`Gee Wiz' Williams has `zero fear' in the fast laneNeighbors

HOWARD NEIGHBORS

October 06, 2006|By Janet Gilbert

Geneva Williams chats warmly as she helps the next customer at the Highland Post Office.

It is hard to imagine that this soft-spoken person is known up and down the East Coast as "Gee Wiz" Williams -- the woman who slams the pedal to the floor during weekend drag races, pushing her modified 1968 Chevrolet Camaro to speeds of 187 mph in 7.35 seconds.

Williams, 43, is not just a competitor in the Outlaw 10.5 Series of drag racing, so named for the narrow 10 1/2 -inch tires on which the cars run. She is the fastest female driver in the category, having set the record in 2003 at Cecil County Dragway in Rising Sun.

In seven races this year, the Laurel resident has had two first-place finishes, on May 19 and June 11. She aptly describes her vehicle as "so violent and forceful" that its front wheels lift 2 to 3 feet off the ground at the start.

"If it wasn't for the wheelie bars [rollover prevention], it would flip right over," said Williams. It takes two parachutes to slow the car to a stop. "When you graduate from one chute to two, you're really flying," she said.

On a recent commercial flight with her 5-year-old son, Jayden, Williams explained to him that the feeling on take-off was similar to the start of a race for her. "But I couldn't help but think, this is slow," she said. She estimates it takes a plane about a minute to accelerate to 150 mph.

"It takes me about five seconds," she said.

Williams describes herself as having "no fear -- zero fear."

It is a winning attribute, when you consider that the Outlaw 10.5 Series drag race is a side-by-side competition in narrow lanes with a finish line 1,320 feet from the "Christmas tree," or start lights.

In racing, a perfect "reaction time," from start signal to hitting the accelerator, is considered 0.400 seconds. "The team is very proud of my reaction time," said Williams, who consistently clocks in the 0.402 - 0.414 second range.

Williams got off to a good start in her career, simply by being born into a supportive racing family. Her father, Emerson Williams Sr., 75, used to be a "street racer," and her older brother, Emerson Williams Jr., 46, is known as "The Wiz" in racing circles not only for his drag racing prowess, but for his keen mechanical aptitude.

"I'm pretty retired now," said Emerson Williams Jr., who is focusing on his sister's career and serving as her crew chief.

Williams' siblings, Kelvin, 41, and Brenda, 48, and her Uncle Sonny, 71, also are part of her crew of 12 volunteers who Williams says are "paid with a big hug, and I ask God to bless them until I can financially bless them."

Twins Amanda and Ashley Heard, 17, seniors at Francis Scott Key High School in Westminster, are Williams' "parachute packers."

The parachutes are long -- "probably about a car length behind her," said Amanda. "We straighten them out and fold them with her."

Adds Ashley: "I'm proud that she lets us [repack the chutes]. She really cares about her fans."

Williams appreciates the care and attention she receives.

"It's a close-knit group that I totally trust with my life," she said.

Williams says being born between her brothers, Emerson and Kelvin, had an influence on her interest in cars and racing. "Everything my brothers did, I tried to do," she said. As she watched her older brother training other drivers to race, she said, "I thought, `I bet if he trained me I could do it.'"

Emerson Williams Jr. said he and his brother had noticed their sister's skill "driving little street cars around town. ... She had a knack."

Eight years ago, when Geneva Williams was 35, Wiz Racing built her first car, the 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. Williams ran the quarter-mile in 11 seconds at 110 mph on her first time out. "After a year, I was begging to go faster," she said.

As she demonstrated readiness, the car was modified. "I'd say, to duplicate the car now, would cost $175,000 to $200,000," said her brother, Emerson.

Williams says her brother is sought-after at the tracks for his technical skills, but that he gives her vehicle his full attention.

"That car has to be correct," he said. "I will not put anyone in an unsafe race car."

Williams had her first and only accident in May 2005, when her vehicle was in a situation that is difficult to describe because of the speed involved. Her car was not getting any traction, and her wheels spun out of control. She hit the guardrail at 110 mph. Except for minor bruising, Williams emerged unharmed.

Since the accident, "Gee Wiz" has been back in the fast lane. Her crew is deciding between two races for the Oct. 15 weekend, in Hagerstown, or in Englishtown, N.J. Her goal is to break 200 mph and to move on to race in the National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock Series.

Williams is serenely confident. "My faith in God keeps me in the car," she said.

Tomorrow, Williams' drag racer will be on display, and she will be on hand to answer questions about her racing career from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Highland Post Office as part of the free Highland Days festivities at Route 108, Route 216 and Highland Road.

Catch her there -- ordinarily, "Gee Wiz" would never slow down on the weekends.

Information on Geneva "Gee Wiz" Williams' coming races: geewiz racing@yahoo.com.

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