Willie Mullins has taken a very indirect route to competing in the ARCA Racing Series.
From Fredericksburg, Va., he has been a drag racer, a road course ace and now is making a name for himself in stock cars.
The 36-year-old competitor started as a drag racer, just like his father Bugsy and brother Bruce, when he was just 13 years old. He competed in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League, the same development program that has helped drag racing starts like Erica Enders, Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd advance to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
In his mid-20s Mullins began itching to try something different and purchased an old ARCA chassis from team owner Joe Falk. After attending a road racing class at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l in 2005, Mullins quickly set out to make a name for himself.
In his first season as a Sports Car Club of America member, he was crowned the SCCA V8 Grand National champion and Rookie of the Year in the V8 class. In 2014 Mullins added another championship, winning the MARRS SPO championship. He was also runner-up in the MARRS SPO division in 2013.
While continuing to compete on road courses up and down the East Coast, Mullins also began to expand his horizons into the ARCA Racing Series. He made his first ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start in 2008 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J., starting 26th and finishing 34th.
Mullins made three more starts at New Jersey Motorsports Park from 2009 to 2012, improving his finishing position each time he hit the track. He finished 30th in 2009, 23rd in 2011 and 15th in 2012.
After taking a few seasons off from the ARCA Racing Series Mullins returned as a team owner in 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., fielding the No. 1 Ford for former Super Cup Stock Car Series champion J.J. Pack. The day ended in disappointment when an oil line fire forced Pack to call it a day in the 36th.
In 2016 Mullins returned to the drivers seat of an ARCA car, piloting the No. 34 Mullins Racing Ford to a career-best eighth-place finish in the season opening event at Daytona International Speedway. He made two more starts in 2016, finishing 17th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway after starting sixth and followed that up with a 15th-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Mullins returned to the ARCA Racing Series again in 2017, qualifying a career-best fifth at Daytona International Speedway for the season-opening Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200. He was collected in an early-race wreck not of his making and finished a disappointing 40th, but his competitors knew he had been there at the end of the day.
The owner/driver, who spends the week working on cars and trucks at his family-owned shop called Bugsy’s Auto Body & Repair in Virginia, is expected to make at least three additional ARCA Racing Series starts in 2017 at Talladega, Road America in Wisconsin and Minnesota’s Elko Speedway.