Detroit professional stock car driver with autism breaks barriers on and off the track

Armani Williams and his family learned he had autism as a child but that label never defined his life and now he's breaking barriers at almost 200 MPH.

Williams is a driver on the ARCA circuit in the 01 Ford for Fast Track racing. The 20-year-old also has autism - but that's not who he is and he's making the two worlds compatible.

"Social cues can sometimes be a challenge. I don't always understand sarcasm right off the bat, but with autism I'm able to have a laser-like focus on things that I'm interested in. That's something that's extremely important when you're going at speeds of 165, 170 mph," he said.

His desire to go fast dates back to his days as a child and playing with cars at his grandparents' house.

"My grandmother and my grandfather, they have boxes full of race cars I used to play with at their house on the kitchen counter, growing up," Williams said.

While he can't remember what his favorite car was as a child, he has a favorite today - a model of the first car he ever drove.

Williams also helps other children with autism and their families through the Armani Williams Race for Autism Foundation.

"I am looking to become the face of autism both as a role model and as hope for children, individuals, and families that have been impacted by autism. With my foundation, wherever I go to compete across the country, we try to work with local autism associations in that community and we try to bring a family or a group of people to come out to the race track and they can meet me, hang out and check out the cool race cars, and just really experience something different," he said.

He's one of three black drivers in NASCAR and ARCA, one of which is Bubba Wallace who took a stand against the Confederate flag. Armani said he stands with Wallace.

"The removal of the flag is an opportunity for us to move forward as a sport. NASCAR has always had a strong fan base but there are potential fan bases that we could get that have been turned off because of what that flag symbolizes to people," he said.

At the halfway point of 2020, Armani knows there have been more challenges than usual and said he hopes that everyone stays safe and finds new ways to be kind to each other.