It was just two years ago when Corey Williams won the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC). That started off a PASS South season where he would chase the #51 team of Kyle Busch Motorsports and Alex Haase for the championship. Williams came up just a bit short in that goal, having to settle for second place in the 2008 standings, but the young racer still made his mark in the series, setting a record for the most victories in the tour's young history before that fete was tied by none other than Ben Rowe late last season.
Yet when the Easter Bunny 150 rolls off next Saturday, Williams likely won't be in the field to try and win it again. Two years ago, many people might have foreseen that. After all, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will be in action on the same day in South Boston Speedway (VA) and two of the three big NASCAR tours - the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series - are in action at Nashville Superspeedway on the same weekend. Surely, everyone thought back then, Williams would be strapping into a race machine in one of those places. After all, he was going places…big places.
But if Williams does sit out at Hickory, which barring a last-minute miracle is what will happen, it won't be because he has moved up in the sport. It's because, right now, he's not going anywhere in it.
“I don't have anything going on right now,” said Williams when Speed51.com caught up with him this week to check on his plans for the year. “It's just at a standstill.”
Which is just heartbreaking considering the fact that just a few years ago, Williams' story was one of those feel-good tales in sports. The Mainer started racing at the age of eight. He won just about everything in the Northeastern world of Legends car racing with a low-budget family team. He took his lumps after moving into PASS North Super Late Models, but stuck with it and didn't give up. Then Williams took a gamble and moved to North Carolina to pursue his dream. He found a home in PASS South and started to win. A lot. He attracted the eye of David Stremme and was invited to drive his ASA Late Model in a one-race deal. In true Hollywood fashion, Williams won that race.
That set up Williams' Hollywood story, but now he's still waiting for that happy ending. Which doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon. To win the races that he did in a world 1,000 miles removed from his father's auto repair shop in Coastal Maine, Williams relied on help from others. He worked on his Super Late Models in shops owned by Stremme and Andy Santerre. But Santerre sold his race team and Stremme came on hard times in the sport himself, so now Williams still has his racecar, but nowhere to even work on it.
“My racing deal is struggling pretty bad right now,” said Williams. “Unfortunately…well, I should actually say fortunately, the whole time that I've been down here, I've had free rent for my car and a workspace to keep up on it and keep in maintained. Towards the end of last year, I had to find a place to keep it and ever since then, it's been loaded in the trailer. Paying rent down here is pretty expensive and it's just one more cost that we can't afford. That's about the only thing that's holding us back.”
Williams is keeping busy with his day job, turning wrenches for the Revolution Racing team, which is the massive driver development operation of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program. That is where Williams gets to still work alongside his mentor, Andy Santerre, and remain current on the pulse of the racing world.
“I've just been keeping busy at the race shop, trying to get these cars ready to go for Greenville and the season. I've been working over here at Revolution Racing. We've got a lot going on with four East teams and six Late Model teams. So we've been busy preparing those cars and getting ready for the year.”
But just working on racecars isn't enough for Williams.
I just want to get back into the seat this year. At the end of last year, I was able to do a lot of the testing for the Revolution Racing deal. I worked with the diversity drivers and I had a good time doing that. It's kind of where I left things. I tried to find something over the winter and nothing really came about.
“It's really frustrating to just even get on the Internet and look up the racing deal right now. It's just a frustrating situation. Obviously, I love racing and I want to be racing. So to not be involved in it right now as a driver is really tough. I look at all the results and know that I could be winning those races. It's hard.”
But while Williams might not be sitting in a racecar anytime soon, don't expect him to stay away from the racetrack during his free time from Revolution Racing. You'll likely still see him signing into the pit area of a PASS South race even if he's not towing a racecar in with him.
“I don't want to be one of those drivers who stays away from the sport if he's not involved with it. I'm not that type of person. If you want to be a racer, you've got to be around it. I don't think that to just sit at home and watch the computer will help me at all, so I foresee probably being there and watching. I'd rather be driving, but we'll see what happens.”
Until then, Williams has found something even more important in his life than driving racecars. His young daughter Macie has helped make the tough times in the sport much easier to get through.
“That has been awesome,” said Williams of fatherhood. “She is so much fun. Even though I don't have a ride, I can come home and see her smile and everything is great.”