CONCORD, N.H. — Jeff Wilson's life changed forever two years ago when he plucked a winning Powerball ticket worth millions from a number of lottery tickets bought by his father, Billy.
The father and son, and former Kings Mountain residents, were at Charlotte Motor Speedway Friday as part of the hoopla surrounding the lottery-sponsored Camping World Truck Series event and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Weekend.
The younger Wilson, dressed in blue jeans and untucked plaid shirt, and his father, wearing khakis and a white knit shirt, described themselves as regular guys.
Neither wore jewelry, but like a lot of race fans, each had a baseball cap on their heads. Nothing distinguished them from other race fans other than Jeff Wilson teaming up with wrestling icon Ric Flair to help judge a contest for race grand marshal and honorary starter sponsored by radio station WRFX.
Both Wilsons talked about the good and the crazy that occurred after winning so much money and why they won't be the subjects of another story about lottery winners going broke.
For the record, the lottery ticket won by Jeff Wilson in June 2009 was worth $88.1 million, but because he chose to take a lump sum the final value came in at $42.4 million. After state and federal taxes he cleared about $28.8 million.
How does becoming an instant millionaire change a person?
Not at all if you're Billy Wilson.
"As people, it hasn't changed us," he said. "The old saying is money doesn't buy happiness so you have to be happy with your life."
Jeff Wilson said. "I don't want it to change me so it hasn't.
"Now I just have a bigger house," said Jeff Wilson, who turned 29 earlier this month.
Billy Wilson: "We live around a bunch of millionaires and some of them are the most miserable people on earth. Just because you have money doesn't make you any better than anyone else and sometimes it seems like they forgot that."
What do you do with the money?
"It's given us an opportunity to do some things that we wouldn't have been able to do," said Billy Wilson. "We've traveled some, bought a new house. But we've also given money to groups like Holy Angels in Belmont and St. Jude (Children's Research Hospital)."
Jeff Wilson: "Everyone thinks you go out and have a big party. You pretty much have to get a crash course in taxes or you'll pay a lot. We've already paid a lot."
Billy Wilson: "It gives you security in life. You hear a lot about (lottery) winners going broke, but I don't see how.
"You get sound bankers, good accountants and lawyers and you can do some good if you don't go and do stupid things."
What has changed?
Billy Wilson: "I went from someone who worked 15 hours a day as a (general manager) of a car dealership to someone who can now do what they want. It takes some getting use to.
"You don't have to worry about buying groceries or the power bill, but you do have a separate sort of problems."
Jeff Wilson says he just enjoys hanging out with friends and fishing. He worked in real estate before striking it rich and still does, but he also looks after investments.
He still lives with his parents in North Carolina.
"But we have other houses," he added.
Neither Wilson wanted to say exactly where they live. Things turned so crazy at their house in Kings Mountain after the lottery win they never lived there again.
Too many people would turn up there looking for handouts or help. The Wilsons now channel their giving through a foundation they established.
One person from as far away as Russia showed up once asking for $150,000, Billy Wilson said.
"He wanted me to invest in whatever his crazy scheme was," Billy Wilson said. "That's what you have to dig through."
Making a difference
Contributions go to larger groups and individuals who need help. Money sent to a boy in Louisiana will help with medical bills. Other money will go to help pay for alcohol monitoring devices for low-income offenders in Mecklenburg County.
Both Wilsons said they hope they're making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Helping others includes contributions to Holy Angels in Belmont, a residential facility for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities.
"If you can walk in Holy Angels and take a tour without shedding a tear you're not human," Billy Wilson said. "It gives you satisfaction that you are helping someone."
Billy Wilson, 58, will celebrate his 41st wedding anniversary in December.
Jeff Wilson said after news of his big win leaked out he had a lot of people trying to be his new best friend. Things have settled out a lot since then.
"I'm not married, but I'm not single," he said of his current relationship status.
His lady friend works a regular job and must deal with the public every day. He doesn't want to complicate her life by letting everyone know she has a friend with a lot of disposable income, so he doesn't mention her name.
Both Wilsons said they try not to think about how much money is in their bank accounts, but they concede that the money does provide a sense of security.
They also have to deal with telling some people no, a fact some find hard to believe.
"As long as the family knows what's going on and God knows what's going on, I don't worry about the rest," Billy Wilson said.