NASCAR: Is Josh Williams in for a rude awakening?

In his first NASCAR season with Kaulig Racing, Josh Williams is looking forward to competing at tracks that require "talent". Can he prove himself at such tracks?
Josh Williams, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR
Josh Williams, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

Josh Williams' first NASCAR Cup Series start with Kaulig Racing didn't even last two laps, as he was taken out in a 16-car pileup at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Williams made a name for himself last year at the same track when he was told to park his car during the Xfinity Series race. He literally decided to park his car on the frontstretch before getting out and waving to the fans, riling up the crowd in the process and leading to a one-race suspension.

Aside from that viral moment, Williams is a small-team NASCAR veteran who was finally believed to have gotten his big break in 2024, signing a full-time deal to compete for Matt Kaulig's team, a regular championship-contending team, in the Xfinity Series. That deal also includes a number of Cup Series starts, though the locations of his future starts have not yet been confirmed.

After he was taken out in the wreck Williams stated that he hopes his next Cup Series start comes "not at a track like this", rather one "where talent means something".

Josh Williams in for a rude awakening?

Williams certainly isn't the first driver to make such claims, and you have to believe that a lot of it was simply frustration of the moment.

Fans say it every time NASCAR visits a drafting track and their favorite driver doesn't win, and Kyle Busch infamously stated in 2017 that he was looking forward to going to a "real" race track after coming up short at Talladega Superspeedway.

It's not a new concept, and Williams' frustration isn't just related to the Cup Series; his two Xfinity Series starts at drafting tracks (Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway) have also ended in disaster to start the 2024 season. The frustration, in itself, is totally justified.

But coming from a driver who has competed in just four Cup Series races and had not competed in the series since 2022 prior to Sunday, you have to wonder if he is in for a rude awakening when the tracks that supposedly require "talent" finally show up on his schedule.

After several year of driving less competitive equipment, it's no secret that Williams has not really had the opportunity to showcase his own talent. The fact that his first three starts with his best team yet have ended poorly add to that frustration.

I do think that will change. But just how competitive will he be, not just in his select Cup Series starts, but in the Xfinity Series as a full-time competitor?

Better things in store after a disappointing start to the year?

While he was disappointed to miss out on qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he did not have the same reaction as he did after crashing out at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It's not like he is expecting to win in the Cup Series.

After years and years of paying his dues, Williams is probably in for his best season yet, so I don't think it's going to be a total "rude awakening". However, it's not going to be easy just because he believes he has the talent to compete and now finds himself with a good team. And having been around the sport for as long as he has, he certainly knows that.

I don't think he is magically going to start winning races and finishing consistently in the top five just because NASCAR is moving away from drafting tracks. I certainly don't think that will happen in the Cup Series, where Kaulig Racing remain, at best, a mid-pack team.

Next. NASCAR: 61-year-old driver returning to Hendrick Motorsports for one race. NASCAR: 61-year-old driver returning to Hendrick Motorsports for one race. dark

But as so many have long stated following the season-opening drafting races, the "real season" starts now. Williams is set to compete in the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 2. Fox Sports 1 is set to provide live coverage starting at 5:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!