November 27, 2010 in Washington Voices

Dad’s career puts son on similar track

West Valley freshman Blake Williams a well-respected racer
Steve Christilaw

Blake Williams, 15, a West Valley High School freshman, sits in his torn down Victory Circle Chassis super late model stock car. He drives for his father, Don Williams, left. His crew chief is Kevin Richards, right.
(Full-size photo)

It’s commonplace for young boys to dream of cars – for many, their first love sits on four wheels and drinks gas.

For Blake Williams, it’s almost been mandatory.

“My dad raced, so I grew up around race cars,” the 15-year-old from West Valley High explained. “My grandfather built and raced hydroplanes, so it’s been a big part of my family.”

While Williams won’t be eligible for his Washington State driver’s license until April 21 and, in order to drive to the track he has to have a responsible adult in the car with him, the youngster already is one of the most successful drivers at Stateline Stadium Speedway, where he holds the Roadrunner track record.

“I raced cars until a neck injury made me quit,” his father, Don Williams, said. “And I’ve had a lot of different drivers drive my race cars. Blake is one of the best I’ve ever had drive for me. He’s already better than I ever was.”

Williams isn’t just indulging his son’s fantasy – racing is serious business. WR Motor Sports business is named for Williams and his crew chief, Kevin Richards, a highly respected crew chief and former driver.

The team believes that Blake Williams gives them the best chance of winning in its 2010 Ford Fusion super late model car.

“It’s hard to explain just how good Blake really is,” his father said. “He has a knack for staying out of trouble on the track. He’s incredibly patient and at the same time, he never gives up.

“I think the most incredible thing about him, already, is that he’s so smooth. He doesn’t make any violent moves. He’s smooth on and off the gas, smooth in and out of the turns. It’s pretty amazing.”

The father-son team recently returned from a fourth-place finish at the ICAR Fall Classic in Las Vegas. Add to that a ninth-place finish in the Idaho 200.

Blake Williams was the youngest driver ever to qualify for the Montana 200, but motor problems in the first 10 laps put an early end to his night.

In the Yakima Fall Classic, the night ended even sooner.

“I flipped the car before I finished the first lap,” Blake Williams said. “The driver in front of me got sideways and I tried to get around him so that I didn’t hit him and that got me sideways, too. I hit the tires in the infield and I went up and over.

“The whole thing happened in slow motion – it really did. I remember thinking that they were going to give me a lot of crap for flipping the car before I even finished a lap.”

Don Williams, who spots for his son – giving him advice by radio during races – saw the whole thing unfold in front of him.

“They have you spot from the top of the grandstand,” he said. “I had to get down through the grandstand, over a fence and across the track to get to him and it felt like it took so long to get there. The crew was there long before I was and Blake was already out of the car and walking around.

“He said ‘Oh, Dad, I’m so sorry I wrecked the car.’ I told him ‘it’s OK, buddy – that’s racing. I’m just glad you’re OK.’ ”

In the moment his son was airborne in the car, Williams said, he said a silent thanks for spending the extra money on state-of-the-art driver protection.

“When I was racing, we didn’t pay a lot of attention to things like seats and driver restraint systems,” he laughed. “But I’m going to make sure my son is safe whenever he drives. We got the safest seat you can get for him. He has the best helmet and fire suit you can buy. We put a full roll cage in the car.

“When you see something like that happen, you know it was cheap insurance.”

It turned out that the driver in front of Williams was an old family friend and he felt awful about what happened.

“He came up to me and shook hands and told me that he was so sorry that he’d cause Blake to crash,” Don said. “I told him what I told Blake, that it’s all part of racing. It didn’t matter who was in the other car, there was no way Blake was going to hit him if there was any way to avoid it.”

The team has plans to expand next year, with Blake Williams racing in the super late model classification, and the limited late model class as well.

Meanwhile, the team’s driver plans on getting his driver’s license. Passing driver’s ed was a breeze.

“Yeah, I didn’t have any trouble with that at all,” Blake Williams laughed. “Even the parallel parking part was pretty easy. The only thing that slowed me down was the written test.”

Blake Williams already passed his driver’s test with his competitors.

“When you race cars you tend to make enemies,” Don Williams said. “That’s only natural. But even racing enemies have come up and shook my hand and told me how impressed they are with Blake.

“The crew are all dedicated to Blake, too. They’ve all told him, though, that if he ever screws up and gets involved in drugs or anything like that at all, they’re through with him. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that with him at all. I think, for him, racing is what he’s all about and that’s a good thing.”

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