Spend enough time around racing and you’ll hear thousands of unique stories. Tyler Williams not only has one, he shares it by racing a non-wing Sprint Car at California’s Ventura Raceway, performing and recording as a country musician, serving as a motivational speaker, and telling his story through print thanks to his new book, I Have a Voice.
Like so many others, Williams aspired to compete in the top levels of NASCAR, but found himself without direction when the sponsorship money and opportunities dried up in his 20s. He now uses some of his experiences in racing to frame his writing and works helping others find and follow their passions.
“The number one thing I can say to anyone is the day your racing career ends, and you know it, turn your focus to something else immediately. That was my issue, when it stopped, I just lingered in this kind of playing the victim,” Williams says. “Obviously the feeling of going 100 miles an hour, 150 miles an hour, 200 miles an hour you can’t replace, but you can connect the same level of passion into the work you’re doing.”
He explains this based on his life in racing, noting that many former drivers have become successful crew chiefs, salesmen or PR people. However, he believes it is crucial for individuals to find their own voice and passion no matter their career or specific interest. This is especially true if their original life plan didn’t quite work out.
Williams grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and is currently based in Atlanta. He began to pursue his NASCAR dream by jumping into a Late Model (which he bought with Walmart stock given to him by his grandparents for several birthdays) and competing at paved tracks around Georgia including Lanier National Speedway, Gresham Motorsports Park, and Peach State Speedway from the time he was 19 until he was 23. He also did some testing at DeSoto Speedway in Florida and tested a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car at North Carolina’s famed Hickory Motor Speedway. There he received an endorsement from former Cup Series driver David Stremme.
He may have had the talent to advance, but just not the money or luck.
Williams stepped away from racing for several years to realign his priorities and focus on other pursuits, but over time developed an interest in dirt racing. He’d followed the World of Outlaws, but had never even been to a dirt race. After checking out some dirt racing schools he finally settled on famed open wheel competitor Cory Kruseman’s offering at Ventura Speedway in Southern California.
Williams was immediately enamored.
“I went out to [Kruseman’s] school about three years ago and ran a couple of different courses and just loved dirt racing,” Williams says. “I was sitting there going ‘this is incredible.’ It makes sense how all these NASCAR drivers talk about dirt racing being such a great training ground.”
Williams ran a couple of Sprint Car races with Kruseman, an experience he says was like being thrown to the wolves, but he learned a lot and this season decided to tackle the whole season with Kruseman at Ventura in a 360 Sprint Car. The duo also hopes to do a couple of 410 races, compete in a USAC 360 class and maybe even run some Midget races this season. It’s a lot of cross-country flying for Williams, but for him, the travel is well worth it to sling some dirt on occasion.
“You see the stories of how challenging it is, you’re searching for the best line. Is it lane one or lane five? You’re chasing the groove, always searching for that little piece of grip,” Williams explains. “I just wanted to see, one, how much fun it would be, just loving motorsports, and then once you do it you realize it’s not only fun, but it’s a huge challenge when you come from asphalt.”
Williams has adapted quickly, having turned in a number of quality finishes to propel him into his current top-five points position.
While Williams has re-ignited his love for racing of late, the University of Georgia graduate and former child actor says he’s content with the variety of endeavors that currently consume his time.
“For me it all comes down to whether I’m speaking on the stage or writing and sharing a message through the written word, singing, doing performance, or getting in a race car, I believe the mission of my life is to activate the voices and ideas of people,” he says.
His current EP is called Believe Again and he believes he has another book in him. He admits that one of his many activities may become a focus in the next few years, with others relegated to hobbies, but currently he’s happy right where he is.
“For now, things work together really well,” Williams says. “We can do them all to help show people you can do things that you one day thought were impossible.”
All photos via Facebook