With a history of great successes over the seasons for California resident Steve Williams at "The Strip" at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his latest feat in Super Gas during the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals continues to solidify his near domination at the facility. Williams added yet another final round appearance in his 1963 K&N Corvette Roadster, just missing the Wally by a mere three thousandths of a second.
Steve Williams drives his Super Gas Corvette to the final round in Las Vegas
Coming into the most recent Las Vegas national event, Williams, along with many of his fellow racers, had just competed at the venue two weeks before for the NHRA JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals, presented by K&N Filters.
"We race in Vegas three to four times a year and I think the interesting thing about this is that everybody had just been at the SportsNationals," pointed out Williams, V.P. at K&N Engineering. "So, even though we only got two time runs, most of us had all just been at that track. I mean there were one hundred and ten Super Comp and Super Gas cars and there were twenty dead-on passes right off in the first run, so we all knew it was going to be a blood bath."
"When they called first round of eliminations, it was seven in the morning and it was really cold," he reflected. "I don't know why they called Super Gas second class out. If the track temp is under seventy degrees in a Super Gas car, you are really going to be moving around out there. Well I raced Eddie Oplin first round and he has about the same mile-per-hour that I do. I'm telling you, we were both all over the place."
"First round was actually the luckiest round because I just happened to get there first, even after moving all over the race track," he added.
Williams also competes in the quicker index category of Super Comp, but wasn't as fortunate in the opening round. "I made a mistake and gave it back by two thou in the dragster," he admitted. "I was pretty upset since I had a better light and I did everything that I wanted to do, I just misjudged the finish line. I think that actually gave me a little extra motivation in [Super] Gas."
That would be the only round of competition for the Super Gas class during Friday's activities and the next several planned for Saturday. Williams and his K&N Corvette worked together like a well-oiled machine to sail through each one. "I was ten, ten and twelve on the tree each of the first three rounds and I have thirty-one [delay] in the box," he said. "The car was just perfect. I ran three 10.05's [Super Gas Index for Las Vegas], I was right where I wanted to be. I was holding about one or two [hundredths]."
After putting away Oplin, Brad Pierce and Steve Parsons it set Williams up for a huge match-up with fellow K&N racer, Luke Bogacki for a shot to earn a bye that would take the winner into the semi-finals. "It was a great race, obviously he is a great driver and gets the opportunity to race a lot more than I do," noted Williams. "Normally I would hold a little bit, but in this case, I felt like if I hit the tree I could get on about a mid-10.05. And since I run about 170 mph and he runs about 155 mph, if he's going to take the stripe, he's going to be set up fast and will have to do a really good job, if I'm on time."
"I set the car dead-on, I'm .008 and he's .006," he continued of the round with Bogacki. "At about 1100 feet, he's about a car and a half out and he starts backing into me. He did a really good job and was trying to take about a foot and a half, but when we crossed the stripe, I just fed him about two or three feet, so I'm 10.054 and he's under with a 10.043."
Steve Williams has a passion for racing that also translates into his work at K&N
Not only was it a big round to get past Bogacki, but by driving it well, Williams had now earned a competition bye that would shoot him right into the semi-finals. It was during his single round that the K&N racer feels he could have played it a little better. "I really just wasn't believing what I was seeing. During my bye, I packed the [delay] box full since I didn't want anyone to know what I was capable of or what my light would be," he confessed. "It showed me that the race track was about ten thou slower in reaction time and sixty foot had also slowed down ten. I didn't really believe it, I left the thirty-one in the delay for the next round."
"I crushed the tree and as I left the line I was thinking man, that had to be a .005 or at least a .010," he continued to explain his semi-final match up with Rob Willis. "I got by him but when I got my [time] slip I was really surprised to see that I was only .023 on the tree. I told ‘Ferd' [Mike Ferderer], I tell ya, I murdered that tree and to be .023, I really need to take some out for the final."
In preparation for his final round match up with Steve Apted, Williams followed his gut and took .010 [ten] out of his delay box and rolled up to the lanes in hopes of repeating his 2010 Super Gas victory at this same event.
"I've raced Steve before and I have a pretty good record against him," he said. "I had the left lane again, which is what I wanted. The way the sun was going down, the bulb had a little half-moon in it that was dark and the sun was on the other side of the tree. I saw the dark spot and thought I would see that better and thought I better put that ten back in the delay."
As the final round played out, neither driver had the best reaction time, but it was Apted's .039 that gave him just the slight advantage he needed over Williams' .042 to run dead-on the 10.05 index, while forcing Williams just under the number.
"That ten was the race right there," admitted Williams. "If I just would have left that alone, it would have made all the difference in the world. I took two-thou stripe and felt really good when I left. I didn't feel late. The odd thing is, the sixty foot slowed down another ten and if you do the math, we were just losing reaction time in all those late rounds and I just didn't catch it."
While Williams didn't grab this national event win, he still added to his ever impressive NHRA national event final round total which includes five finals with four wins in Super Comp and now six finals with two wins in Super Gas.
With one event left on the table Williams is already looking ahead to 2013. "I feel like I learned a lot this year and both cars ran really good. One of the best things is that I know I can still be very competitive," he said. "There are lots of new things on the table for next season, including a new American Race Cars dragster with a new 665 ci Brodix that based on what the 622 was doing in the quarter on the stop, should go over 190."
"With my job with K&N, it's not always easy to commit four days to being at a national event. But the company really supports me and wants me to race," he smiled. "They want me to get out there twelve to fifteen times a year, as I plan to do again next season, and that also really helps me to know what is going on. Just like with the guys that are thrilled that K&N is helping with products on the tow side of their operations now, too. The guys that have switched to K&N's new heavy duty filter for their big rig tow vehicles are very pleased with the results that they are experiencing."
"That is all a part of me being out there," he continued. "Supporting our partners, our racers that are out there and continuing to look into new products that we need to develop, it's really quite a group effort that I'm very happy to be a part of."
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