DI 30 Under 30 2017: Austin Williams
Raised by a mother and father who both raced, Austin Williams began his career behind the wheel at age eight, racing Jr. Dragsters. Once he moved to the big cars, he started winning races and titles and has never looked back. The 2014 NHRA Stock world champion finished this season with a Super Comp world title and a Stock victory at the NHRA Finals at Pomona, solidifying his spot on the DI 30 Under 30 list.
“It’s cool,” he says of the honor. “There’s a lot of young people doing a lot of things in our sport, whether it’s on the track or in other various parts of the sport. To be recognized with those people, it’s a pretty cool thing.”
An engineer by trade, Williams sees his race machines as a complex math equation. Combining his love of racing with an affinity for numbers, he knew as a novice Jr. Dragster racer he had a knack for turning on win lights. “I learned early on that racing takes a lot of detail and a lot of numbers, so the better grasp you have on those numbers, the better racer you can be,” Williams adds.
The place most tied to Williams and his ability to win is Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas, where he’s won the NHRA Kansas Nationals in Super Comp an incredible five years in row. An incredible stretch for anyone, consistently winning at one of the more difficult tracks to tame has made Williams a racer to watch regardless of the venue.
“There’s a few things at Topeka, a few intricacies that I think play well into my hands,” Williams believes. “The weather’s always a little weird there. I don’t know, I’m just really comfortable coming out from beneath the tower; the fans are far away from you and it gives you that Saturday-night bracket feel where I started. It’s always just relaxing when I go there because it’s familiar territory.”
It’s hardly surprising Williams has found success in drag racing, given his very first national-event victory was against living legend Dan Fletcher. He counts that win at Belle Rose, Louisiana, as one of his most memorable for two reasons.
“One, the Sportsnationals are always huge for Stock Eliminator, so you always have a big field of cars and two, the person I ran in the finals was Dan Fletcher. Anytime you can run somebody like that in the finals and actually get the win light to come on is always a really cool feeling.
“All the wins are really cool, but that one probably still has a little bit of purpose there because I actually got it done on the big stage for the first time.”
This story originally appeared in DI #127, the third annual 30 Under 30 Issue, in December of 2017.