Josh Williams picks up the phone and before he can answer, shouts out a series of adjustments to whatever car they are working on at his development program shop, probably a Legend car or Late Model.
That is who Kaulig Racing just hired to drive their No. 11 Xfinity Series car next season — an old-school grassroots racer who was meant for the 1990s but landed in this era by happenstance.
“I say all the time, there are not a lot of old school racers left,” Williams told Sportsnaut on Thursday morning. “People tell me I give them that old-school vibe, that maybe they stopped watching for a while but came back because they really appreciate how I do things.
“I’m that old-school, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, kind of driver, and that’s what I want people to know about me.”
A good number of casual fans were first introduced to Williams during the spring Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway when in a fit of frustration with race control, parked his car on the start-finish line and walked back to the infield.
He paid for that one, both with a time-out inside the series hauler but also a suspension that followed days later but gaining thousands of fans in the process. The hand heart, his gesture of choice to the television cameras on pit road, becoming something akin to a personal branding for the remainder of the season.
Williams is a gritty racer who has always made the most of his equipment — cars that have never been on par with what the championship teams unload every week but that changes in 2024 with the Kaulig 11 car.
There was some push back to the announcement from fans who aren’t familiar with his ARCA success against names that went onto race for NASCAR championships or who don’t see the ways he maximizes even the equipment he’s in now.
He says it doesn’t bother him, that they just don’t know the differences between a team with four cars and 150 employees and one with three cars and 10 employees, but he hopes to show them next season.
“The biggest thing is that I have always driven with the mentality that I just can’t wreck this car,” Williams said. “I need it next week or we have just two guys working on it. I’m not suddenly going to start running over people but if I have a car capable of winning a given race, I can go for it. Chris (Rice) has already told me that I can go for it.
“At the same time, if we have a ninth-place car, maybe I’ll try to push for eighth but I need to just take the top-10. There’s a balance, right?”
Williams grew up racing Ross Chastain at Florida short tracks like Charlotte County, Desoto and New Smyrna and is now about to follow a similar path as an underfunded journeyman who now has an opportunity to win races.
“I called Ross and asked him about it,” Williams said. “Which is funny because we had some battles and did not see eye to eye when we raced each other back home. We’re good now so I called him and I was like, ‘you waxed the field when you got into that 42 (Ganassi) car’ so what do I need to know?
“He told me, ‘you’ll do the same things, you’ll drive the way you always did’ and you’ll just go a second faster.”
Williams and longtime marketing manager Meghan Henriques have been working towards this outcome for over a year. Williams said they first approached Kaulig at Indianapolis last summer just to understand what such an agreement would take.
Ultimately, a strong B2B alliance between Alloy Employer Services and the various companies owned by Matt Kaulig proved to make a viable racing partnership as well. Williams called the deal the ‘best of both worlds’ in terms of B2B and traditional racing sponsorship.
More than that, Williams is just excited to join a team that has such a strong family culture with the likes of Kaulig, Rice, Daniel Hemric and AJ Allmendinger.
“I love it,” Williams said. “I’ve learned so much from them already. They are good guys. Chris grew up in the sport and he’s an old school racer like me.”
This will be the first time that Williams will be able to have sim days that directly translate to the team he is racing for. While he’s enjoyed the opportunity to use the simulator, he is doing so working on a larger team’s data points, and they didn’t directly translate to the cars he was driving at the time.
All told, he has high hopes and can’t wait for the second half of next year once he finds his footing with the team.
“Consistency is going to be the key early,” Williams said. “These cars will drive completely different than anything I’ve driven before. I want top-10s every week early in the season. I need to learn what the limit is.
“And then, come the second half of the year, I really think we should be rolling and capable of doing some special things.”
And maybe, come next year, Williams can park it on the frontstretch as a NASCAR Xfinity Series winner.
Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.