In recent years, athletes from other sporting genres have been entering the world of NASCAR to add their presence…and money…to racing teams.
The latest sports star to join Coach Joe Gibbs, Brad Daugherty, and Michael Jordan as a NASCAR owner is Buffalo Bills running back Antonio Williams.
A long time race fan, Williams likes what he sees in NASCAR and the changes that have taken place in the past couple of years – most notably the fight against social justice – and is looking to pave the way for a more diverse ownership in stock car racing.
Williams began watching races with his grandfather who rooted for Bill Elliott. But when Williams saw his first race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he cheered for Tony Stewart.
His grandfather died last year and as a way to pay tribute to the man who introduced him to racing, Williams began looking into how he could be a part of the auto racing sport.
Speaking with NASCAR.com, Williams said, “if you look at basketball and football, the biggest separation between those sports is that there is not just one demographic that watches it; everyone watches those sports. What NASCAR is doing is opening the door for that type of demographic and for everyone to be a fan of it now.”
After a tweet asking for NASCAR connections, Williams received 323 replies including Nate Blasdell who is a part Joe Graf Jr’s racing team. A lunch date at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Rochester, New York was William’s first step to becoming a part of the team.
Next came a January trip to Mooresville, North Carolina and a first meeting with Joe Graf at the race shop. Williams says, “there was a great connection, and we both have the same mindset of wanting to be great in our respective sport. I definitely want to help him out in his.” Since that first meeting, Williams and Graf have bonded and are looking forward to working together.
Williams is at the track as much as possible before he has to report to Bills training camp this summer.
Williams is now an investor in the team and will help to recruit sponsors for Graf’s number seven Xfinity Series car. Williams believes that his being a part of the NFL will help to open doors that otherwise would not be open to the SS Green Light Racing team.
Joe Graf noted that Williams, “has helped so much on the business side of it. I don’t think people realize how involved he really is. He’s helped close on a lot of sponsorship deals. He’s helped start a lot of conversations with sponsors we’re talking to now.”
Williams is looking to parlay his investorship into being a car team owner at some point in the future saying, “I think it would be fun and great to have owners of diversity within the sport, other owners of diversity. I think putting myself in that position would be good for my grandfather’s legacy and the sport in general.”
feature photo credit: Joe Graf Jr’s Facebook page