(TOLEDO, Ohio - December 22, 2012) - Every journey begins somewhere. For Josh Williams, his four wheel adventure began with a Briggs and Stratton, a steering wheel and four all-terrain tires.
His pursuit of big time stock car racing has been a lifelong family affair that saw him go from the backyard to the big banks of Daytona. While his story may seem familiar to many, it's still, and always, worth telling.
After dabbling on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour here and there, the family-owned Josh Williams Motorsports team jumped in for the full-pull in 2012. It was an expensive choice for the humble Williams family unit out of Port Charlotte, Florida; but it was one they felt they needed to do to get the necessary exposure to keep the journey alive.
"We figured if we kept doing the partial season, you know, your name's out there, but everybody doesn't see you every weekend."
So his parents - Kevin and Theresa - packed their bags for the season-long stretch from February to October, pinched their pennies, put on their make-shift PR hats, and set out for the unknown.
There wasn't much glitz to it; the crew often stayed in campgrounds across the Midwest in between race events.
"We'd take the motorhome and my truck and trailer. We'd just hang out, fish, and spend time with the guys in the shop.
"I've been racing since I was four-and-a-half years old, and my mom's only missed a handful of races. My parents have always been supportive of me in whatever I've done throughout my whole career."
While his ‘whole career' might not seem like a gigantic span for some - after all, he's still a teenage at 19 - his career is already more than 15 years in the works.
From go-karts to quarter midgets, Williams has been behind the wheel honing his skills in search of the big time for a relatively long time. From the quarter midgets ranks, he moved into the Bandoleros and Legends Cars racing. And just before arriving in the ARCA ranks, he campaigned in late model competition and the Fastruck Series, where the family branched out into the Southeast.
With his feet wet on a traveling regional tour, it was time to go national. And the best place to do that would be the ARCA tour, which would showcase Williams at world class arenas.
All that pre-ARCA training showed up right off the bat when Williams earned an impressive three top-10 finishes in just six starts in 2011, including a sixth place finish at Salem where he also led 15 laps.
Given his stellar performance during his rookie runs, the family opted for the full tour in 2012. If it wasn't exactly what he was hoping for, his consistency over the full season was plenty good enough to rack up enough points to finish ninth overall in championship standings.
If a few things had worked out differently, he added, he could have finished higher. The race that stood out the most was on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park in July. The conditioned air that blows cool air into the helmet broke and began pumping hot air instead. Keep in mind, the ambient air temperature on that July afternoon was 102 degrees with high humidity to boot.
"They took the temperature of the inside of the car after the race and it was 260 degrees or something like that. In that case, you drive as long as you can until you can't anymore."
However, mechanical issues would end up helping Williams in late summer when his team was forced to take the car back to the shop in North Carolina where they literally rebuilt it just in time for the August 26 Herr's Live Life With Flavor 200 at Madison Int'l Speedway, the team's longest pull from the Carolinas. Their work paid off. Williams finished seventh.
"We made it a ton better; we made it a top-five car."
Williams is already preparing for the 2013 ARCA Racing Series season, which annually begins at Daytona Int'l Speedway in February. Like most up and coming racers, he hopes the world will take notice of his ARCA racing pursuits next year, which could then provide opportunities at the next level, meaning NASCAR.
"You always hope that the one person sitting in the stands or on the internet is watching, and they know where you came from and what you did with what you've had. They see that and decide to put you in that million-dollar car. That's every racer's dream."