Ken McWilliams normally drives in the Figure 8 and Trailer Figure 8 races at Perris Auto Speedway, but the Menifee driver missed the first race of the year May 1 as he won the Mini Stocks main event at Mohave Valley Raceway in Mohave Valley, Arizona, that night. McWilliams made his 2021 Perris Auto Speedway debut June 5 and finished second in the regular Figure 8 main event while placing last among the eight Trailer Figure 8 drivers. The July 3 races at Perris Auto Speedway included a Trailer Figure 8 win for McWilliams along with fifth place in the regular Figure 8 main event.

McWilliams took the lead in the 13th lap of the 15-lap Trailer Figure 8 race. “I got a little lucky,” he said.

The start was not as fortunate for McWilliams, who began the race on the inside of the second row. “On the very first lap there was a little tangle up,” he said.

McWilliams remained on the lead lap but barely. “The leader was right behind me,” he said.

Ken McWilliams of Menifee, pictured here in a past race, took the lead in the 13th lap of the 15-lap Trailer Figure 8 race at Perris Auto Speedway. Valley News/File photo

Compton driver Gabriel Guisa led the race at that point. The trailer must remain attached to the car, so a driver who loses his trailer is disqualified and that eliminated some cars ahead of McWilliams. Other cars became disabled or lost ground due to contact. In some cases, McWilliams passed vehicles ahead of him.

The trailer must remain attached to the car, but the contents on the trailer are not required to stay on the trailer. McWilliams’ cousin Alyssa Smith races a Modified at Perris and other tracks. McWilliams painted a tyke car to look like Smith’s Modified, but the tyke car did not survive the race. Smith did not race July 3 but was watching her boyfriend race at Bakersfield Speedway, where he finished fourth.

Guisa held the lead until the 13th lap. “It took a little bit,” McWilliams said.

“I passed him, I took it over from him,” McWilliams said. “He went high to pass a trailer and I went under him.”

The lead did not protect McWilliams from contact with lapped cars – or from being slowed by the lapped vehicles and giving Guisa an opportunity to regain the lead. “I was avoiding lapped traffic and staying out of trouble and hoping for the best,” McWilliams said.

Taking the lead late in the race may have been to McWilliams’ advantage. “Once I got around him there were only a couple of more laps to go,” he said.

Guisa finished second.

The Trailer Figure 8 race involved a main event only and no heat races. The regular Figure 8 competition had heat races. McWilliams started on the pole but finished second. “The track was wet, and my car had a little miss. It kept popping out of gear,” he said.

McWilliams took the initial lead. “I led it for the first two laps,” he said.

Foothill Ranch driver Kevin Cox took over the lead. “He just got around me,” McWilliams said.

Cox won the six-lap heat race. The main event was 20 laps, and McWilliams began on the outside of the second row.

“The track dried out,” McWilliams said.

“It was one of the craziest races I ever did. The track was so dry and dusty. You could barely see the intersection,” McWilliams said. “You were out there driving blind.”

McWilliams was in third place before spinning out three laps into the race and losing three positions. He regained one of them.

Ken McWilliams of Menifee, pictured here in a past race, took the lead in the 13th lap of the 15-lap Trailer Figure 8 race at Perris Auto Speedway. Valley News/File photo

His wife, Amber McWilliams, was part of the pit crew as were Danny Gonse, David Holmes, and Jose Sandoval (Carlie Fisher and Kyle Fisher were part of the crew for his May 1 win in Arizona but were not at the July 3 Perris race). McWilliams is sponsored by CrossFit Murrieta, Jolene’s Country Kitchen, Jose’s Tractor, Murrieta Barbell Club, One Shot Printing, Tom’s Fabrication, and West Coast Auto Wrecking.

For Figure 8 and Trailer Figure 8 races McWilliams uses a race-specific chassis rather than a chassis originally intended for a road vehicle. In late 2020 he purchased the 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier he uses as his Mini Stocks car. That class is called Sport Compacts at Barona Speedway and Ventura Raceway, which are collaborating for season points.

McWilliams actually debuted the car at Cocopah Speedway in Arizona and finished third. His first win in the Cavalier was in the Mohave Speedway season opener Feb. 6. McWilliams was leading the next race but blew a motor. He obtained and rebuilt a $300 replacement motor, and his May 1 race was his second with that engine. McWilliams finished second in his heat race May 1 but took the lead in the first lap of the 20-lap main event and maintained first place thereafter. He finished ninth in the May 22 Mini Stocks main event at Mohave Valley Raceway, third in the June 12 Sport Compacts main event at Barona Speedway, and second to Hemet driver Andrew Schmitz in the June 19 Sport Compacts main event at Ventura Raceway.

McWilliams, who turned 40 June 15, has lived in Menifee since he was in fifth grade at Menifee Elementary School. He was born in Torrance and lived in Long Beach before his family became Riverside County residents, moving initially to Corona and then to Menifee. He graduated from Paloma Valley High School in 1999.

Perris Auto Speedway opened in 1996 when McWilliams was 14. He watched races at the track before making his debut as a driver in the four-cylinder Hornet Class. He also raced in the Street Stocks division and in the Figure 8, Trailer Figure 8, and Demo Cross classes at Perris Auto Speedway. McWilliams was the Trailer Figure 8 season champion at Perris in both 2016 and 2017.

The first ever Mini Stocks race at Perris Auto Speedway was in July 2018. McWilliams won both the six-lap heat race and the 15-lap main event with a 2005 Toyota Corolla.

Schmitz won the July 3 Mini Stocks main event at Perris.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.