Ann Marie's All Stars: Armani Williams inspires as a race driver with autism

Posted at 11:04 PM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-13 23:04:04-04

A Grosse Pointe teen is living his racing dream despite the challenges he faces with autism.

Armani Williams is taking the racing world by storm currently leading the rankings for Rookie of the Year in the ARCA Truck Series.

With his persistence, Williams is breaking stereotypes and giving hope to children and families affected by autism around the country.

 “I started racing in the junior go cart division,” Williams said.

At just 16-years-old he’s definitely a rookie on the rise.

“I love to go fast and I love how the competition is in the sport,” he said.

Out on the track he’s just like everyone else, doing whatever it takes to win.  Williams has become the highest finishing African American in the history of the ARCA Truck Series, heading down the fast track to becoming a NASCAR driver.

“He’s a racer, then he’s a racer with autism,” Spear Motorsports team owner Steve Perkins said.  “But the story there of him being able to overcome the challenges in front of him to be successful in the truck has been amazing.”

Diagnosed at age two, Williams doesn’t shy away from what makes him unique.

“Many autism kids including myself we have a lot of difficulties through life,” he said. “Social interaction skills and we have a lot of difficulty with communication and some of them deal with repetitive behaviors and other less typical behaviors.”

Unashamed, he’s put his mission right on the side of his truck- inspiring the autism community everywhere he goes.

“Every city that we go to what we do is connect to a local autism association and we provide them with free tickets which gives them the opportunity to spend the day at the track and for me it gives me the opportunity to meet with a whole group of autism kids,” he said.

He’s become their hero.  No matter where in the country Williams races, the cheers always seem to be the loudest for the humble and brave Grosse Pointe South High School Junior.

“If they have a dream, go for it!” he said.  “And work hard for it and that dream will happen.”

At races, kids and adults wait in line for autographs and just a chance to meet the guy proving what so many said he couldn’t.

“For many others whether they want to be a musician or artist or a sports player I want those people to remember me as the guy who always continued his journey, never gave up, he was always a hard worker to get where he wants to be,” Williams said.

As the hunt for sponsors continues- and he gets more laps under his belt, there’s no doubt one day we’ll see Armani Williams rubbing fenders with NASCAR’s elite.

“Winning is everything you know and basically getting good finishes and winning a championship is a good thing,” he said. “It’s really been a long journey ahead of us you know, we’ve worked so hard over the years just to get where I need to be.”

Williams next race is July 23rd at Columbus Speedway.  You can find his full schedule on his website.