Brian Ickler was perhaps the brightest young star in stock car racing during the late 2000s and into the early 2010’s. The California-born driver won seven races between the ARCA Menards Series East and West divisions in a three-year span and had won the 2008 Snowball Derby for Kyle Busch Motorsports before having it taken away in post-race tech for having brake blowers on the car. Those accomplishments were enough for him to be crowned the first overall pick in the 2009 Short Track Draft on Speed51.
After his time in the short track ranks, Ickler made the jump into the NASCAR national series spotlight. He ran parts of three seasons in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports and Billy Ballew Motorsports from 2009-2011, while making select starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Braun Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing in 2009 and 2010. He scored seven top-fives in his Truck Series career, finishing a career-best third at both Michigan and Martinsville.
Just as quickly as Ickler rose through the ranks of short track racing and into NASCAR, he was all but out of the sport completely.
Ickler’s last race came in the NASCAR Truck Series for Red Horse Racing, where he finished fifth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since then, he has remained in the heart of stock car racing, starting Ickler Manufacturing in Mooresville, North Carolina. The business has quickly taken off, keeping him as busy as ever in his post-racing career.
“I stopped racing anything at all in, I can’t remember it’s been so long. I think in 2012ish, maybe? I ran a couple Truck races in 2014 just because a buddy wanted to and had a bunch of money. Since then, I started dabbling in CNC machinery and in 2014 or 2015 started Ickler Manufacturing,” Ickler told Speed51. “It’s an aerospace and defense component manufacturing company. It’s grown pretty quick, about 10 employees, 12 CNC machines, that’s what we specialize in. We’re aerospace certified, we make a lot of structural aerospace components and landing gear components for the commercial aviation industry. It’s taken off here in the past few years and taken all my time and every penny I’ve got, it’s growing pretty quick.”
Before moving to North Carolina to advance his racing career, he raced for his family team on the west coast and competed in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West for Bill McAnally Racing for two years. It was the time spent racing with family that he cherishes the most about his racing career.
“You’re probably talking to the wrong guy about that, there’s nothing, really. I miss short track racing, I guess I should say. If there’s anything I took for granted, it was the time I got to race Super Late Models,” he said. “My best memories of the racing was doing it with my dad as a family, showing up with your trailer behind your daily driver and going to the track and competing against guys at the same level.”
With the move east came added pressure to perform on any given weekend. Ultimately, the stresses of trying to make a living out of racing made it less enjoyable and led him to exit out of the sport completely.
“It started snowballing and we moved to the east coast and all the sudden you’re trying to do it for a living and it’s really not fun. Especially doing it with no money, trying to fight against kids that have huge budgets that just want to do it for fun,” he stated. “It took all the fun out of it. Really, just the fun we had short track racing, really looking back I forget how fun that was.”
While his racing career may be over, one key friendship remains from his time behind the wheel. Robby Gordon gave him his first opportunity in NASCAR’s top three series after moving east, and their friendship has extended to Ickler’s family in recent years.
“I moved here in 2007 to Mooresville, NC to chase a dream and Robby (Gordon) was the only guy I knew. He’s been really good to me ever since. He gave me my first start in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series back in 2008. He’s big into the off-road stuff and we were down at his shop. We had made him some parts just because we’re friends and he saw my four-year-old talking about riding his dirt bike and whatnot. He’s starting a side-by-side line and he said I’m going to get him one and I was like yeah, whatever. And one showed up, so that’s pretty cool.”
Ickler is adamant that his time racing is done, but also admits he may be back around the sport before long. With his oldest son interested in Quarter Midget racing in the future, he is content with him getting involved under one condition.
“I’ve had a couple guys ask me, friends that have successful businesses say, ‘Hey, let’s go run a couple races’ and it just doesn’t have any interest for me. I’ve got kids now and a business that requires 100% of my attention,” he stated. “My oldest son’s four and he’s got a little 50cc dirt bike and Robby Gordon hooked him up with a side-by-side and he’s ripping around on that thing. He’s getting the itch for Quarter Midget racing and I’m okay with it as long as he knows we’re never going to do it professionally. If he wants to go do it for fun then we’ll go do it, but that’s about the extent of racing we’ll have at the house for a while.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51