In his second year on the ARCA racing circuit, Josh Williams understands the reality of competition. Each time he takes the track, he believes there are 10 drivers that can win a race — a factor that Williams said makes the circuit both interesting and challenging.
Williams sees the upside of having a season under his belt, but he operates at a certain disadvantage.
Even though he’s fifth in the points standings entering Friday’s ARCA Patriot Pumps 200 at Michigan International Speedway, Williams has strung together four top-10 finishes for a family-owned team with piecemeal sponsorship during the first four months of the season.
Williams said he plans to drive in ARCA’s remaining six televised races this season, as well as on road courses at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J.
“The schedule is kind of wide open,” said Williams, who finished ninth in points standings as a rookie in 2012.
Two weekends ago at Elko (Minn.) Speedway, Williams drove the No. 17 Roulo Brothers Ford instead of the car he’s competed in so far this season. Williams didn’t initially plan to travel to Minnesota, and when he arrived in Elko his initial intention was only to start and park — racing parlance for starting a race and then pulling off after a handful of laps, in order to collect prize money. Williams qualified fourth and began the short-track race.
“As the race went on, I asked them, ‘Do you want me to come in?’ ” Williams recalled.
A chance for a win took precedence over basic finances. Gary Roulo, Williams’ crew chief, had one message:
“I’ll tell you to come in when I want you to come in,” Roulo told Williams.
Williams finished sixth in the 250-lap race.
In seven starts this season, the 19-year-old is fifth in points standings (1,430), behind Frank Kimmel (1,790), Mason Mingus (1,710), Tom Hessert (1,545), and Mason Mitchell (1,435).
With 78 wins, Kimmel needs one win to tie the ARCA record of 79 wins, held by Toledo native Iggy Katona.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was very aware of that record,” Kimmel told ARCAracing.com prior to finishing third last week at Pocono. “We’re in a battle for this championship that, I guarantee you, is going to go all year long. These kids I’m racing every week want to win this championship just as bad as I do.”
Williams, however, doesn’t have the security of season-long sponsorship on the ARCA circuit. The Port Charlotte, Fla., native drives on a week-to-week basis that hinges upon sponsorship, and did not plan to compete earlier this month at Elko because of financial reasons.
At Michigan International Speedway, he’ll drive the No. 02 Ford sponsored by Southwest Florida Cable Construction, the Port Charlotte, Fla.-based company his parents own.
Williams is part of a grassroots team that shuttles from race to race and has a basic strategy: Prepare throughout the course of the week for the race and arrive at the track on time.
“I do a lot of the setup stuff and everything on our shop,” said Williams, whose team includes three friends, Tom Orlando, John Holmes, Mike Serre, and Matthew Linker. “We have a guy who hangs the bodies, but we do all the chassis work. I drive the truck and the trailer to the track, and we work as hard as we can throughout the week.”
Williams’ motivation is simply to continue driving.
“I’ve been driving something with a motor in it all my life, since I was 2½,” Williams said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever done.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.