Sunday morning, 20-year-old Armani Williams was featured on “Good Morning America” for being the first driver in NASCAR to openly have autism.

A few hours later, he was celebrating his first top 10 finish.

Williams finished 10th at his home track of Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR ARCA Series race. He’s competed in the lower levels of motorsports, but this was just Williams’ second career race at the ARCA level.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It’s the fastest track Williams has raced at — as the cars approach 190 to 200 mph going into the corners at MIS.

“The adrenaline rush kicks in. You just hope the car can hold up through the entry and through the center,” Williams said. “It just kind of came to me, as soon as I got some practice laps in. Running at those speeds was definitely a lot of fun.”

The goal was to finish the race without incident, and he did just that. Riley Herbst won the race, taking the lead with 34 laps to go.

It was the third of four NASCAR races at MIS this weekend — all without fans, due to the pandemic.

Williams hopes his journey can inspire others affected by autism. He was sponsored by Centria Autism of Farmington Hills, Mich., which is a leading national provider of applied behavior analysis therapy for children with autism.

“Just because you have autism doesn’t mean you can’t do amazing things in this world,” Williams said.

The graduate of Grosse Pointe South High School is studying mechanical engineering at Oakland University near Detroit. He’s wanted to be a race car driver as long as he can remember.

He hopes to race more in the ARCA Series and eventually the Truck Series and, one day, the Cup Series.

“Just as long as you put in the hard work, just as long as you have the right support system and you believe in yourself in what you want to do in life and be successful at, many things will be possible,” Williams said.

Not only is Williams the only driver with autism in the sport, but he’s also one of only three Black drivers competing in NASCAR. He joins Bubba Wallace — who finished ninth in Saturday’s MIS Cup race — and Jesse Iwuji, who’s also a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and former football player for the Navy Midshipmen.

© 2020
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC