NASCAR Drive for Diversity combine caps busy year for Armani Williams
Michigan native and NASCAR Drive for Diversity candidate discusses competing in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series and at this year’s combine event recently in Florida.
When Armani Williams looks back on the 2017 season one day down the road in his NASCAR career he might say ‘that was the year that got it all started for me in NASCAR.’
That’s because the 17 year-old Detroit, Michigan native had a busy year that could pay dividends for him in his NASCAR career for years to come.
Williams just finished participating in the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine held in Daytona Beach, Fla., as he will attempt to become one of the newest members of REV Racing – the team that fields cars for the diversity program participants in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions.
While this wasn’t the first time he was invited to participate in the combine, Williams felt this year might be different for him.
“There were a lot more people involved in the Combine and NASCAR did some new things with all of the candidates to get to know us more as people and not just drivers,” Williams said.
Williams started in a Late Model car and was going to test a K&N Pro Series car before weather issues ended any opportunities to drive the car during the Combine’s second day.
“Although I didn’t get to go on the track with the K&N car just to be asked to go from a late model to the next level showed me how much I’ve improved,” said Williams.
Some of that improvement can be credited to competing in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series over the summer.
Williams made five starts in the Canadian national series in a car prepared by two-time series champion D.J. Kennington.
Williams scored a season-best finish of 11th at Delaware Speedway located just across the Canadian border close to his Detroit home and more importantly, gained valuable seat time and experience.
“My family and I were trying to put something together to race last year when NASCAR made us aware of an opportunity in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series,” said Williams. “I really appreciate NASCAR, DJ and everyone involved as driving in those five races really helped me.”
Williams said set time in the stock car helped prepare him for the combine.
“I just wanted to focus on learning the car and getting used to running longer races,” said Williams. “The NASCAR Pinty’s Series races were 250 to 300 laps and that gave me a chance to learn about race strategy and taking care of your equipment. It was a great experience for me.”
It will be a few weeks before Williams knows if he’ll be one of the four drivers selected from the combine to drive for REV Racing next season and the teenager is ready to move forward no matter what the outcome.
“Obviously we hope we are one of the drivers selected by REV Racing and NASCAR to be a part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program,” said Williams. “The program has proven to be successful for several drivers that you see racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series today.”
Williams was also happy to hear the news that NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Darrell Wallace Jr. was recently named the full-time driver for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018 joining other graduates Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson who have already reached NASCAR’s premier series.
“He (Wallace) was part of the combine and when I see that he made it to the top of NASCAR, that tells me that I can make it, too,” Williams added. “Seeing him make it really motivates me and it shows that anything is possible in NASCAR.”
NASCAR and REV Racing invited 12 participants with four being selected for the 2018 season. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.