The Willard Family

2021 New England
Hot Rod Hall Of Fame Inductee

Larry and Joyce Willard
Jessica Willard Stodulski and John Stodulski
Nick and Janice Willard
Emma and Emelia Stodulski
Lucas and Kendall Willard

 

 

Following the end of World War II, many guys were modifying vehicles and competing on the streets, airstrips, dry lakes, and salt flats around the country. Drag Racing and Hot Rodding quickly grew into one of the world’s greatest family sports. The Willard Family exemplifies and embraces the growth of the sport in New England.

 

 

The patriarch of the family, Larry Willard first came to New England Dragway when he drove his 1957 Chevrolet to Opening Day on September 11, 1966. In 1968, Larry began racing the ’57 Chevrolet, and the car has been continuously raced at New England Dragway since then.

 

 

The ’57 has been driven by Larry, his wife Joyce, daughter Jessica, son Nick, and daughter-in-law Janice. Over the years, the ’57 has won many trophies. Some of those wins stand out among the rest. In 2001 Larry won Super Street Eliminator at the Lebanon Valley NHRA Divisional Event, tuning the car without the benefit of electronics. He also won the Sanair $5K Bracket race in Canada, and he was the runner-up at the 2020 New England NHRA Sport Nationals. Most recently he was runner-up in Top Sportsman at the 2021 NHRA LODRS event at New England Dragway.

 

 

All that racing didn’t stop Larry and his wife Joyce from having a family. Soon they had two children, Jessica and Nick.

 

 

Jessica is the older of the two. She was seen in her younger days racing around in the family’s red Corvette, allegedly even doing burnouts in front of the local high school. She soon focused her energy in a more positive direction, becoming the High School Eliminator Champion at the Bracket Finals and winning the NHRA Sears Craftsman Scholarship. Jessica raced the family ’57 and then drove for Ed lannotti in his Super Comp Beretta.

 

 

Then she was given the opportunity to join Hanna Motorsports as a jet dragster driver. She became the original “Queen of Diamonds” and is the first Jet Driver to break 300 mph at New England Dragway. Jessica also won the Jet Car Nationals at Atco and Englishtown and was victorious at the famous Jet Wars at Norwalk Raceway Park. Jessica has gone 309 mph in 5.01 seconds behind the wheel of her jet dragster.

 

 

Following her time as a jet driver, Jessica has continued to be an avid bracket racer. She finished in third place in 2020 in Super Pro at New England Dragway. In 2005 she was the Top Dragster runner up at the Lebanon Valley NHRA Divisional event. Jessica has also been chosen by Super Chevy to speak at the Super Chevy Race against Drugs, and various D.A.R.E. programs.

 

 

Not to be outdone, younger brother Nick quietly began racing Jr. Dragsters in 1993. He finished second in the points at New England that first season, and then Nick won the Jr. Dragster Championship in just his second year of competing. Another highlight was when he was a semi-finalist at the NHRA Jr. Nationals in Indianapolis.

 

 

Nick has continued his success as a bracket racer. The list of accomplishments is impressive. A Super Chevy win, Top Five honors at the Moroso 5-day Bracket Series, three Sanair Triple Crown event wins in 2006, 2007, & 2008, multiple Bill Mitchell Super Shoot out awards, and in 2016 Nick won the World Series $100K Bracket Race.

 

 

Nick’s success has not been limited to bracket racing. He was the 2001 New England Dragway Super Comp points champion, the 2009 IHRA Pro Am and Top Dragster Champion, the 2012 NHRA Divisional Top Dragster winner, the 2013 NHRA National Open winner in both Super Comp and Top Dragster, the 2013 NHRA National Super Comp runner-up, and the 2016 NHRA National Super Comp runner-up.

 

 

In 2017 Nick won the NHRA Division 1 Top Dragster Championship, and he was the NHRA Division 1 Top Sportsman runner-up, with wins in Top Dragster at both the Maple Grove and Lebanon Valley NHRA Regional events, a win in Top Sportsman at the New England Dragway NHRA Regional event.

On top of all the Willard Family’s racing accomplishments, the family continued to grow. Jessica married long-time sweetheart, John Stodulski, while Nick married his wife, Janice. Now there is a new generation of Willard Family racers, Emelia and Emma Stodulski, and Lucas and Kendall Willard. All four members of the third generation of the Willard Family have begun to leave their marks on the Jr. Dragster record books.

 

 

None of this would have been possible if not for the unwavering support and guidance of the family matriarch, Joyce. Joyce is a wife, mother, grandmother, cheerleader, and disciplinarian. She has kept the family on track since she and Larry got together.

 

 

The Willards are a family first and they have enjoyed great success by supporting each other over the years. With three generations of racers, the Willards embody the spirit of Drag Racing today, a passion to create, a passion to compete, and a willingness to support each other whether celebrating a win or learning a lesson from a loss.

 

 

The Orientals Hot Rod Club congratulates the entire Willard Family on their induction into the 2021 class of the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame.

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