Local auto racing: Childs returns to the track in style

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LEEDS — It’s rare when a driver at any level of short-track stock car racing steps away from the sport when things are going well on-track.

When a man does so in an attempt to salvage a relationship with his companion, it’s pretty clear to see he is wise, selfless and genuinely caring. 

For 41-year-old Leeds native and former Oxford Outlaw class champion Billy Childs Jr., the decision to hang up his helmet wasn’t easy. Yet the talented driver and skilled mechanic did just that at the end of 2014, and sadly, that relationship still dissolved.

“It didn’t work out, but I gave it a real shot because the time I was spending in the race shop was a big issue,” Childs said. “Now, I’m blessed to have a wonderful new girlfriend who loves racing and supports my participation. I’m happy to be back doing what I love and not jeopardizing my home life.”

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Childs returned to full-time competition in the Street Stock class at Oxford this season and is running like he never missed a lap. His feature wins on May 13 and June 3 came in dominant fashion, and his five top-five finishes in five starts have put him atop the points standings. 

As Matt Dufault, one of Childs’ chief rivals in the points chase, wisely pointed out back in April, Childs could easily be the man to beat for the 2017 title.

“It’s a great feeling to have that kind of respect from my rivals,” Childs said. “It means a lot to me. I lack confidence in my own abilities, but to have a talented racer like Matt say that is very kind. I have a lot of respect for him and every one of the guys in this division. It won’t be easy to win this crown.”

Childs has won races in just about every class he’s ever entered. Among his 20-plus career wins at Oxford are two victories in 2002 and another in 2003; six Outlaw features and the points title in 2011; and at least nine Late Model wins. 

“I’d have to say 2011 and 2012 were the best years of my career,” Childs added. “As kids, we all sat in the stands dreaming of racing in the top class. To actually get there and win races meant a whole lot to me. I never had big financial backing or top-notch equipment, I just made the best of what I had.”

Throughout his career, he’s been hands-on; building the cars and putting in the hours during the week it takes to win races. His skills with chassis setups have helped many racers, including members of his family. 

“If it wasn’t for Billy’s knowledge and hands-on skills, I wouldn’t have the number of victories I own,” his brother and all-time Oxford Mini Stock win leader (48) Jimmy said. “Billy always dug deeper into the technical side. He studied the details of how to make a car go fast and get it to handle like it should. He has helped me a ton over the years.”

Jimmy, a respected auto body and paint expert, now enjoys racing at Wiscasset every other week in the Outlaw Mini class, a division he essentially created (with blessing from track owners Richard and Vanessa Jordan, of course) when Oxford dropped the Mini Stock class.

“A lot of my knowledge just comes from paying attention whenever I worked on my father’s cars or on the Hewins’ race cars when I was young,” Billy said. “I just always watched guys and did my own trial and error. Hands-on experience is the best way to learn. You can read it in a book, but it’s not the same.”

Between Billy, Jimmy and Bill Sr. (42), the two sons and their father own nearly 110 feature wins at Oxford. Today, Billy and Jim’s cousin Cody (of Auburn) is carrying on the family legacy of local short track success in the Rebel division.

Like any other weekly short track warrior, Childs has a group of individuals that make his program a reality. He is fortunate to have the support of marketing partners like Lucas Oil Products (since 2003), Four Paws Pet Grooming, Emerson Pilot Car Services, and Jim Childs Paint and Auto Body. 

“My biggest thank you of course goes out to my father, who has always been my hero,” Childs added as he fought to control his emotions. “His work ethic is unmatched in my eyes. He means the world to me, and I wouldn’t have ever done all I have in racing if it wasn’t for him. I’ve been blessed to have his help all along.

“I’ve also been lucky to have the support of my cousin, Rich Sirois, who has helped me a ton through the years. I also need to thank Mike Blue, my girlfriend Shelby Lawrence, and her parents. They all make sacrifices to support my racing, and I greatly appreciate all they do.”

The ride has been interesting and more than productive since it began back in 1995. In humble fashion, Childs reflects on his experiences with pride, a smile and general satisfaction.

“I really can’t complain about my career. I’ve won a lot of races, earned a class championship, and competed in three Oxford 250s. There are a lot of drivers who can’t say that after lengthy careers. 

“Sure, I would have loved to have landed that big ride and gone on to bigger things. I’d like to think I could have made a mark in the right equipment. But if I can continue to win a few more features and the championship, the 2017 season will have made me a happy and satisfied man.”

pwhipple@sunjournal.com

Billy Childs Jr.
Veteran short track driver and former Oxford Outlaw division champion (2011) Billy Childs Jr., of Leeds, powers off Turn 4 at Oxford during Street Stock practice for the Memorial Day Weekend points races on May 27. 
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