Local auto racing: Hobart’s Melissa Wilson continues to improve in pure stox
By Ryan Haskell Post-Tribune correspondent May 3, 2013 9:38PM
Melissa Wilson of Hobart, IN placer her heat winner sticker on her car in the Pure Stock class at Illiana Speedway on April 27, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times media
Updated: June 5, 2013 6:22AM
Melissa Wilson still isn’t sure if she can drive a stick-shift on the local roads. She’s never tried.
But get her in a race car and it’s game on.
Wilson, who started driving at Illiana Motor Speedway three years ago, spent 45 minutes learning to drive stick before her first race and she’s been hooked on racing even since.
“My fiancé David Keuhs has been racing since he was 16,” the Hobart resident said. “Before I started dating him, I had no interest in racing. Then I tried it in the powder puff race. That’s a six-lap feature just for the girls where you get in your boyfriend’s car and go.”
The experience was so exhilarating that Wilson gave Keuhs an assignment to find a car. Her fiancé and his best friend were able to buy and fix up a Honda CRX for her.
Wilson finished ninth in the pure stox division in her first year. But — she said — it wasn’t because she was exactly tearing it up on the race track.
“Part of finishing ninth was just showing up every week,” she said. “I beat up that car. I blew up the transmission so it was real slow.
“The first night (in pure stox) I spun the car out in the very first turn; I think it was right after green flag. I got hit so many times; there’s a lot of fast guys out there and I was there learning.”
Her best finish that season was a second-place finish in a heat race.
Things improved her second season.
She purchased a Ford Escort ZX2 and took better care of it. She won four heat races last season. Her best finish in a feature was fourth.
Wilson got off to a good start this race season, winning the second heat in last week’s pure stox race. She said competing in a 200-lap race at Rockford (Ill.) Speedway on April 6 helped her prepare for the upcoming Illiana season.
“It was a pretty awesome start to the year,” said Wilson, who finished sixth on Saturday. “The best part of the night was keeping up with the guys that usually fly past me in the feature. That was a big deal for me. Even though I didn’t win, I was right there with them the whole night.”
Wilson said her competition should expect much of the same the rest of the season.
“It’s a big deal to bring that trophy home,” she said. “And I’m planning to win (a feature) this season.”