By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (January 31, 2021)………Coming into the new season following a championship year is an envious position to be in.
Chris Windom has experienced that twice prior to earning himself the 2020 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National title after previously capturing the 2016 USAC Silver Crown title as well as the 2017 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship.
In a year where a championship is collected, to the outsider, it’s seemingly easy to rest on your laurels and figure that there is little to no room for more improvement while standing at the top of the series.
Oh no, sir. Everything from top to bottom can be altered, not in the sense of reinventing the wheel, but finding that extra tenth, that extra millimeter, that extra motivation to prove to yourselves that you can do it again. That’s how Windom feels as he heads into his second season with the newly christened CB Industries No. 89, formerly named Tucker-Boat Motorsports.
“There’s always things we can all work on,” Windom noted. “We’ve got to be better at a few tracks that we weren’t that good at last year. It’s the same team, but last year was a new season for me working with (team owner) Chad Boat. This year, we’ve got a year under our belt and I think we’re going to come back even stronger than what we were last year. It’s definitely an advantage to have that year under your belt, coming back with the same equipment, the same guys and the same team, so I think that’ll definitely help.”
Another element of the game that Windom is adamant about finding improvement is one which rewarded him with a nice bonus last year, oddly enough. The Canton, Ill. driver advanced 226 positions in feature events alone during the 2020 campaign, 101 more than his closest combatant, to become the ProSource Passing Master for USAC. A hearty stat to be proud of, for sure, but Windom freely admitted that it came as a result of sub-par qualifying runs that positioned him deep in the field and required a lot of extra work to reach the front.
“I’ve got to work on qualifying a little bit and get started toward the front too because it just makes it harder,” Windom admitted. “There’s so many good guys now that’s it’s so hard to come from outside the third or fourth row and win a lot of races throughout the year. I’ve got to get better, but I think we’re definitely going to be better this year.”
Following his previous two USAC National championships, Windom finished 3rd in the final standings in both Silver Crown (2017) and National Sprint Cars (2018), finishing right on the cusp of contention for a back-to-back title season, something that’s happened 11 times in the history of USAC National Midget racing by Shorty Templeman (1956-57-58), Jimmy Davies (1960-61-62), Mike McGreevy (1965-66), Mel Kenyon (1967-68), Sleepy Tripp (1975-76), Stevie Reeves (1992-93), Tony Stewart (1994-95), Jason Leffler (1997-98-99), Dave Darland (2001-02), Jerry Coons Jr. (2006-07) and Bryan Clauson (2010-11).
With all the accolades, awards and his new status as a USAC career Triple Crown champion, the fire still burns within Windom, and he retains an intrinsic desire to win and reach the kind of personal rewards that are practically impossible to duplicate off the track.
“I’m very passionate about racing, and I’m a very competitive person,” Windom said. “I’m just here to win every night and that feeling you get when you win races or championships is not something you can get anywhere else, at least I’ve never experienced it in life. I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. This is what I love to do, and the reward of winning and doing so with the guys who work hard building these racecars in the shop is what makes it even more special.”
Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. is where the candle gets relit for Windom in 2021 as he takes on a track where he has attained a great deal of success at over the past two years, winning in the sprint car in 2019 and the midget in 2020. Despite the short turnaround, Windom is eager to get the new season going.
“It feels like we haven’t had much of an offseason, but I’m already getting bored and I’m ready to go back racing again,” Windom stated. “We’ve had a lot of success at Ocala the last few years in the midget and sprint car, and I’m looking forward to it. We get a practice night to see where we shake out, but I think we’ll be really good.”
Windom will begin his 2021 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget journey in the series openers for Winter Dirt Games XII on Feb. 5-6 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. A dedicated practice night will precede the festivities on Feb. 4.
Just moments later, Windom begins his 2021 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season on Feb. 11-12-13 at Bubba Raceway Park. A practice night on Feb. 10 for the series precedes three consecutive full nights of racing. Tickets will be available at the gate on race day. No pre-order is necessary.
BACK-TO-BACK USAC NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONS:
Shorty Templeman (1956-57-58)
Jimmy Davies (1960-61-62)
Mike McGreevy (1965-66)
Mel Kenyon (1967-68)
Sleepy Tripp (1975-76)
Stevie Reeves (1992-93)
Tony Stewart (1994-95)
Jason Leffler (1997-98-99)
Dave Darland (2001-02)
Jerry Coons Jr. (2006-07)
Bryan Clauson (2010-11)