2x NHRA National Champion, 3-time #2 finisher in the World, 7-time JEGS Allstar representative, 13-time NHRA National Event winner, 15-time NHRA Divisional Event winner, and 5-time Track Points Champion. You name it, Austin Williams has done it.
Recently, Austin accomplished a feat that everyone who competes in the NHRA series wishes to accomplish: A win at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
A Little INDY Magic
Austin’s win at Indy was a little bit different than everyone else’s. He won a heads up H/SA race against Matt Antrobius, who had a huge advantage over Austin, so they thought.
Normally in a heads-up race, the faster car wins. But in Austin’s case, he threw a .000 light at Matt and got to the finish line first by .096 to take home the trophy, even though he was almost a full hundredth slower than Antrobius.
“After I won with 16 cars left, I told my parents we needed to find ice,” Austin said. “My mom kept telling me we didn’t have a heads up yet, but with it being Monday evening the concession stands were closed. I knew then what could potentially happen.”
They were throwing the kitchen sink at the car, and in the famous words of Randi Lyn Shipp, they were going to “hang the rods out of it” to get the win if they had to. Austin thought he could get within 5-6 hundredths of Antrobius and could potentially steal some on the starting line, and that’s exactly what he did.
“Indy is vastly different than any other national event. The ambiance and surrounding air around the event makes you realize when you are there that this race is THE BIG GO and it still holds that weight after all these years,” Austin stated. “My experience was great, I got to hang out with some of the best people for a week, and nothing beats that.”
Austin said the worst part of Indy is the waiting. He made his last run in class eliminations around noon on Thursday and somewhat 68 hours later Stock Eliminator was in the lanes for first round on Sunday morning.
“Staying focused over time is the hardest thing, but I look at it a different way. You don’t have to stay focused the entire week, but rather periods of intense focus for a short period of time.”
There was a tie between first round and the final round being the toughest run of the weekend for Austin. The final round, for obvious reasons: a heads up, being behind in performance, final round at Indy, etc. First round was tricky, though.
“I actually made a TERRIBLE run. I hadn’t made many runs on that current setup due to my car being on kill mode in qualifying for class, so picking a dial was critical and it didn’t make it any better that I was running a 8.50’s car, and I run 11.20’s.”
Austin missed the tree and the dial both, but thankfully his competitor went red. He stated that he got lucky, but that round helped him dial for the entirety of the event.
Breaking the Internet
“I had no idea my win at Indy would create so much attention, but Randi Lyn Shipp and Chase Huffman had other plans,” Austin said. “I have a great group of friends that chose not to work Tuesday and instead make memes and things to blow up Facebook with. From a script standpoint, winning Indy in a heads-up final, perfect on the tree, you can’t script better than that.”
How it all Started
Waxahachie, Texas native Austin Williams was introduced to the sport at a very young age. In 1992, Austin’s dad purchased a 1969 Camaro for $600. After making the mistake of letting his wife (Austin’s mom) drive the car at Kennedale for a Powder Puff race, he lost his ride and the itch to buy another race car was born.
Austin started racing juniors when he was 8 years old in 1998. Both of Austin’s parents still race today. His mom runs a handful of Super Street races throughout the year and his dad plans to attend the $10,000 to win 7.0 index race in November after being out of the driver’s seat for awhile.
The Marlows came along to the Williams Family back in 2003 when they were attending the JDRL Western Conference Finals in Denver. Thomas Marlow and Austin were on the Texas Motorplex Team. Their families had a great time getting to know each other.
“We’ve had some of the best times over the years,” Austin said. “We have been lucky to have a moderate amount of success together.”
Austin first got introduced to Stock Eliminator by the Marlow family. Back in 2008 Austin was entered in the NHRA National Event in Dallas, TX and Butch Marlow asked if he wanted to race his 1977 Volare in H/SA. Austin ran the car there, and ever since Stock Eliminator has been one of his favorite classes to race.
On the NHRA tour
“I chose the NHRA side instead of the big money bracket races because I enjoy the downtime, socializing, and people that we race with on a regular basis,” Austin stated. “At this type of racing, you race many different elements beyond the opponent in the other lane and I really enjoy that. You are fighting weather, equipment, mentality. It’s like a giant puzzle you are trying to find the pieces to.”
Another family close to Austin and his family is the Butner clan. Austin was first introduced to Bo and Randi Lyn through racing Stock in 2013-2014. Over the years, a great friendship has blossomed while hanging out in the pits and discussing weather and strategy for the next round in the lanes. Austin says he is only a “part-time crew member” and basically just does whatever Darrel Herron (Bo’s crew chief) tells him to do. Darrel runs a tight chip, complete with a sailor mouth.
“The Pro Stock stuff is very interesting. As a sportsman racer, it’s a mecca of racing for me,” Austin said. “That would just be the dream. There are so many moving parts with Pro Stock and everything really has to come together to make a perfect run. Not one person stands out; rather everyone has a job to do.”
“It makes you realize from a sportsman standpoint that paying attention to the little things, rather than the big things, can make the most difference,” Austin said.
A Championship Racing Program
Austin races two classes primarily in the NHRA, Stock and Super Comp. Coming off his big win in Indy, Austin races a 1972 Plymouth Duster with a 340 engine built by Brad Van Lant in Stock Eliminator. In Super Comp, Austin pilots a 2019 Miller Dragster with a 632 BBC engine built by PAR Racing Engines.
“The competition still drives me to this day,” Austin said. “We are racing in a generation of great talent and equipment. It is getting harder and harder to win these days, but that just makes the win sweeter and sweeter each time.”
Racing at the national level is extremely rewarding, according to Austin. The toughest part is blocking out the noise. One you block out the noise, the racing is really just the same as a local race.
“The amount of work, effort, and commitment that go into racing at this competitive of a level really adds up,” Austin stated. “Everything really comes into effect in the off-season. Planning a schedule and putting work into my cars is important, as well as all the little details.”
“I plan a schedule of 14 events in the off-season and put as much effort into those races as possible. I still hit an occasional bracket race from time to time, but to focus on those 14 events is my main priority.”
There are two things Austin still wants to accomplish in racing. One is a JEGS Allstars win and the other is a Division 4 Bracket Finals win. Austin has been in the Allstars final twice in Super Comp, while also being an Allstars representative 7 times. Growing up, the Williams family was always around bracket racing. With the bracket finals being the biggest race of the year, the dream is to win the race and go to Pomona.
“The hardest part of drag racing is fighting the internal battle with yourself,” Austin stated. “You are awake for 12+ hours, yet only spend a combined total of 5-10 minutes on the racetrack. The hardest part isn’t what happens on the racetrack, it’s what happens between the runs in your head.”
A Special Thanks to Mom and Dad
When it comes to racing success, Austin contributes all of it to his support team (his parents). He is always steadily looking for improvements. The three of them contribute in various ways, whether it be Momma’s famous breakfast burritos or Austin’s crocs.
“I would like to thank my parents first and foremost. They have halted their own racing and spend their free time helping me chase my dreams. We do this as a team, complete and whole-heartedly. The Marlow family, they have given me an avenue to continue my racing and there’s no way I would be where I am today without them. Miller Racecars, Goodyear Tires, Rick and Chase Huffman at Accelerated Graphics and AGS Tire and Service, FTI, PAR Racing Engines, and Scott Turnbough at Quality Compressor.”
“Anyone this far in reading, CHASE YOUR FREAKING DREAMS. Continue to fight like hell until they happen. They will happen. In 2014, I got to share the stage in L.A. with Luke Bogacki and Edmond Richardson. We all started at Texas Raceway, in different generations but it was one of the coolest things I have ever done,” Austin Williams shared.
About the author: Megan Strassweg is a 21 year old Super Comp racer from Louisville, Kentucky. She races a 2015 American Dragster sponsored by Coolshirt Systems. Megan is a student at Western Kentucky University and is pursuing a degree in Photojournalism with plans to graduate in May 2020. Megan works at Jim Butner Auto in the Finance Department. Growing up at the racetrack, drag racing is all she has known and never plans to give up on it.
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