NASCAR driver has talent to compete

Ricky Schlick has been on a tear since he first appeared in the COURIER six years ago. Back then he was in elementary school and racing miniature bandolero cars. Now the 18-year-old Claremont resident is a rising star on the local NASCAR circuit, which is equivalent to Double-A, two steps from the majors, in baseball terms.

The unassuming teen has been steadily moving up from his early racing days, including a championship in the SRL Legends Tour 2013. That victory launched him into his current place racing NASCAR on the west coast.

Seven races into the 2015 season, he currently sits at fifth place out of about 30 drivers and feels confident he will continue to do well.

“He has a new car and it takes a little while to get it dialed in,” explained his father Howard Schlick. Once they work out the kinks, they hope to dominate.

In the early days his father’s towing company sponsored Ricky but now he has two major sponsors, 51-Fifty energy drinks and Fresh and Easy grocery stores. Both endorsements were aided by the elder Mr. Schlick’s efforts and by the generosity of family friends Ron and Scott Burkle.

The expense of racing, even at this intermediate level, can be prohibitive. In addition to the purchase price, his Chevrolet must be partially rebuilt following each race. Plus, if he experiences engine problems or has a crash, the cost goes up. He also has to pay for a crew on race days. Howard Schlick estimates the cost could be as high as $250,000 a year and will be even more as his son moves up in the ranks.

He admits to having fans, particularly at the Irwindale Raceway, his home track. “I’ve been around the track a long time. People know me.” Asked why he races, he replied, “The adrenaline. I love it.”

Mr. Schlick speaks highly of the effort his son has put into his own success. “There is no stopping him. He’s going to make it. He practices on his days off and studies racing.”

However, he does admit there is a downside to Ricky’s success. S & J Towing Service, which was started by Howard’s father in the 1950s, is very much a family concern and he had planned to pass it on to the next generation. “I’ll be watching him on TV and I’ll have to work a few more years,” he said, “but it will be worth it.”

In addition to his corporate sponsors, Ricky also races for the nonprofit foundation Racing for Autism. The connection is a perfect fit, because his younger sister Rachel has autism. This weekend is Autism Awareness Weekend at the track, giving him additional incentive to win.

This Saturday, Ricky will compete twice at Irwindale, the opening race just after the track opens at 7 p.m. and the closing race closer to 9 p.m. People who want to chat with the racers or get an autograph are welcome to come down to the racetrack on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. for a special meet-and-greet in the infield.

With the busy race schedule and his studies to complete his senior year and get his diploma, there isn’t a lot of time for recreation. He still finds a few free moments, though.

“I like to play with RC [radio control] race cars,” he said with a smile.

—Steven Felschundneff


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