Apr 21, 2003
Chris Farkas, Times-Union correspondent
The Florida Times-Union
Winning came easily to Andy Williams -- at first.
Chuck Chitty won a track championship four times during the first five years Williams served as his crew chief. However, nearly six years ago, Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The neurological disease can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis and blindness.
The illness slowed but didn't stop Williams and the race team. Both have learned to live and thrive with his ailment. Last season Chitty won his sixth track championship -- and first since Williams' illness was diagnosed -- and placed ninth in NASCAR's regional late model drivers' championship points race. Williams was named NASCAR's Southeast Coastal Region True Value Mechanic of the Year.
Williams traveled to Nashville, Tenn., late last year for the awards ceremony.
"Going to Nashville was fun," Williams said of the one of the prizes he received for the the award from NASCAR. "But I think I'll let someone else take [Mechanic of the Year honors] from here on out."
It's not that Williams isn't interested in awards. He simply has his sights set on a different award: two more track championships.
"The way I see it, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt each won seven [championships], so if we can get one more then we are doing pretty good," Williams said.
Chitty has six career track championships: three at Golden Isles in Brunswick, Ga. (1991, 92 and 94), one at St. Augustine (1993) and two at Jax Raceways (1981 and 2002). Williams, 36, has been Chitty's crew chief for five of Chitty's championships. Two more championships would give him seven as a crew chief, a feat far removed from the mind of the 14-year-old boy who joined the team 22 years ago.
"I was riding my bike around the block and saw the race car in a garage and just started hanging around," Williams said. "And that's the guy I work for now."
And the guy he will continue to work for as long as his illness permits. It has already ended his career as an electrical lineman.
"Basically all I do now is work on the car," Williams said. "[The MS] doesn't affect me too badly as long as I don't get too hot or too stressed out."
That attitude represents a dramatic shift from Williams' younger days,
during which he said he would stress over everything. And as another season
at Jax Raceways is up and running, it is an attitude that faces a weekly
© 2003 The Florida Times-Union