Freshman follows in dad’s race tracks

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After spending hours racing around the track at 100 mph, Denton High School freshman Hannah Williams is disappointed when her father has to drive her home from practice. Being only 15 years old, she isn’t allowed to have a license, but she can still call herself a race car driver.

“I started racing because my dad used to drive semi-pro professionally,” Williams said. “He used to drive Formula Mazdas, which are like the cars that go out before Formula One races [to] do a pre-race, like an opening show to a concert.”

She has been racing ever since she set foot in her first kart at 7 years old.

“We lived in Louisiana all my life, and we had lots of acres,” Williams said. “I had a little play-around kart that I would drive when I was little. We moved out here when I turned 7, and that’s when my dad bought me a real racing kart and I started really driving.”

She was drawn to the sport of racing because it is an individual effort. She prefers that over playing on a team.

“I’ll admit it: I’m selfish,” Williams said. “I don’t like depending on other people to do something for me. For example, with volleyball, you have six other players on a court, and you have to depend on these people to win the game. I’m really independent, and I like knowing that it’s all in my hands and that no one can mess it up. If I screw up, I screw up and I’ll take all the blame. At the same time, if I win, I have that all to myself.”

Williams has been competing for the past seven years and has won many races. Her most recent race was in November at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, Williams experienced an injury and couldn’t complete the race.

“During the first of three heats before the final, we were racing in the rain and somebody spun out in front of me,” Williams said. “I hit them and fractured my wrist. I didn’t even realize I had hurt it until I stepped off the track, because I had so much adrenaline.”

Williams’s most recent win was the Texas 500, a big national race held in Sanger. She definitely wants to continue racing in the future and make this a career.

“I’m in pro right now for my age group,” Williams said. “For my next step, next year, I’ll start driving Formula Mazda cars, what my dad drove, and I’ll get to travel all over the world. From there, hopefully I’ll get noticed by Ferrari or a NASCAR team. I’ll drive anything if someone sponsors me.”

With big plans ahead of her, Williams has several people that she looks up to for support and inspiration.

“My dad and Ayrton Senna are my inspirations,” Williams said. “Senna is a Formula One driver who died in 1994. He was in a racing accident, but he’s probably the biggest inspiration to any race car driver.”

Williams’s father stopped racing competitively in 1996.

“When Hannah was little, she had seen pictures of me racing,” her father said. “So when we moved from Louisiana to Texas, I took Hannah up to a local track that was nearby to watch a race. After that, she expressed interest, so we found a kart that was for sale and we took her driving.”

He is proud of what she does and how much she has accomplished in such a male-dominated sport. Hannah’s mom also supports her racing lifestyle but always fears for her safety.

“Racing scares my mom a lot,” Hannah Williams said. “She knows that there’s a risk of me getting hurt, but she’ll help me do what I need to do to get to the next level.”

Her father still races for fun once or twice a year.

“We are Hannah’s biggest fans,” he said. “Although we are both nervous, we are very supportive, and we know that Hannah enjoys it.”

Hannah spends several hours a week practicing on the race track for upcoming races. She spends most afternoons preparing in vigorous training.

“I don’t get to do what normal kids do,” she said. “I wish I could go to a movie on Friday night with a friend, or a volleyball game or a football game. But at the same time I tell myself, ‘No, I really have to do this, I have to eat right and exercise, because it will all pay off in the end.’”

Jordan Gill is a junior at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” program for student journalists.

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