LAS VEGAS – For the third straight time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Josh Williams had a career day in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, posting a 16th-place finish in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300.
Williams was able to avoid the chaos of two overtime attempts and keep his No. 36 JoeFroyo Chevrolet in one piece, snaking his way through a multi-car accident during the first green-white-checkered attempt to give himself a shot on the final restart.
After battling the handle on his car all afternoon long, Williams and his team finally found speed when it counted, having saved a set of tires just in case a late caution flag waved.
The gamble paid off with 12 to go, when Jairo Avila Jr. spun to bring out just the yellow Williams needed.
“We struggled all day long because we had lost a lot of front-end grip, and anything that we made up we would end up losing (over the course of a run) really badly, so we just kept working on it and working on it … and made it better, but never really got the problem solved,” Williams recalled. “When that late caution came out, we knew it had a chance to work out, because we still had a set of tires left to put on.
“I just had to utilize those last couple of restarts and be as aggressive as I could,” he added. “I don’t remember if it was the final restart or the second to last one, but on one of those overtimes, I was four-wide going into (turn) one, trying to get all I could get because I wasn’t sure if they’d get back around.”
Despite the fact that his highest three finishes in the Xfinity Series have all come at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval, Williams struggled to put his finger on what has made Sin City so good to him lately.
“I’m not sure what it is, because I’m definitely not lucky when I go to Vegas, but we bring really good race cars to the race track and I think this is good proof that Mario (Gosselin) has really put a lot of time and effort into his mile-and-a-half program,” Williams said. “I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for Vegas, too, with how the races play out there and how the lane changes throughout the race.
“I don’t feel like we’re done, though; I think you’ll see that career-best change a few more times this year.”
Team owner Mario Gosselin was equally pleased with his driver’s performance, with Williams’ 16th-place run tying DGM Racing’s highest-ever finish on an intermediate track, set last September by Alex Labbe in the No. 36 Chevrolet.
Oddly enough, the mark also matched the finish Gosselin earned in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut as an owner/driver back in 1998 at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway.
“Today was an extremely positive day for Josh and our DGM Racing team,” said Gosselin. “Josh did a great job keeping his car clean all race long and avoiding the chaos that broke out on the final few restarts. His knowledge of the race car and ability to give feedback from his own experiences working on his equipment makes the team’s job easier and is something any team owner hopes to have in their driver.
“We obviously have more that we want to accomplish, but this gives us some momentum going into the remaining two races of the West Coast swing and we hope to build on that.”
Williams agreed with his owner’s assessment and hopes the one-mile ISM Raceway in Arizona is the site of the team’s next standout performance on March 9.
“This definitely feels great. It gives us a lot of good momentum going into Phoenix,” Williams noted. “It’s more of a short-track race and I’m more of a short-track racer, myself, so I feel like it’s a good opportunity for us to run more inside the top 15 and make some noise all day long. We’ve had good cars in the past and had some decent finishes there already that we can lean on to start.
“It might only be one spot, but I feel like we’re going to be even better this coming weekend.”