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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

James still running strong

Sunday, April 6, 2003

Billy James stands in front of his late model car.
SIKESTON -- Staying on top of the hill is said to be much harder than the climb up it. But for 10 years now, Sikeston's Billy James has made it look easy on the local racing circuit.

In a part of the country where the nation's best dirt track racers reside, James is one of the best.

"He's one of the top drivers in the region," said racing analyst Jeff Thornbrough. "Western Kentucky has some of the top late-model drivers in the country. Within this area, including Western Kentucky, he's definitely one of the best. He knows when to take it easy and knows when to push it to the limit. He's just a very good all-around driver."

Season after season, the 31-year old has consistently won at every track in the tri-state area. Now that the 2003 season has arrived, James hopes to add another winning season to his collection.

"He's very competitive," said Bill Hampton, owner of the Malden Speedway. "He's a good driver -- always has been. He is just a good guy to have at the track. He's very personable with the fans, but when he puts the helmet on, he's all business. He knows what he can do and he knows what his car can do."

James' resume is impressive. He started his racing career in the Super Street Class back in 1993. His first year, he finished in the top 10 in points at Benton's Missouri International Racepark.

The next four years, he established himself as the best Super Street driver at MIR, winning four consecutive track championships there.

In 1996, he made track history by breaking Shawn King's single-season win record with 13 victories.

He also started racing at Heartland Motorsports in Malden, where he won 21 features in 36 starts in his first year. In 1997, James won track championships at both Benton and Malden.

Having already run the table in Super Street, James decided moved up to the Limited Late Model series in 1998. His success carried over as he won the points championship at Malden in the new division.

Over the next two years, James finished in the top 10 in points at Kentucky Lake Motorsports in the Late Model class. In that span, he received an invitation to the prestigious Hav-A-Tampa Shootout.

In 2001, James took it a step further and threw his hat into the Mid-America Racing Series. There, he finished fourth in rookie points out of 17 newcomers on the MARS series. Last year James stuck to racing local tracks, picking up nine feature wins.

"We've had years where we've won 19 features and 21 features in one year," said James. "We've had pretty good success. I can't complain about any year really. For what we have, we try to do the best we can."

James races a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Everything on the car is pre-fabed, from his rocket chassis down to his Robinson Racing engine.

"Everything we have right now is pretty much top-notch," said James. "We try to keep all good components on the car. That's pretty much the key to our successes."

James' pit crew includes Bill James Sr., Danny Robinson, Tommy McRoy, Jimmy Robinson, Chris Michael and Jackie James. "This couldn't be possible without the Bill James family and the Danny Robinson family," said James.

Car sponsors include Martindale Chevrolet, Backyard Buildings, Oz Hay Enterprises, Jackie James Auction Company, Barkley's Transmission and Sikeston Gymnastics.

"We try to keep updating all the time," said James. "The technology on dirt-late models is an everyday change. We try to stay up with that. If you don't, you're going to get beat in a hurry."

James really doesn't follow a circuit these days. This season he will race at Malden, Benton and at the Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn. He will also race in a few Mid-America Series events.

"We just bounce around a lot," said James. "We're going to try to run Malden quite a bit and try to run some of the MARS shows when they're close. We've been as far as Muskogee Oklahoma, Wichita Kansas and Talladega Alabama. We kind of go all over, but try to stay under 500 miles. We are probably going to race at 15 or 20 different tracks this year."

Like most dirt-late model guys, racing is just a hobby for James. When not behind the wheel, he's a heavy equipment operator for James Excavating Company.

"Every year you try to go out and get as many wins as you can," said James. "A dream would be to race full time. I don't know if I will ever make that or not. Right now, we're just trying to do all we can do against the local competition."

Regardless of where James ends up this season, past performance says he will finish near the top.