was able to find great success in budget racing, he also enjoyed the basis and theory behind the origination of budget racing. Keeping everyone with the same motors and restrictions, Brickley felt that it brought out the skill and driving ability of drivers, it meant that at the end of the night you knew you out drove everyone on the track; you didn’t just have the best "stuff” you could buy. Brickley enjoyed the aspect of his skills being challenged, to the extent he would share setups with competitors at the track, trying to help fellow drivers and make the cars as equal as possible. Buckshot wanted to know when he rolled into victory lane later that night that he had truly outdriven the competition. The smooth, calculated driving style that built his reputation often finds fellow drivers describing "Buckshot" as the type of driver you want to go out onto the track and race. “I’m not a big risk taker, I’m going to race you as hard as you race me, the same way you race me, if you want to rub tires, we’ll rub tires, I’m just going to make smart, well thought out moves to get by you." This style of racing found Brickley able to visit victory lane at a variety of tracks.
Brickley recounts his June 2013 win at LaSalle Speedway in LaSalle, Illinois on a World of Outlaws race weekend as one of his career highlights. “We put on a good show that night, in a last lap pass to win. The intensity of the World of Outlaws crowd afterward, was great, it was intense, and it let us know we put on a good show, and I loved hearing them tell us afterward.” While a large number of series championships, season championships, and wins fill the highlight reel, one special trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2012, for the Tulsa Shootout also ranks high on the trips down memory lane for now thirty two year old Brickley, both in pride and in regret. A strong second place finish in his chase for a Golden Driller goes down in Brickley’s history books as a monumental moment in highlight and a regretful mistake in not going after a last corner chance at a win. “Tulsa is just awesome, not because of money, but because hundreds of people show up just to race, it’s all about the Driller. When we had the caution with three to go, I chose to play it safe and finish second. I should have taken the opportunity to get my own Driller.”
A day job career change, with a very limited schedule would eventually pull Brickley into what he claims is semi-retirement. “I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to pay the bills racing at that time, and with a baby on the way, I couldn’t make choices between paying my mortgage or going racing, and bank on winning the race to then pay the bills at the end of the weekend.” But, just a few moments in conversation with Brickley will prove he is far from concentrated on staying semi-retired. The passion and fire for racing still burns just as brightly and hot as it did when he found them in 2008 and when he left them in 2015, if the conversation makes you doubt the affirmation of his intentions to one day return, a peek in his garage at what lurks behind closed doors is all the physical proof a person needs to know to understand that “semi-retired” means he isn’t done, yet.
In true “Buckshot Bandit” form, rest assure there is a fresh helmet, a fire suit that still fits, and a seat always ready to bolt in, if any opportunity were to arise.
[Hint, hint.. Illinois car owners.]
It’s during this time of “semi-retirement” that Brickley found another new home with dirt track racing, in the ever growing world of iRacing. While Billy is a man of very few words, the void he fills by spending time iRacing, causes the words to come quite literally pouring out, one might say he never stops talking about it or focusing on it [iRacing]. It is wildly apparent, that if it involves any form dirt track racing, Buckshot will find happiness in it, and he will find himself in victory lane.
While Billy has been involved in the world of iRacing since its fruition, Buckshot has recently found himself in victory lane for the Jackson Lam Classic, presented by Living Like Outlaws [Wes Irwin] at iRacing’s virtual Knoxville, Iowa. [For more information on the charity fundraising behind The Jackson Lam Classic, follow Wes Irwin of the World of Outlaws on his Living Like Outlaws Facebook page.] While in his past, Billy has found himself only in the seat, as a driver and as a car owner, his time in iRacing has blossomed into helping manage leagues, putting on races, assisting and aiding drivers at better perfecting their skills with the simulation, and commentating/announcing league and specialty races.
“iRacing is as close as you can get to doing the real thing, without spending the $30-60,000 on a car. It’s very realistic, you can adjust your car with all the same details like stagger, and the track changes as you race. The tracks are scanned from real life for iRacing, so it also gives you a chance to race places you might not ever have the opportunity to go; like Knoxville.” While iRacing currently scratches Brickley’s strong itch to return to the real world of dirt track racing, Brickley is enjoying chasing his ultimate iRacing goal of a pro license and being amongst the top 35 in all of iRacing’s competitors.
Brickley confesses that while iRacing is scratching his racing itch, it also pushes him harder toward getting back to the driver’s seat in real life. With racing shut down across the world, the racing community has also found iRacing scratching an itch we are all suffering no cure for. Brickley shares, he feels that while iRacing is experiencing a positive push in participant numbers, that dirt tracks, promoters, and many series will also gain a lot of positive support and publicity by the utilization of the iRacing platform during this required social distancing and down time. “This downtime [gave] us all an opportunity to see sides of the professional drivers we never get to see, interact with them differently, and do something we sometimes only get to dream of — race against them, and potentially beat them."
The birth of Brickley’s racing career may have begun on Florida asphalt, and although he confesses he was oblivious to possibilities of racing on dirt until he planted his roots in Illinois, there is no doubt that dirt track racing was not oblivious to the birth of Brickley’s racing career. Billy Brickley may be quietly tucked away in rural Illinois, nestled in a town whose quiet reputation matches his own, his story and influence in the world of Micro Sprints and iRacing is far from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Though he is a driver of few words, his run the high side, no brake, no fear driving, repeated trips up top with checkered flags in hand, speak the words he often doesn’t; much like many of dirt track’s most treasured legends. All moments, that left in the hands of the Buckshot Bandit, that will be recreated again, as in his words; “it’s only when you stop saying semi; that you aren’t ever coming back.”