The local racing community was shocked to learn of the unexpected death of late-model racer Carl Billet on Monday afternoon.
Billet, a native of southern York County, suffered a massive stroke over the weekend, and left this world much too soon. He was only 58.
Just last season, Billet earned his sixth limited-late-model point title at Susquehanna Speedway Park. His first career point title also came at Susky, back in 1986. In between, there were many other point titles, and nearly 200 feature wins, in both the limited-late models and the super-late models.
Billet's racing career started with the limited-late models back in 1979. His first win came in 1981.
Always a tough competitor, Billet was also a master craftsman, who built most of his own race cars, and also built cars for many of his competitors. Over the years, he was involved with several different chassis manufacturers.
Early in his career, he was a top competitor at both Susquehanna and Silver Spring. Those were the two tracks where he won the majority of his limited-late-model events. He won six point titles and 57 races at Silver Spring, which ceased operations in 2005. His win total is third on Silver Spring's all-time list for the limited-late models.
At Susquehanna, he won 56 limited-late-model races and he also had six point titles there, including the 2012 crown. He won three races at Susky last year. Billet is the all-time career win leader in limited-late-model competition at Susky.
Billet was also a limited-late-model winner at Lincoln, Williams Grove, Heston, Bedford and Path Valley.
While Billet is well known for his limited-late-model successes, he was also a top runner during his time in the super-late models. The middle part of his career was spent in those potent machines, and he won 52 races with those cars.
At Lock Haven's Clinton County Speedway, Billet is the career win leader for the super-late models with 38 victories. He is a two-time point champion there. Billet also owns two super-late-model point crowns at the Bedford Fairgrounds. In addition to Clinton County and Bedford, Billet won super-late-model races at Lincoln, Port Royal, Thunder Valley and Hidden Valley.
Billet was inducted into the York County Racing Club's Hall of Fame in 2005.
Racing was also a family sport for Billet. His brother Mark was also a champion limited-late-model driver. Carl's son, Steve, is a winning limited-late-model driver, as is Mark's son, Chase.
Always a fierce competitor, Billet could at times rub his competitors the wrong way. But, he was often seen helping those same competitors get their cars running better. In his time working for the various chassis builders, Billet worked with many of the area's other top late-model racers at one time or another.
Away from the track, Billet was a quiet, but fun-loving guy. He always made time to talk with me whenever I had questions about his career, or late-model racing in general.
According to a news release from Susquehanna Speedway Park, Billet attended the SSP Night of Honor and Awards Banquet at the Valencia Ballroom in downtown York on Friday.
During the banquet, Billet joked around on stage with fellow racers and later accepted his plaque for his 2012 SSP track championship. Later, he brought his crew and owners to the stage to present each of them with championship jackets. Billet also collected the 2012 Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown Sportsmanship Award. After receiving the award, an emotional Billet said: "This is the first time in my career that I have ever won a sportsmanship award."
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdis patch.com.