Bluegrass, NARA tour founder dies at 51
Spencer Wilson, co-founder of the Battle of the Bluegrass DirtCar Series whose North American Racing Association evolved into the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, died Monday at his Somerset, Ky., home. The car salesman at Southeast Kia in Somerset was 51.
While Wilson successfully launched his Kentucky-based Super Late Model tour in 2002, two years later its big brother NARA circuit emerged from Dirt Late Model racing's turbulent “Tire Wars” 2004 season as an eight-race national tour linking existing events including the Hillbilly 100, Dixie Shootout and Dirt Track World Championship.
Wilson and the NARA DirtCar Series — employing current national tour staffers Rick Schwallie and James Essex — brought on Lucas Oil as a major sponsor late in 2004, added East Bay Raceway Park’s prestigious Winternationals as part of 2005's 25-race schedule and inked a 13-race television deal with ESPN2. Just seven races into the '05 season, Lucas Oil acquired ownership April 14 and changed the name to Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series while adding more races, a $150,000 winner’s circle loyalty program for drivers and more than $150,000 for the ’05 points fund.
Wilson stayed on as Lucas Oil Series race director through May 2007, when he was fired by Lucas Oil executive vice president Bob Patison for misappropriating series funds. Former Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series director Ritchie Lewis was hired to replace Wilson.
Wilson later in 2007 sold the Battle of the Bluegrass series to Tom McConnell, who operated the Kentucky-based series through 2009. Wilson in 2011 assisted with operations of the C.J. Rayburn-founded National All Star Racing Association in the tour’s third of three seasons.
Wilson’s survivors include his parents, Billy Wilson and Shirley Mayfield Wilson, and a sister, Tawnya Kathern (Tyler) Oberman.
Visitation is 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at Somerset's Southern Oaks Funeral Home followed by a 2 p.m. funeral; graveside service is 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, at Southern Oaks Cemetery.