“Slow” is not a word race drivers like to use.
But that’s how Wilson County’s William Hale describes his season at the mid-way point.
“It’s been a slow year, to be honest,” says Hale, 20, when asked how the season is going. “We haven’t been terrible – we’ve had some good qualifying speeds and run in the top 10 in most races – but it hasn’t been good, either. Something’s missing, and we’re trying to figure out what it is.”
Three years ago Hale won Rookie of the Year at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, joining such past famous rookie award winners as Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton.
Bright, personable and articulate, the young racer seemed on the verge of contending for championships.
Suddenly he began to hit potholes.
“If something could go wrong, it did go wrong,” Hale says. “I was leading one race when the power steering went out. Another time it was an ignition problem. Then we blew a motor. Stuff was breaking, and it was one mechanical failure after another. Sometimes it seemed like the whole world was against me.”
Magnifying Hale’s frustration was the success of fellow Wilson County driver Dylan Fetcho, who won last year’s track championship and is in contention to repeat this season.
Another local driver, Hunter Wright, is also doing well, ranked 5th in the standings, with Chase Johnson 6th.
Hale meanwhile is tied for 9th – not bad, but not where he wants to be.
He says part of the frustration is over the track’s sparse schedule, which consists of only eight points races.
“The trouble with a thin schedule like that is there’s no margin for error,” Hale explains. If you have one bad race, you don’t have many chances to make it up. Also, its hard to get into a rhythm when you race so seldom. We run a race, then it seems like forever until we run another one. If it were up to me, we’d race every week.”
Branching out to tracks around the Southeast is difficult, Hale says, because of travel expenses.
“We’re having to cut back on travel,” says Hale, who races out of a shop in Mt. Juliet in partnership with his grandfather Alan. “These days it’s all about the almighty dollar.”
There might be hope for an expanded Fairgrounds Speedway schedule if a proposed deal goes through allowing a Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) to take over the historic Nashville track. SMI wants to bring in some NASCAR races, while retaining the local race program.
Hale, like some other drivers, is skeptical about the chances for an expanded schedule, but hopes for the best. Meanwhile, he is focused on completing this season on a high note.
“I try to remain positive,” he says.
William’s grandfather shares his determination.
“Will works hard and I’ll help him every way I can,” Alan says. “We’ll get things turned around eventually.”
Hale hopes to eventually turn racing into a business.
“I’d like to get into fabricating, body work, chassis building and maybe start a developmental driving program,” he says. “There’s lots of things we can do with our new shop.”
Meanwhile, he’ll race.
“I’m not giving up yet,” he says. “I’m too stubborn. I plan to keep going as long as I can.”