Nebraska Managing Partner Rebuilds, Races Cars to ‘Unplug’
By Elizabeth Kelly
It’s not often you see “experience BKD” on the rear fender of an ’89 Mustang throttling 120 miles an hour down a race track.
But if you do, Tim J. Wilson is probably the helmet-clad wheelman pushing the racecar to its limits.
“I can’t even explain the adrenaline rush,” says Tim, managing partner of BKD’s Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, offices. “There are very few things I do where I don’t have something nagging me in the back of my mind. Racing allows me to completely unplug.”
Tim and his best friend, Jahn Grandstaff, race their Mustang in the ChumpCar World Series and World Racing League. Their goal is to race four to five times a year at these endurance races, which take place on a 2.5-mile road racing track and last anywhere from seven to 37 hours long. A typical weekend race equals about eight to 10 hours Saturday and anywhere from six to eight hours Sunday. The goal is to be the fastest car that stays intact.
Two and a half years ago, Jahn called Tim to say, “We need to do this.” It involved gasoline and pistons, so Tim was in. About six months later, they bought the Mustang and rebuilt it piece by piece. Today, only the frame is original.
“I grew up on a farm, so I know how turn a wrench a little bit, but it’s not a skill set I use every day,” Tim says with a chuckle as he talks about how an accountant and a banker have torn apart the Mustang three times, put in a roll cage and made it as lightweight as possible. “It’s on the third motor, third transmission. We’ve built it, broke it, built it, broke it, built it.”
Jahn knew Tim would love racing, but says his best buddy was slow to warm up to the hobby.
“I know Tim was just going along with this to support me, but it’s been a great escape for him,” Jahn says. “The Mustang goes back and forth between his garage and my garage. It’s a good excuse to hang out. We spend as much time in the garage as we do on the track.”
Tim had no idea what to expect at his first race. He discovered many owners and drivers were much like him—professionals chasing the adrenaline rush.
“I run into clients and prospects at the race track,” Tim says. “I tell them, ‘I appreciate your business!’ and they do a double take.”
Some race days, Tim brings his family: wife Beth and 8-year-old son Trevor cheer, 18-year-old daughter Claire takes photos and 16-year-old son Jake joins the pit crew. Tim says Jake is taking a class to become certified to be on the track. In the meantime, he’s learning life lessons, such as how to fix a car and how smart you have to be to work on one and solve all sorts of mechanical problems.
In one race, Tim was three laps in and the Mustang’s temperature kept rising. He immediately pulled over, shut it down and heard it dump three gallons of water. A line was up against the radiator, and it had rubbed enough to create a hole in the aluminum. Though competition is fierce, rival pit crews often share ideas with each other, and somebody suggested drilling a bigger hole, adding a bolt with O rings and sticking it in the existing hole in the radiator.
“Worked like a charm,” Tim recalls. “We raced another eight hours with that rig. The intelligence these guys have is truly amazing.”
Jake, Tim and Jahn have learned a lot from the team’s mechanic, Jeremy Moss, who races an ’08 Crown Victoria with brothers Justin and Sean. A customer at Jahn’s bank, Jeremy walked in one day for a car loan and the rest is history. The trio, who never take themselves too seriously, call their team Perpetual Adolescent Racing. It’s fitting, considering Jeremy and his brothers also race in ChumpCar and the teasing about who took the slowest lap never ends.
Building and racing cars fits Tim’s nature, says Jahn, because “it’s precise—the process of testing and making little changes that lead to big changes in results—and competitive. Tim’s extremely competitive, and it’s a good outlet for us. We work well together. And it’s what makes it fun.”
Each man drives for two hours at a time, then trades out and goes into the pit. Tim gets out truly exhausted; the braking and throttling take their toll on him—and the car. Even so, he never regrets the decision to step outside his comfort zone and race at tracks in Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota and Iowa.
Tim always misses the run in Daytona, Florida, during tax season. But don’t count him out.
“Maybe some year after I retire,” he says.
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