CGHS Grad Earns Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Award by Hoosier Auto Racing Fans
Writer / Matt Keating
Gabriel Gilbert, a Center Grove High School graduate, recently received the Billy Marvel Jr. Sprint Car Rookie of the Year award for Indiana by Hoosier Auto Racing Fans. In 13 years of karting, Gabriel has raced in 7 different classes and attained 69 feature wins and 4 championships.
Gilbert first started racing when he was just 5 years old.
“I got my start by racing go-karts when I was very little,” Gilbert says. “I remember a lot of great racing moments with my dad, Joe Gilbert, and my mom, Jennifer Gilbert. What I loved the most was continually improving and seeing better racing results. I also enjoyed the family time. Dad gave me the choice of racing the quarter midgets, which went up to 25 miles per hour, or the go-karts, which went up to 40 miles per hour in the entry level classes. I chose the go-karts. I loved driving fast.”
Gilbert also thoroughly loved the competition.
“I remember when I first started winning at 5 years old and going out to the racing track all the time to practice,” Gilbert says. “I really learned how to get better with every race. I remember being hesitant at the start, and my parents used to offer me a dollar for every kart I passed. After that, I started winning. I also learned a lot about facing adversity on the track, as well as teamwork and problem solving. I learned a lot of great life lessons. Practice and hard work can take you very far.”
Gilbert, 20, is now racing sprint cars and loving every minute of it.
“I’m racing sprint cars mainly in Bloomington, Paragon, and Lincoln Park Speedway, but I’m also racing all around Indiana,” Gilbert says. “I’m still new and I’m still learning every time I get on the track, as we continue to improve and push for our first win. We jump from track to track and continually adapt to that new environment. I also love having an incredible racing team to work with. They make everything better.”
Through hard work, Gilbert earned Rookie of the Year in Bloomington and Lincoln Park Speedway.
“It really gave me a vote of confidence, and it’s nice to see that others recognized our improvement throughout the year,” Gilbert says.
Gilbert was also surprised by the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans award.
“I was called early in the morning about the Rookie of the Year award for Indiana by Hoosier Auto Racing Fans, and it was such a surprise and so exciting,” Gilbert says. “It was such an honor to receive an award that so many big names have been able to receive. It’s also an honor to have my name put in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame with those big names, as well as receiving it from the Marvel racing family, who presented it to me at the awards banquet.” The award is named after driver Billy Marvel Jr. who died in a sprint car accident his rookie season. Billy was also a Greenwood resident.
Gilbert’s first race this year was March 11 at Paragon.
“My first race this season was a challenge,” he says. “We were up against some extremely talented national competition. We won the B main race but didn’t have the results we were looking for in the main event. It happens and it’s part of racing, and we will learn from it and continue to improve. You can always find new ways to improve and learn more.”
Gilbert will be racing all the way until October.
“At that point it’s very cold, but we always want to race as long as we possibly can,” he says. “After that, we’re off for some months. Everyone gets busy with something else at that point.”
When Gilbert isn’t driving on the racetrack, he works as a realtor for Sheila Alvarez Brunette Realty.
“I’m a realtor in the Center Grove/Greenwood area, and do well to negotiate my time to be able to race twice a weekend from late March until October,” Gilbert says. “I made my first sale recently. Sheila Brunette is great to work for. My work takes a lot of time on and off the track, and I can’t thank my parents enough for all the sacrifices they make for me. We’re always looking for sponsors, so if any local businesses are looking to put their name behind an up-and-coming race car driver I’d love to talk.”