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Even as getting behind the wheel of a race car presents the ultimate way in which a driver can live their life, it's possible trying to get the opportunity to drive the fastest car possible can suppress the self.

The pressures of the business of auto racing and the social mores of the garage area are powerful forces that often work to stifle a driver's individuality in the name of personal advancement. If they allow themselves to, it is very easy for drivers to temper their own personalities and hide their true selves, whether for fear of all-important sponsors disapproving and taking their money elsewhere or fear of prospective car owners not taking them seriously. And faced with the thought of such things, many drivers will settle for staying in their lane, not rocking the boat, and hoping somebody notices them swimming into the tide of what is expected.

That explains, in part, the shock, awe, and delight that was experienced up and down pit road at Atlanta Motor Speedway last March. Unhappy with a NASCAR directive to take his car to the garage area and park it for the rest of the Xfinity Series race after repairs to his fender did not hold, Josh Williams responded by stopping his car at the start/finish line, climbing out of it, and walking back to the garage area for the rest of the day.

While NASCAR did not exactly see the humor in the situation -- they responded to Williams "parking it" by parking him for one week -- many thought it a great joke. Largely because in their eyes, it was simply Josh Williams being himself in the way he's always been himself.

"Everybody knows who I am and how I act and how I like to have a good time in the garage," Williams told CBS Sports last week in Daytona. "I had a lot of people reach out to me after that within the industry, and I'm like, 'Man, I'm glad somebody finally stood up for themselves.'

"At the time, I wasn't doing it to be spiteful. I was just voicing my opinion. I don't know, they just enjoy who I am as a person. And even the fans come up to me and they're like, 'Man, we're glad to see an old-school guy who's not afraid to show his emotion.'"

Since making his way into NASCAR's national touring series following a successful career as an independent racer in ARCA, Williams has quickly shown everyone in the sport who he is and how he goes about his business. Simply put, Williams is one of the garage area's biggest characters. He is gregarious, cheerful and outgoing in ways that have made him popular both among his peers and among the fans in the grandstands.

Even as he drove mid-pack most weeks trying to get what he could out of car owner Mario Gosselin's equipment, Williams nonetheless openly fraternized with frontrunners like Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson. Monday night in Daytona, Williams made a point to go to Victory Lane and congratulate William Byron on winning the Daytona 500. And that's not even accounting for his work with children's hospitals throughout the country, which made him a finalist for the Comcast Community Champion of the Year award in 2022.

In the face of the social mores of NASCAR, Williams has remained true to himself and comfortable in his own skin -- something he greatly values, and something he says the sponsors and partners he's accrued have allowed him to do.

"They're supportive of who I am and what I am, what I believe in, and things like that," Williams said. "They were okay with what I did at Atlanta; they were okay with a lot of things I've done over the years just because they don't want me to change who I am as a person. That means a lot to me because I don't want to be something I'm not.

"Even here at Kaulig [Racing], they're real supportive of who I am and how I act and things like that. And that makes a world of difference."

Williams' approach, particularly in the way he approaches his competitors -- no matter who they are or what kind of car they're driving -- has helped him plenty of times throughout his career. During his ARCA career, Williams found himself pitted in a battle for the championship with Chase Briscoe at a point where Briscoe was bound for both the series title and NASCAR stardom beyond that. After a series of run-ins, Williams told Briscoe flatly that "if you run us over again I'm gonna wreck us both" -- and made good on it.

"They're the same person I am. They put their pants on the same way I do," Williams said. "It don't matter. I don't care if you're doing start and parks or you're winning races every week, we're all the same person."

All aspects of the way Josh Williams conducts himself were encapsulated by what he did last year at Atlanta, which took his notoriety to new heights both within NASCAR and beyond it as the subject of a viral highlight. By year's end, Williams had earned the biggest and best opportunity of his career: Not only will he drive full-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series, but he will also run a limited schedule of races in Kaulig's No. 16 Cup car, the second of which comes at Atlanta this weekend after Williams just missed out on qualifying for the main event in the preseason Busch Light Clash.

But it's far too reductionist -- and frankly, wrong -- to suggest Williams got the opportunity to run competitive cars as a result of the "park it" stunt. With 11 top 10s in his Xfinity career, Williams has habitually overachieved in the equipment he's driven, outrunning teams with far more resources and far better equipment on multiple occasions and in straight-up circumstances. That includes last July at Atlanta, when Williams finished ninth in his return trip to the speedway.

"A lot of these bigger teams, I've beat before," Williams said. "Just straight up, car for car, no wrecks, no damage -- I've beat 'em at multiple racetracks in other equipment that I've drove. And I feel like they noticed that. Even [team owner Matt Kaulig] and [team president Chris Rice], when we first started talking about coming here to Kaulig, they were like, 'Man, you've beat us before.'

"And just straight up beat 'em. Didn't get lucky or anything like that, just straight up beat 'em. I think that opened their eyes a little bit."

This weekend, Williams will have not one, but two opportunities to run at the front -- and even win -- in Kaulig's cars. The performance of Kaulig Racing on drafting tracks validates that, as their three Xfinity cars have won numerous times at Daytona and Talladega before and had an opportunity to win at Atlanta last July.

That opportunity isn't lost on Williams in the slightest. Particularly given that he can capitalize on an opportunity aided by being himself by doing what he does best.

"I'll have a chance to win the race, and I think that means a lot to go back to the crime scene -- that's what we've been calling it -- with an opportunity to put up a good finish and to run up front is gonna be huge for everybody," Williams said. "The fans are gonna enjoy it, we're gonna enjoy it, so I'm really looking forward to that."