Cruising to a point where he would stop, Dave Wilcox let out a scream of pure joy and emotionally threw his hands into the air.
Inside the Toyota-built, 4-cylinder race car, Wilcox had plenty to celebrate. For the first time he was enjoying the moment as the Formula Atlantic National Championships winner at the SCCA Runoffs on Sept. 25 in Elkhart Lake, Wis., at the Road America race course.
A professional in the fastest class, he had come from behind in the 13-lap race to clip Keith Grant from Germantown, Tenn. at the finish line by 0.051 seconds.
"It came down to that last corner and I got a good run at it," Wilcox said of the final leg of the race. "The leader had two wheels go off the road a little and at Road America there is a big hill you have to climb as you're coming toward the finish. I knew I had to get momentum there. It was great. I was beside myself. I could tell when we came across the finish I had won."
It was the crowning moment for the Derby resident, who started in Go-Karts at 16 in 1991, then joined the Formula Atlantic series in 2001. Twice before, Wilcox placed third in the national championships. His father, Ron, who owns the car Wilcox usually drives and also races in several of the same events, was in attendance this time.
"Certainly, we had high hopes," Ron Wilcox said. "We felt like this might be his best shot, so we had a pretty good feeling he could do it."
Whatever chances Wilcox had relied him being in a car he had never raced before. Driving a Toyota/Swift 014 owned by Mirl Swan, from Overland Park, who won the SCCA Runoff title in the car in 2001, Wilcox said he was a little nervous. But the chance of winning a championship seemed like a good one to take.
"The car I usually drive is 22 years old and so the technology in it is obviously older," Wilcox said. "With this car and the newer technology, when the guy asked if I would be interested in driving it, we said yes."
The championship is a pinnacle of what the Wilcox family has been striving for along with crew chief Mike Spencer, who has been with them for 20 years. The celebration ended with Wilcox standing on stage with a couple of the other racers for the awards ceremony.
"It's like that Cloud 9 moment for me," Wilcox said.
While the Formula Atlantic series may seem obscure to many who don't pay much attention to auto racing, the Wilcox say there is a lot to take pride in with the title. After all, it is a national championship.
"A lot of people don't know a lot about this kind of racing," Ron Wilcox said. "It is a national championship just like there is for tennis or basketball. It's a pretty big deal."