Dick Wilskey stood behind Shawna for the early part of her career and was willing to continue doing it, but his daughter wanted to go out on her own. She knew if she was going to be successful, she had to run her own team.
And there were other factors. Wilskey says her dad was bothered by the danger. He saw his daughter survive a serious crash at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. Wilskey was unconscious when her dad arrived at the crash scene and she was out cold in a hospital for the next three days.
"I think that was the beginning of it ... we had always been very successful and we always had a lot of fun," she says.
In Ohio, everyone realized that fun comes with a price.
"He's still my hero," she says. "He always will be, but I wanted to take my career to the next level, and I think that was scary for dad."
But it didn't bother Shawna.
"When I decided to go out on my own, all I owned was a truck and a trailer," she says. "I sold the trailer because Ben's dad said I could borrow his. Then I figured that if I worked hard for a solid six months, I could own my own car."
By this time Rocket was building complete cars. Curtis was her chief mechanic and realized that he could build better cars than he was fixing. Wilskey came into the business with no experience, but the willingness to learn the trade.
She worked four jobs-including waiting tables, cleaning gutters, laying carpet and working at Rocket-and ate starvation rations to pay start-up costs for the operation.
"For six months I worked seven days straight. I never had a day off. I never worked less than eight hours. Every penny I made went into creating the race team. And when we first put my new car down on the ground, I had tears in my eyes."
In 1999, her first year as a team owner, she won her second Northern Sprint Tour championship.
She was on her way.
Mixing It UpWilskey had also won the $10,000 Gold Cup in Edmonton, British Columbia, in 1999 and returned the next year to defend her title. In the heat race, she passed race leader Robbie King in Turn 2, only to be tapped by King on the next corner and spun out. On the race restart, Wilskey roared from the back of the pack to lay a bumper on King's car in retaliation, then did it again at the end of the race.
After the heat, she had a face-off with King in the pits. It wasn't exactly the World Wrestling Federation, but for a weekend dirt track, it was pretty good entertainment.
"We had that race won," she says in her defense. "We knew we could repeat in 2000 if we could get a good starting position. But in that race, if you didn't transfer out of the heat, you started dead last."
So in the main the next day, she began 24th and passed 22 cars to finish second.
"I just ran out of time," she says. "That incident cost me the $10,000 purse. You bet I was mad. I'm not proud of what I did. It isn't like me. It is not the way I race. It isn't the image I want. But given the same set of circumstances, I'd do it again."
It earned her the nickname "Shot of Whiskey" among other drivers.
Among Northwest fans, she is the Steve Kinser of open wheel racing. She used to dream of the day she could race wheel-to-wheel against the "King of the Outlaws."
Wilskey worked with an agent to line up sponsorship to move up to the Outlaws. But she doesn't want a sponsor to back her just because of her gender.
"People tried to tell me that I should exploit being a woman, that I should use that, like Lyn St. James," she says. "I just never figured that as me. It just wouldn't be honest. Maybe if I had done that a few years ago, I could have gone further, but I don't think I'd be happy with myself.
"I've never been one to try to stand out in a crowd. I always figured you earn respect by what you do, not by how you were born. I guess that may hurt me, but I'm making a living now in racing, and I'm doing it my way."