“It’s beyond frustration,” says William, who has struggled with mechanical problems through the first half of the season at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.
“We can’t seem to get the car working right. There’s no worse feeling for a driver than watching other cars pull away from you and not being able to do anything about it. It’s awful.”
William, 17, who races out of his grandfather Alan Hale’s shop in Mt. Juliet, won Rookie of the Year last season in the Speedway’s premier All Pro Late Model division. His Rookie of the Year award put him in the track’s record book alongside such past notable rookie winners as Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton, all of whom went on to NASCAR stardom.
William also captured the first top-tier victory of his career and was in contention for the division championship until a late-season crash knocked him out of third place in the standings.
Buoyed by last year’s success, William couldn’t wait to take to the track again this season and build on that momentum.
But it hasn’t gone as planned.
“We keep having mechanical problems and can’t get it figured out,” he says. “The car’s not stable. We’re still kinda new in this division and we’re having trouble finding and fixing whatever’s wrong.”
William is a rising senior at McGavock High where he got permission to attend to take advantage of special mechanics classes. He works full-time at Home Depot in Hermitage.
Holding a full-time job in addition to working on his race car and investing most of his weekends in travel and racing seems a heavy load for a 17-year-old, but William shrugs it off.
“I don’t mind hard work,” he says. “My grandfather has always gone out of his way to help me race, and I want to do my share.”
“He’s a great kid and I enjoy working with him,” says Alan, a mechanic for some of the area’s top drivers in the 1980s. “He’s always been fascinated by cars and racing, and he has a talent for it. He’s very focused and a fast learner.”
William started going to races at the Fairgrounds when he was three, tagging after his grandfather’s heels in the garage area.
“I grew up watching those guys race and dreaming about being just like them someday,” he says.
Although he was disappointed at not winning the championship last season, William was optimistic about his title prospects this year. Now, barring a major turnaround, his championship chances are dismal.
The struggles have also thrown a wrench in his plans to branch out and race on some other tracks this year.
“We’ve about used up our travel budget working on the car,” William says. “We plan to run the winter race in Pensacola, and that’s it. Right now our focus is on trying to get back on track at the Fairgrounds.”
Having experienced the highs of last season makes it more difficult to cope with the lows of this year.
“All we can do is deal with it and keep working,” William says. “It’s frustrating to work so hard and not have better results to show for it. But that’s always been part of this sport. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.”