Champion Car Owners Impressed With Austin Williams Debut

When it comes to creating a positive impression, veteran driver Austin Williams had some big shoes to fill when the Avanti Windows and Doors USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series opened the 2024 campaign last Saturday at Perris Auto Speedway. After all, he was the new driver for 2023 champion car owners Tom and Christy Dunkel. When all was said and done, the owners were ecstatic with the veteran driver’s initial outing in their ultra-clean #17W.

Williams, the son of National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Rip Williams, picked up the Inland Rigging ride when 2023 champion Brody Roa stepped out of the car in January to spend more time with his family. When Williams got the ride, there was a marriage of the two teams. The result is a car, driver, and crew that is one of the favorites to win the 2023 championship.

The owners began the campaign brimming with hope and they were quickly rewarded with a great qualifying effort from the Corona, California driver. He turned in a lap of 16.658. That proved to be the third quickest of the 27 cars on hand. Needless to say, everyone in the #17W camp was very happy.

In his 10-lap heat race, the driver who will be walking down the aisle on May 18th, ended up second. That was despite an issue developing with the car.

“We were extremely thrilled with what we were able to salvage,” Tom Dunkel said a couple of days after the race. “ Unfortunately, we developed some brake issues. With two laps to go in the heat race, he lost all brakes. So, we scrambled between the heat race and the main and we got brakes for him. We replaced a bunch of stuff. We got it to where he was real happy with the pedal, but as he pushed off for the main he hollered at us that he had no brakes.”

No brakes or not, Williams, who is affectionately known as “The Big Game Hunter” to all of his fans, was off to a good start. Much to the delight of the team, he was going to be a contender for the victory.

“He was doing extremely well and was trying to run the bottom, the top, and moving around,” Dunkel exclaimed. “I could not have been any more happy with him for his will to drive that thing with no brakes. It was absolutely impressive with what he was able to do.”

Things were looking good early on as Williams masterfully kept the car in contention. Then disaster struck on lap 10. Cars in front of him tangled and he had nowhere to go and got involved. Two other cars who got collected and came to a stop in the shunt with Williams were his older brother Cody and Inland Rigging sponsored Eddie Tafoya Jr. While the other two were done for the night, Williams made a quick trip to the work area where the Inland Rigging crew jumped into action.

“Unfortunately, he got tangled up there, with Tafoya and Cody,” Dunkel commented. “It ended up knocking the front end out. It was good enough to keep rolling, but with no brakes and a bent front end, to come from the back to 11th it was absolutely impressive. I could not have been any happier.”

“It was 100% a racing deal,” Dunkel stressed. “It was just one of those things where we were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Everybody was going for a limited amount of real estate. Thankfully, we were able to restart so we had the opportunity to kind of help salvage our night.”

Williams started at the back in the wounded car and masterfully drove forward for an extremely hard-fought 11th-place finish. He recorded a lap of 17.230 during the race. Amazingly, that came on lap 24 after the car was damaged in the tangle. Only six other drivers recorded faster times.

Dunkel was very happy with the way the driver and the new and old crew members meshed together. Everybody’s work and dedication promise some wins and a championship run in 2024.

“He has his driving style and he knows what he likes,” Dunkel happily stated. “It was actually super flawless. It was kind of unfortunate our results really didn’t show how good we were all night and how well we worked together on and off the track. I was extremely happy working with him and his entire crew. Rich Rustin, Paul Dean, and Joe, were there and my son Aiden was out there as well.”

“Unfortunately, Zac (team manager Zac Bozanich) had some plans and was not able to make it but he was on the phone all night long,” Dunkel said of Brody Roa’s longtime crew chief. “I cannot say enough about him. There is so much to say about his effort leading up to this race that really helped us all night.”

This week Dunkel and Tafoya were scheduled to contest the inaugural race of the Ultimate Sprint Car Series Presented By Inland Rigging at the Ventura Raceway. However, due to the impending rain, the race was postponed until April 13th.

Next for the Inland Rigging team will be two nights of racing, Friday, March 8th, and Saturday, March 9th, at the Imperial Valley Raceway during the California Mid-Winter Fair. Williams will be joined by Dunkel and Tafoya for the late winter show.

Dunkel would like to thank the following 2024 season sprint car sponsors. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, Specialty Fasteners, BR Motorsports, King Racing Products, Osborne Speed & Machine, Maverick Transport, and HBC. If you would like to join this championship team for another title run this year, please contact Dunkel using the information at the top of this release.