From the Fairway to the Speedway: Martinsville’s Williams Keeps an Eye On Blaney
Martinsville native Josh Williams always thought his career path would involve a direct relationship with a driver, just not one strapped into a race car.
The 29 year-old, who now spends his Sundays serving as an extra set of eyes and ears as a spotter for Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney, used to spend his time staring down fairways, not straightaways.
“I played pro golf for five years on mini tours,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t call it my first love, because that was racing, but it was the first thing that I wanted to do when I grew up; that I wanted to make a career of.
“I enjoyed every second, but it gets hard, just like anything,” Williams said of his golf career. “When you don’t have sponsorship to pay for entry fees and you start trying to play to make money it’s really hard. So, after a few years of my parents trying to pay for it themselves, it just got hard. It was actually a good time (to stop,) because I had just started spotting for Scott Speed at the time as a side job to make money to play golf, so it was a nice transition.”
However, racing has always been in his blood. His grandparents still live on Speedway Road, just a long par-5 away from the Martinsville Speedway ticket office. His father, Chris, operated the souvenir trailers that toured with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, before shifting into a role with Fanatics, the company that now runs the at track merchandise sales.
“It was awesome,” Williams said of growing up in and around Martinsville Speedway and NASCAR. “My dad and mom both traveled on the road until I was seven or eight, so every weekend my grandparents would take me to the race track, if it was somewhere we could drive. So, it was cool. I got to go a lot of places and see a lot things as a kid. During the summers I would go everywhere; live on the road and ride in the souvenir trailer with my parents. That was cool.
“When I was growing up we used to ride bikes around the race track. It’s a different feel when you get there.”
When the opportunity came up to transition from the links to the spotters stand, he jumped on it.
“I got into spotting from being around the drivers and golfing with them and giving lessons,” Williams said. “I was real good friends with Scott Speed and when he changed teams in 2011 he needed a spotter. He asked me to help basically as a way to get me on the road and help him with golf but get paid to be there. I would spot and we would go to the golf course on Saturday afternoons or what not and play in our down time. It evolved from there and when I stopped playing pro golf full time in 2013, I started spotting full time.”
After Speed there was a short stint with A.J. Allmendinger. Then, Williams had the opportunity to start spotting for Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing.
“It was a blast,” he said. “Growing up in Martinsville, they (the Wood Brothers) were always the home team, being from Stuart 20 minutes away. It was really an honor to get to work for them, especially growing up in Martinsville and appreciating the history that they have. Spotting at Martinsville for them was even better. There are so many Wood Brothers fans there. It was really cool to wear that uniform there.”
Now he finds himself working with Team Penske.
“It’s an honor,” he said about working for Penske. “It’s a really big organization that gets the best out of you every day. Everything there is first-class, from the people and the way they do things; the way we try to win every race. Everything is done with the big picture in mind.”
For Williams, when it comes to winning, there isn’t much that could top a win in the First Data 500 on October 28.
“It’s definitely home,” he said. “You know all the people that work there. You know all the fans. Everything about the place is really special to me.
“Winning there would be the biggest thing ever. The only that might top it would be the Daytona 500, and I don’t know if even that would top it.”
Racing returns to Martinsville Speedway this fall with two race weekends.
First is the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race on September 29.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will return to Martinsville Speedway October 26-28 for the Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions and the First Data 500.
For more information about upcoming events at Martinsville Speedway or to purchase tickets visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
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