For the husband and wife racing team of Mike and Darlene Williams, their 30+ hour return tow from Chicago to Alberta this week will for sure be a pleasant one…..

The Tilley-Alberta based operation earned a huge victory during yesterday’s conclusion to the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, taking first place honours over a star studded field of Top Sportsman class racers.

Mike Williams rolled his Alberta-based GXP to the Top Sportsman title at NHRA Joliet!

Mike Williams rolled his Alberta-based GXP to the Top Sportsman title at NHRA Joliet!

Originally Mike and his team had come to the Chicagoland event as one of the exclusive qualifiers for the highly prestigious Jegs All Stars event, a annual speciality race-within-a-race which was part of Saturday’s event racing schedule.

Mike had qualified his GXP as the NHRA’s Northwest division representative for the TS category and with that was laser focused on that event’s participation.

“We qualified for the Jegs All Stars race over some very good opponents in our division,” Mike explained. “I had the best points total within our own division races and had about a five round lead going into a race in Boise Idaho. My closest opponent had to win that race to pass me – but when that didn’t happen – my spot here was guaranteed.”

Mike Williams was the NHRA Division 6 TS representative for the Jegs All Stars event

Mike Williams was the NHRA Division 6 TS representative for the Jegs All Stars event

As racing fate would have it however, Mike lost in round #1 of the All Stars competition held on Saturday – by the very narrowest of margins to Georgia’s Jeffery Barker ( a scant .0009 of a second!)

But despite that initial set back – Mike (much like the hometown Stanley Cup Champions) kept his focus on the event’s other big prize, the overall event Top Sportsman title for the NHRA Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals.

After first qualifying #27 for that very competitive 32-car field with a 6.994 secs effort – it was then “game on”.

Using a super reliable and naturally aspirated 632 CID Sunset Performance Racing Engines nestled within the frame rails of a Wally Stroupe-built race car, Mike was a picture of consistency throughout eliminations.  Driving his stunning looking GXP, Mike combined great reaction times with consecutive clockwork like runs in the low 7.0 secs zone at 190+ mph.

In round four he even managed to extract a little bit of revenge when he took out Barker who had beat him the previous day — to make the final round.

Darlene & Mike Williams were joined by Mike's parents Jean and Al Williams at the Joliet event

Darlene & Mike Williams were joined by parents (Jean and Al) at the Joliet event

Then with his first career NHRA national event title win on the line — Mike delivered a 7.088 secs at 190.16 mph to defeat Michael Daniele’s NY-based Chevy Cavalier. And with that win light, Mike Williams became not only the latest Canadian winner on the NHRA national event ledger but history will also show him as the first ever Route 66 Nationals event Top Sportsman title winner. (The TS class had not been offered at all previous Route 66 Nationals events).

“Coming into this race I knew the competition would be the absolutely best there is in the Top Sportsman,” Mike added. “I appreciated just the opportunity to come and participate – that really was a big deal for me. Our plan coming here was to be fully prepared and then do the best we could.”

“Then when we got to racing and through qualifying we wanted to find our comfort zone and stick too it.  I could have played with the car and tuned it up to go faster – but there was no point messing with something that was working well.  In this class the real target is consistency and in the end everything really worked out.”

Mike was quick to cite the dedicated support he receives.

“None of these achievements would be possible without the dedication and support of my wife Darlene,” he emphasized.  “She is the greatest with every aspect of our race program — and deserves an immense thanks!”

Mike also gave a shout out to Joe Jolly (at Sunset) who was instrumental in not only the preparation of his motor program but also with help in obtaining this race car itself initially back in 2013.

“With that motor in this car – everything just clicks” he winked.

Post and photos by: Bruce Biegler