66-year-old hopes to 'dwarf' the competition

It's not too often that someone receives the chance to do something they really love twice in a lifetime and Carson City's J.R. Williams wasn't about to allow his age to prevent him from becoming a race car driver again.

The 66-year-old retired airline pilot became the oldest rookie - and driver - in the Northern California Dwarf Car Assocation this year and he made it a successful season. He finished as the association's Rookie of the Year and in 15th out of more than 35 drivers in the final standings, "which isn't bad for the oldest driver you have in the club."

"I didn't even know what they were until I saw one race," said Williams about dwarf cars.

Williams gave up driving race cars 37 years ago to pursue a 31- year career with Hawaiian Airlines. It's a decision that Williams said was one of the toughest he ever made.

After retiring at age 60, he and his wife spent five years cruising the South Pacific in a sailboat and then returned to Carson City.

A friend turned him on to dwarf cars. Williams eventually became involved in racing the dwarf cars that are faster than the midget cars that he used to race.

"I'm back in the race game," he said. "The good Lord gave me a second chance."

Depending on the size of the track, dwarf cars can reach speeds of 75 to 95 miles an hour and more than 100 miles an hour on the larger tracks. Williams competes in a 1934 Ford.

The cars must weigh at least 1,000 pounds and have a maximum-1250 CC motorcycle engine. They can be nor more than five feet in width and 38 inches high. "They're small and fast," Williams said.

Something else that's different from when he raced before is how much more safety is stressed. When he first raced, Williams wore a t-shirt and sneakers, which is much different from the "fire suit" that he wears now. "A lot of safety compared to when I used to drive," he said.

The Northern California Association is the biggest and fastest in the country, Williams said.

Williams also said he likes it that way because he didn't want to learn "with slow guys. We have the fastest guys."

The races can be rough at times, but they are fair, Williams said. "It's sort of a contact sport," he said.

It's not a cost-prohibitive sport, either, Williams said. "They're fairly economical," he said. "You can buy them from anywhere from $4,000 on up."

At 66, Williams was 50 years older than the youngest driver at 16 during this past season. The age difference between the two was more than the age of most of the drivers who raced this year.

Williams, who will race in an upcoming event in Tonopah, said he hopes that he's showing to those his age that they can still pursue their dream no matter what it is.

When asked how long he'll keep racing, Williams said, "As long as the good Lord lets me. Probably three or four more years. I'll probably go until I'm 70."

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