BEDFORD, Texas – Texas sprint car driver-turned midget rookie Payton Williams had one of the most memorable Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals experiences in recent history, but for all the wrong reasons.
Williams started from the front row of his heat race during the fourth and final preliminary night of this year’s Chili Bowl, briefly leading the event before becoming locked in a wheel-to-wheel battle with long-time veteran Chad Boat.
The duo raced for nearly a lap before Boat and Williams touched wheels entering the third turn of the quarter-mile Tulsa Expo Center bullring, sending Williams’ No. 22X Paul Cook Racing/Melray Oil & Gas XXX-Chevrolet into a pirouetting flip.
Williams’ car slammed into a concrete barrier as it came to rest, causing visible damage to the safety cage and ripping the left-rear wheel from the suspension of the car.
As for the driver, Williams sustained a concussion and broken nose in the crash, but was thankfully otherwise uninjured and has since been recovering at home in Texas after a short stay in a Tulsa-area hospital.
He said that while he feels “much more normal” a month removed from the crash, he doesn’t actually have a recollection of the incident.
“I don’t really remember a whole lot about the crash, to be honest with you,” Williams said during a recent interview on PMN Radio’s Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show. “I remember bits and pieces. I remember, at the start of the race, how the guy to the outside of me tried to jump the start … and (the officials) had to call it back. I remember getting going pretty well, getting into the lead and then getting passed (by Chad Boat) … so I slowed (my pace) down to try and get right up beside Chad … and that’s the last I remember of it.”
“The next thing I remember (after racing with Boat) is waking up in the hospital.”
Williams admitted that the early stages of the recovery process were “really hard” on him, as he was limited to minimal activity due to some of the side effects of the concussion.
“For the first week, I couldn’t really sleep that well. Every time I would move around, I would get dizzy and really nauseated. I couldn’t stand up … couldn’t work, couldn’t move around too quickly … it was all really hard on me. There was a period where I couldn’t see through my left eye, either. … So it’s been tough for me, but after that week a lot of the symptoms really started to subside, and overall I feel fine now.”
Despite the incident, Williams added that he enjoyed being able to run with the top contenders for a brief time, especially because he had never driven a midget before this year’s Chili Bowl and was “100 percent a rookie.”
“It felt really good (to show the speed we did),” Williams said. “When I saw I was on the pole for my heat race, I thought to myself, ‘Man, I could really do something special this week.’ I knew right away, after hot laps on that Monday, that my car was fast. … It’s just a shame that things had to end like they did.”
So, even in spite of the crash, would he go back for a second shot at the Chili Bowl?
“It’s a tough question to (answer),” Williams admitted. “I would honestly do it again, but my car owner may think differently.”
Continued on the next page…