Being a standout NHRA driver who never won a world championship is a label Steve Williams wanted to shed.

And, he did exactly that this past season.

Williams, K&N’s Chief Engineering Officer, was crowned the 2018 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Super Comp World Champion.

“I have probably had a legitimate five opportunities where it came down to having to go a lot of rounds or win a race here or there (to win a world championship),” Williams said. “I’ve had chances through the years, but this was the first time I was able to survive.”

With the journey completed, he reflected on his prestigious achievement.

“I’ve certainly enjoyed a lot of success through the years and I’ve won a lot of national events and Division (7) races,” Williams said. “Every year they do the Tricky Tipster and my name would come up and all of sudden the last five or six years I started hearing from some of the NHRA staff and others that my name started being one of those guys that was a pretty accomplished racer who never won a championship. I think when people ask that question I say the first thing is relief because now I will not have to get asked that question anymore.”


Williams acknowledged his success was a team effort.

“We do the motors in-house and obviously you get so much help in this sport,” Williams said. “We’ve had the same combination for about three years. I had a legitimate chance to win the championship in 2016 and came up about three or four rounds short. I felt like that built some momentum this year.”

Williams is based out of Riverside, Calif.

“That is the home of K&N and where the company started,” Williams said. “We’re literally like two miles from the garage that started K&N, so it has been a historical company there in the area for a while.”

Williams said he uses racing as an outlet from his position as K&N’s Chief Engineering Officer.

“It (racing) is a stress relief,” Williams said. “My responsibilities through the years at the company obviously changed and got to the point where I couldn’t race without K&N’s support. I have Travis Hodges who drives the truck and trailer and is the crew chief and gets the cars ready, so without somebody physically to get the car to the track I couldn’t race without that. I will say this, obviously it is a little more than a hobby. When you race at that level, you need high-quality people and the car has to be maintained at a high level.

I try to always get there a half day early and it is a break away from business, which can be stressful. The cool part is that it is the business that K&N is in and it is all kind of together. We started manufacturing oil filters probably 10 to 12 years ago and now it is part of the mainstay of our business. We’ve developed a lot of key components through the years, whether it is the hood scoops we run on dragsters and we also built filters for NASCAR, and Formula 1 also runs our filters. I do think the company has this luxury of not only selling high performance products to performance people and people who care about their cars, but we also build products that are really used in racing.

If I don’t have a good day racing, at least I’m out at the race track and doing other things to help promote the company.”

Williams also has no plans of retiring from racing anytime soon.

“I’m still having a good time,” he said. “My wife, Janet and I, we have a 15-and-half-year-old daughter (Shelby) who has driven through the Juniors and next year she is going to start bracket racing and I have a Stock Eliminator car. So, I think the Williams family is going to be racing for a while. There’s no doubt I don’t want to have the sophomore jinx (next year). I run in both Super Gas and Super Comp and I have a really good Super Gas car. It is interesting, I’m already in my early 60s and it is not like I’m one of the young guys, but I still feel like I can be competitive with any of the top drivers.

That’s the luxury of our sport and I don’t think people realize that, you’re standing on the stage with a 28 or 29-year-old and you also have a guy who is older than me. It is the beautiful thing about Lucas Oil Racing and NHRA racing that you can still be competitive even if you’re not in what people would think is your primary or most competitive years. It’s not like stick and ball sports. You can still drive at a world championship level and I think that’s what I love about the sport.”