DEI Transport Driver Honored

Gale "Bandit" Wilson, the friendly crew member for the U.S. Army/Dale Earnhardt Inc. NASCAR team, was caught off guard Saturday before the NEXTEL Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. A long-time race team transport driver, Wilson was recognized with a special plaque from the Transport Drivers of Motorsports Association.

The plaque, which was presented to Wilson by Kyle Petty read, "In Appreciation of Many Years Outstanding Service & Dedication."

"That really took me by surprise," said Wilson. "But it was sure an honor to receive this recognition, especially from my fellow transport drivers."

Wilson, 64, is in his 28th season hauling race cars from venue to venue. However, his role has never been exclusive to driving the truck. He assists the crew during race weekends and has been multi-tasking long before the phrase became trendy.

For many years he doubled up as an over-the-wall crew person, handling the catch can duties. "That was a while ago, before pit crews wore firesuits and helmets," noted Wilson.

His first gig was with Junior Johnson's team in 1980. He has transported race cars for a number of drivers including Harry Gant, Cale Yarborough, Ken Schrader, Jimmy Spencer, Sterling Marlin, Hut Stricklin, Steve Grissom, Rick Mast, Elton Sawyer, Johnny Benson, Joe Nemechek and currently for the No. 01 Army/DEI team of Mark Martin and Aric Almirola.

"It's been great working in NASCAR and it definitely keeps you young," added Wilson."I've been fortunate to be associated with so many wonderful people. And I am very proud of driving the transporter that carries the U.S. Army and Dale Earnhardt names. I get a lot of thumbs up when I'm traveling around the country."

Wilson's nickname of "Bandit" was given to him back in the early 1980s when he worked for the Skoal Bandit Cup team.

"Bandit was my CB handle and the name just stuck," explained Wilson. "If someone in the garage asks for Gale Wilson without mentioning Bandit, no one would probably know who you're talking about."

Wilson and his wife Bobbie reside in Statesville, N.C. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

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