Getting behind the wheel of a drag racing vehicle and successfully meeting the many challenges that the sport presents can be difficult at best. For William Balser III those challenges are even far greater than for most. Despite medical issues that are most difficult, one way or another, Balser finds a way to step into his Junior Dragster each week to compete at Lancaster Speedway. His efforts are most impressive.
Balser, 12, of West Seneca is the son of William "Billy" Balser Jr. and his fiancee, AnnMarie Nugent, both of whom also drag race at Lancaster. The younger Balser, who is a sixth-grader at JFK Middle School, has managed to inspire all who know and have witnessed him racing down the strip each week. Nugent knows the challenges her son faces in drag racing as well as more importantly, life in general.
"William has cerebral palsy, he's autistic, he's got chronic lung disease," Nugent said. "He's got a lot going on.
"What we take for granted on a daily basis, like walking, is a struggle for William. "There's times that he's in a wheelchair and times he gets out and walks with braces on his legs. For him to get into his dragster and do what he does, it's amazing. I can't even explain it. He's got a new dragster this season and to see him go down the track last week is something. He's doing good with the drag racing."
Along with William, his family also has had quite a bit to deal with over the last few years. William had a twin brother Domonic who died Dec. 23, 2013, at age 7 from similar afflictions to William's. They all have displayed amazing courage.
The positive reality is that Junior Dragster competition has enabled William to feel just like any other kid his age, those who do not have to cope with what he faces each day.
"Drag racing is something that William can be competitive at with other kids," Nugent said. "Sports is hard for him because honestly if he was to try out for a sport he wouldn't make the team. When he was little we stuck him in a T-ball league and he had fun and enjoyed it and the coach loved him and helped him. But the drag racing is something he can do."
William has won Junior Dragster races including the prestigious Bear Wilcox Junior Dragster Shootout at Empire Dragway in Leicester two years ago.
William got to participate on a special trip last month through Make-A-Wish.
"I got to go to Disney World," William said. "I liked the rides at Disney. I don't know why I like to race my Junior Dragster but it's fun."
Nugent enjoyed recent drag racing success of her own recently, winning the Top 8 Eliminator class at Lancaster May 25.
"It was a thrill," Nugent said. "I'm in a new class this year. It was my first time out in that new car, a 1985 Camaro and it was fun. I wasn't expecting to win but it happened. It's definitely not an easy class to be in."
When Nugent won the race at Lancaster last month, William said he had one big word that he said to his winning mom that night following the victory – "congratulations."
The Balser family is very active in Lancaster's drag racing. Along with Billy, AnnMarie and William, other family members competing are Billy's brother and sister Mike and Brittany and AnnMarie's daughter Deanna Nugent. Billy's uncle, Dave Balser, also races.
"Every time I see him (William) go down the track, win or lose, I'm so impressed that he can even go down the track in the first place considering everything," Nugent said. "That's huge. He's not guaranteed every day in life so he's doing the best he can. I know he will keep trying and that's all that matters."