FF: New drivers, young and old, enter the series

68-year-old Williams ready to challenge Ford Focus Midget Series youngsters. The USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series is opening doors for many new drivers to race in 2003. Trenton Darland, Jordan Noblitt, Ryan Kaplan, Thomas Hennigan, ...

68-year-old Williams ready to challenge Ford Focus Midget Series youngsters.

The USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series is opening doors for many new drivers to race in 2003.

Trenton Darland, Jordan Noblitt, Ryan Kaplan, Thomas Hennigan, Willie Magrell and JR Williams will all begin a USAC Ford Focus Midget driving career on the short tracks of California and Indiana during the 2003 season. Each of these drivers is attracted to the series by its affordability and close competition. All are looking forward to racing and hopefully notching their first USAC victory. The only difference is JR Williams is 68 years old, while the others are all 16 or 17.

Williams began his racing career in the early fifties, driving '37 Ford two-doors and coupes at the dirt and paved short tracks in Northeastern Pennsylvania "using an I.D. with a fake birth date." While in college in Flint (MI), he competed at the Owego (MI) track.

Williams picks up his story, "When I got out of college and moved back to Pennsylvania, the AAA gave up racing and USAC was born. I ended up getting #5 Sprint Car license, and although I never got to do much with it in USAC, I was always proud of it." During the late fifties, he got an ARDC license and raced an ancient Ford 60 in a rail frame. He didn't have much success with ARDC, but did do well in the Tri-State Midget Association in Western PA, New York and Eastern Ohio. Williams had the opportunity to compete with Bob Harkey, Mario Andretti, Bill Randall, "Crocky" Wright and dozens of others.

By the time Williams was in his early thirties and prospects began to look up for him in Offy powered midgets, an opportunity as a pilot at Hawaiian Airlines opened up, ending Williams' racing career. After retiring, he and his wife Jaslyn sailed the South Pacific for five years. "During all that time, the only thing I missed was race cars," remembers Williams.

A trip to a race in Placerville (CA) was all it took to rekindle his interest in racing. In 2001 Williams won the Rookie of the Year award in the Northern California Dwarf Car Association at age 66. After a 2002 trip to the Indy 500 and the Speedrome, Williams had the desire to drive a midget again. A call to Tommy Hunt, USAC VP/Western Operations, along with a trip to Bakersfield Speedway, sold him on the USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series.

When asked why he chose the USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series, Williams responded, "Primarily, it's because I can afford it. I don't want any winged cars - in my opinion wings are for airplanes. I don't want any dozens of classes that confuse everyone. I want a midget, and I want something I can run in a well established organization such as USAC."

Williams finished his story by saying, "How long do I intend to race? As long as the Good Lord allows, provided I remain competitive. When I'm no longer competitive, then I'll sit on the sidelines."

For more information regarding the USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series, contact the USAC offices, 317-247-5151.

-USAC-

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About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Mario Andretti , Bill Rand , Ryan Kaplan , Jordan Noblitt
Teams Williams