ROSSBURG, Ohio — Many fans of dirt and open wheel racing at the short track level automatically know the name Chris Windom when it pops up in conversation, but far fewer know his name among the NASCAR fan-base.
That’s something Windom hopes to change on Wednesday night during the fifth annual NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway.
Windom, the defending USAC Silver Crown Series champion and a driver of both Silver Crown and USAC Sprint Cars, is making his Truck Series debut this week for team owner Mike Mittler in the No. 36 Baldwin Brothers/Fox Paving Chevrolet.
After driving in a handful of ARCA races between 2011 and 2015, scoring a best finish of third in his debut at the Springfield Mile in 2011 for Win-Tron Racing, Windom is excited for the chance to return to the stock car ranks and prove himself again among the elites.
“This is such an awesome opportunity,” Windom said. “It’s great to work with Mike Mittler and these guys. I know they’ve got great equipment for this race; (teammate) Bobby (Pierce) has showed it in the past, so I’m excited. I have a little bit to learn still, but I think we’re getting better each time out and it’s all about me learning as much as I can.”
Windom’s teammate, Bobby Pierce, won the pole and finished runner-up in the 2015 Eldora Dirt Derby in his debut Truck start, giving Windom confidence that he can replicate such a performance with the same team and equipment.
The 26-year-old Canton, Ill. native says it’s a mixed bag when determining whether or not prior dirt experience helps someone in a race like Eldora, but that he does feel he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve for success.
“I think I have a few advantages and a few disadvantages,” Windom said. “I’m familiar with what it takes to run on dirt … but I haven’t run a heavy car like this in a while. I ran a few ARCA races in the past, but no Truck races … so it’s a lot to take in. It’s definitely a lot different, having a 2,000 pound heavier car than what I’m used to.”
“That’s probably the biggest learning experience, is trying to figure out how hard you can push it into the corner … and seeing when it’s going to stick and when it’s not. It’s a lot heavier, your entry points are a lot slower and you have to get just the right feel for breaking the truck loose but not too loose … because it comes around in an instant. You’re not saving it after you cross that line.”
Windom spent much of Tuesday two practice sessions trying to find the feel he wanted in his truck, and felt that by the time final practice ended at 10 p.m., he and his team were in a fairly good place going into time trials.
“We were pretty tight at first, when the track had a little bit of moisture in it, and I couldn’t get it to turn very well. Once we got it freed up, we made some big steps forward. Hopefully I can do the same from the driver’s seat and we can really get going. I’m learning every time out, so I think we’ll be in pretty good shape come race time.”
Also important to Windom is the amount of local support he knows he’ll have cheering him on when it comes to Wednesday night’s 150-lap main event.
“It means a lot,” Windom said of his dirt track fan base. “We’ve got all the fans back home and all my family watching. There’s a lot of people that would love to be in the position I’m in, so I’m going to savor every minute of it and hopefully we can come out with a win tomorrow.”
“That’s what we’re both here for and it’s all I strive for. I don’t want to race if I can’t win, so that’s definitely what I’m looking for out of this truck and out of our team.”
And as for the future? Windom admitted that beyond the Eldora Truck race, nothing is certain, but that he does hope to return to the Truck Series — and to NASCAR, in general — sooner, rather than later.
“We’ll see what happens after this race,” he laughed. “I think we’re going to try and do one or two more (races) here later this year; I’m always looking forward to getting in a Truck and hopeful that we can pull something together.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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