Ahead of the curve: 13-year-old East Texan finds early success on race track
Jan. 24, 2013 at 11 p.m.
KILGORE - Three years from now, Taylor Williams will be getting his drivers license. When that time comes, the now-sixth grader at Sabine Middle School won't need much practice behind the wheel.
Fresh off his first season on the racetracks throughout the Ark-La-Tex, Williams will be honored on Saturday for claiming the overall points crown in the beginner division at Boothill Speedway in Greenwood, La.
"I've always liked watching racing on TV, but there's nothing compared to actually doing it," Williams said.
<strong>A HEAD START</strong>
A family trip to the Lonestar Speedway in the summer of 2011 sparked the beginning of what would turn out to be a weekly family getaway.
"I've always wanted to get into racing and his mom suggested that we get Taylor involved," Taylor's stepfather Gary Stuckey said. "I bought a car that year and he jumped right in."
Immediately, Williams took to the hobby, learning the ins-and-outs of racing from the ground up while working on his stepfathers' car, things from twisting bolts to assisting in motor changes.
That all changed on Christmas morning in 2011.
"I couldn't stop smiling when I walked outside and saw my car," Williams said with a smile on his face.
From then, the 6-3, 12-year-old took to the shop working on his own car and preparing for his first year behind the wheel.
"It took a lot of work, which was fun for me, but we got it ready to go for the season," Williams said.
After taking second place in his first race in March 2012, Williams brought home his first first-place trophy in June at Boothill.
When asked his favorite thing about racing is, the answer was simple: Winning.
And for Williams, that's something he enjoyed a few more times in his debut season, a lot of times against racers twice or three times his age.
"I can tell the older guys get a little upset when I finish first or second but that doesn't bother me," Williams said. "There's no intimidation at all."
Although racers in the beginner division - racing 'factory stock' or 'beginner cruiser' cars - compete for points instead of a weekly cash payout, Williams earned the mid-season points championship, an honor that carried a $500 cash reward that donated anonymously through the race track.
"There hasn't been a kid his age that has won that division in the two years that I've been there," Boothill Speedway owner/promoter Billy Jack Brutchin said. "He's a good kid, a good racer and he's learned a lot in the past years.
"A lot of that comes from starting in the beginner division, instead of doing what too many people do and jumping right into the faster cars. It's taught him a lot of things like dealing with other racers and all the smaller things that go into racing."
Williams took home the crown again at the 40th Annual Louisiana State Dirt Track Championship before closing out the season in November with a win at the Dustin Duncan Memorial, namesake of the Longview racer who passed away in 2005.
<strong>RUBBING IS RACING</strong>
Bumps and bruises are a part of racing at any level, especially on the cars, but for Williams, fixing those miscues is part of the fun.
"If I tear something up, I know what it is and where it is and how to fix it," Williams said. "That's something I picked up from the very beginning."
Along with the repairs, wrecks are common in the sport and one instance sticks out in Williams' mind.
"I saw the wreck coming and it was the scariest thing," Williams said. "The cars were coming from all sides."
"I sometimes watch the races with my hands over my face, peaking through the cracks of my fingers," Williams' mom Ellen Stuckey added.
However, that's not going to slow the 13-year-old down.
When the next season kicks off in March, Williams is taking the step to the next level of competition and will begin the season racing 'limited modifieds.'
While the beginner cruisers top travel between 50 and 60 mph and features up to 12 drivers on the track, racers in the limited modified division take to the track traveling around 80 mph with sometimes up to 20 other drivers.
"I've got my work cut out for me this year," Williams said. "It's not going to be easy, but I'm ready."
When he makes the leap to the next level, Williams will be competing against a mentor of his, Marshall native Derick Grigsby, who is entering his seventh year behind the wheel and picked up 17 wins in 2012.
"It's going to be a challenge for him," Grigsby said. "But that's what he's looking for so it should be good.
"The competition level is a lot higher, there's a lot of really good racers around here that have been racing for a long time."
Although they'll be competing against each other, Grigsby said that Williams' passion for racing is something that will help him succeed and that he'll still offer some advice to the up-and-comer.
"I tried to catch his races as much as I could and gave him some pointers throughout the season," Grigsby said. "You can tell he really loves the sport and that's what you've got to do if you're going to race, you've got to love it."
Until March, Williams will be in the family shop, preparing his new car for the next step in his young racing career.
And although it may be a few years before he gets behind the wheel outside of racing, Williams will have a jump start on the people his age off the track all while getting a leg up on the competition not his age while on the track.
"He's going to have so many bad habits by the time that comes, they won't give the license to him," Stuckey joked. "He knows that racing is for the track.
"He'll get the keys to the car."
<em>(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)</em>