‘Don’t give up:’ NASCAR drivers with Wisconsin roots making their mark in the racing world

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Paul Menard

LAS VEGAS -- Whether their starts were in go karts or on short tracks, Wisconsin produces plenty of home-grown racing talent and there's a new generation hoping to leave their mark.

Drivers, cars and pit crews line the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but stepping out of the Wood Brothers Racing hauler is Wisconsin's Paul Menard.

"Wisconsin is a great state for racing in general. When I was a kid we raced multiple times a week in legends cars and late models. A lot of great short tracks," said Paul Menard, Wisconsin native and NASCAR driver.

Paul Menard

Paul Menard

A state with a rich tradition of racing is now represented in the NASCAR world by Menard, after Matt Kenseth ended his career.

Paul Menard

"I'm the Wisconsin guy so that's a lot of pride for me and pressure on my shoulders to make the state proud but we got a lot of great drivers coming out of Wisconsin," said Menard.

Doing his part on the track, Menard also wants the racing fan base to grow and that starts at home.

"Get out to the grassroots, get out to the racetrack and there's a lot of people who think of racing as big events like this but that's not how we all got here, it's through your local tracks in Madison, Marshfield, Kaukauna, La Crosse speedway, you just gotta get out there and make race fans," Menard said.

Paul Menard

Josh Bilicki

Keeping a Wisconsin connection, Richfield native -- Josh Bilicki -- is in his third year on the NASCAR circuit and balancing the workload of more than just driving.

"It's tough," said Josh Bilicki, Wisconsin native and NASCAR driver. "I honestly spend eight to ten hours a day on the computer. I get home and kind of isolate myself, just sit on my computer in my office, work on sponsors, make phone calls and when I go to the track it's just completely different because now I'm out here with the fans interacting. I'm not at home isolating, doing my own thing so it is tough to balance it."

The 23-year-old old acts as his own public relations person and finds his own sponsors each week, working to compete and grow in the world of racing.

Josh Bilicki

"A lot of it is sponsorship. This is a sponsorship-driven sport. I find all my own sponsors, I market myself, I do all my own PR, that's a job in itself but when you come to the racetrack, it's a prize or reward for finding a sponsorship," said Bilicki.

While the reward is enjoyed with each "drivers, start y our engines" call, Bilicki continues to chase a dream and represent his home state.

"Don't give up. You know a lot of times talent will take you far but you need to have the passion to drive you up to the next level," Bilicki said. "I've seen a lot of talented drivers not make it because they don't have the passion. You need to have the passion to make it to the next level. Stay focused, stay driven and I think you can make it."

Home-grown passion, featured on tracks around the country each week.

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