continued Williams drives a 2002 Dodge Stealth that he constantly modifies. He is leery of street-race risks and notes the more official version of drag racing at legal venues better prepares him to go professional someday. In what is only a hobby so far, he has learned to care properly for his car and to drive faster, taking a full second off his times at Qualcomm. He thinks that 80 percent of winning is due to the skill of the driver.
"I've seen a Viper run 14 [seconds] at Qualcomm," says Williams, "and it is supposed to run 12. A bad driver in a fast car won't run fast. Reflexes in getting off the line are important. And the shifting of gears. A lot of people who think they shift fast are shifting slow. And the rpms, when to change gears, that's a big part of it. The driver will make a car shine.
"But when a car is way more overpowering than another car, that's when the driver gets taken out of the picture. If one car has 400 horses and the other only 125, then, of course, no matter how bad the first driver is, he's going to eventually roll past the second one."
The longer the race, the greater the advantage of the more powerful car. And that points to one other disadvantage some drivers see at Qualcomm: its races are only an eighth of a mile long. And the car's horsepower is not the only issue. "If I had a front-wheel-drive car," says Williams, "I would not look good out there without certain things. Now they're allowing slicks, which makes it better. But it is still not a quarter mile. So you're going to stay in first and second gear. You could possibly hit third, but you're not getting into the high speeds."
Carlsbad Raceway does have a quarter-mile track, and its 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule every Saturday gives racers more opportunities than Qualcomm, which, during baseball season, could only provide Friday-night races every two or three weeks. But the surface of Carlsbad's track is poor, says Williams; it doesn't have enough seating facilities for spectators, and people have to drive a dirt road to get there.
So street racing still seems destined to lure some people into taking the risk of killing innocent drivers as well as themselves. But, says Williams, "You have to look at the term 'street racer' in a bigger context. People will try to race you on the highway in any type of car to prove that they can beat you to a lane or to a spot. Age doesn't seem to matter. People have that urge.
"This morning," he continues, "I was trying to get in another lane on the freeway so I could get off on the ramp. A guy in an SUV supercharger, seeing my car, he says, 'I'm going to show him that I've got something.' That's what you call a street racer too. You've got to expand the whole picture.
"Every automobile manufacturer tries to express how good their line is through performance cars, like Mercedes AMG and the Mustang Cobra," says Williams. "Fast cars have always been attractive to many people. So now you have people modifying their SUVs. Things like that are common. Everyone likes the power and speed."