How it all got started

By Randall Jett Register-Herald Sports Writer

Beckley Register- Herald

When you think of racing engines in the dirt Late Model ranks, the names Draime, Custom, Gaerte and Cornett come to mind. In Beckley, Pro Power Performance is making a name for itself as an up-and-coming engine builder. Jimmy Williams began the company in 2000 with his partner Richard Triggs. Now in 2010, the shop is ran by Jim Williams and his son Ricky Williams.

“We can do anything,” Williams said. “There is nothing that we can’t do. There not a piece of equipment that we don’t have.” Indeed, Pro Power Performance can build an engine from the ground up. They do all the work assembling the engines themselves. Williams takes pride in each engine he turns out.; I’m not going to hire somebody to do the work,” Williams said. The only way I know it’s right is if I do it.”

The company has grown slowly as everyone who works there has other jobs to take care of. “We really only work on the weekends but now in 2010 we are open 6 days a week,” Williams said. “Saturday and Sunday is when we really flog because we both have other jobs or businesses we take part in. I’m currently the promoter of Beckley Motorsports Park along with my partner Ken Williams. Ricky (Williams) has a full-time running his own company called Williams Pro Contracting, his part-time job and it’s all he can do to answer the phone and maintenance his car weekly. There’s not a lot more that he has time to do.”

The Beckley company doesn’t make a large quantity of racing engines though as they stress quality over quantity. “We’re pretty selective of what we take on,” Williams said. “The one thing I don’t want is to promise a motor and not be able to meet the deadline.”

Jimmy’s son Rick is the research and development driver for Pro Power Performance. Every new engine part is tested in Rick’s Late Model before being passed on to their customers. “I never experiment on a customer’s engine,” Williams said. “Never. That’s why we race. That’s why we have cars. Anything that we test, supposed to be the greatest thing coming down the pike, I test in my own stuff.”

With those tests, they have found some bad parts at times. “We tested pistons last year,” Williams said. “The USA 100, of all time, we ended up cracking one. It was too light and too fragile.” One of the key items, Williams uses to test engine parts is a Super Flow SF901 motor dyno that he purchased when Richard Jackson closed his Nextel Cup operation. Late Model driver Steve Lucas, a three-time Beckley-USA 100 winner, is the latest driver to start using William’s motor expertise. Along with Rick and Lucas, Eddie Hambrick Jr., Jeff Maxwell, Chad Justice are a few of the racers that use Pro Power Performance engines.

“Honestly, we don’t have any real big names,” Williams said. “Steve Lucas has just come on board with us. We just finished a motor for him.”

Williams got started in racing at an early age when he started hanging out with some friends who raced dragsters. “I guess my real first association with racing was 1972,” he said. “That was with Charlie Sinozich and his son Eddie. They had a drag car that they ran out here at Grandview. They were very successful. I wasn’t doing the motors at the time but that was my introduction to racing.”

Williams really began to work on racing and high performance equipment when he began working at Beckley Wrecking. “I got a job at Beckley Wrecking in 1974,” Williams said. “I went to work there on the parts counter but I was much more interested in mechanics. They also had a machine shop and they had wreckers at that time. “I actually asked Wally Cole if I could move into the garage and I started doing some of the garage work. Then an opening came in the machine shop and I asked if I could be moved into there. “I could do anything there. I could run the wrecker. I could work in the machine shop. I was an apprentice, don’t get me wrong. I certainly couldn’t do everything in the machine shop at that time. I got to the point where I was doing cylinder heads and just watching and learning.”

When Williams began building racing engines, he started out building engines with Herman Lewis for an American Motor Company Javelin. “I met Herman Lewis through drag racing with the Sinozichs and I started going to his house in the evenings — just kinda hanging out and wanting to learn more,” Williams said. “Everything we did at Beckley Wrecking was stock and I wanted to learn about race engines. The best place to learn was basically from the godfather Herman Lewis. He happened to do AMCs. He had been a big Chevrolet man before that and had raced Fords but now he was on the AMC. That’s where my association came from.” The Javelin was a great learning experience for Williams starting out. “

The first car I raced at Prosperity was a ’57 Chevrolet with Jimmy Hughes,” He said. “The first car I ever built for myself was an AMC. We seemed to have a lot more problems with the engine at that time than Herman did with the drag stuff. The motor made a ton of power. When it ran, you could tell that but you basically couldn’t keep a head gasket on it. “

So I finally called Bobby Allison in Alabama. This was when he was running the Matador for AMC. He came right to the phone, didn’t know me from Adam, got on the phone and I asked him, ‘how do you keep a head gasket on these things?’ Then he told me how and we went back — actually Herman helped me do that — (and we did) what he told us to do. We never blew another head gasket, raced the next year, never won a race with the car but ran relatively well with it, sold it the next year and I guess I’ve been a Chevrolet man ever since.”

Williams finally got the chance to open the shop of his dreams in 2000. While visiting Eel River Racing as part of his job with Manley Performance, he discovered they were about to close their doors and sell off all their equipment. Williams snatched up the assets of Eel River and from them, Pro Power Performance was born “

Pro Power got started from one of my Winston Cup teams (Eel River Racing) deciding to shut the door,” Williams said. “They had thousands of dollars in parts that they really didn’t want to deal with and I did. Some new and some used. Richard Triggs and I got together. Richard was helping us with the race cars I told him there was an opportunity here to buy some parts and make some good money. We decided to buy all those parts and start a little business. That was in 2000. That’s when we actually got started.”

From there, Williams has added the best equipment he could find from various failed race teams including A.J. Foyt’s Nextel Cup team. “It has definitely grown,” Williams said. “There is a need for this in Beckley. You have your Advance Autos, Auto Shacks and whatever that deal minutely with performance. This has always been a hotbed for racing in and around Beckley. Gilbert, Logan and Charleston, there are a lot of diehard racers from street stock to pro stock.

I didn’t plan on the machine shop as soon as we got it. But there again, the opportunity presented itself. Eel River went out of business. Then another good customer of mine, Richard Jackson Motorsports, who fielded cars for Rick Mast, quit racing. I told Richard Jackson if he ever wanted to sell his equipment I’d be interested. He said, ‘would you be interested today?’ and I said, ‘yeah, absolutely.’ He and his son-in-law went back, sat down and priced it all out. That’s where the dyno came from along with several other pieces. Several pieces came from Joey Arrington, who does all the Dodge SuperTruck engines. As they’ve updated, I’ve been able to buy the equipment at a reasonable price.”

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