Chris Windom’s game plan for 2021 is simple: “Race as much as possible.”
The Canton, Illinois, native has benefitted from doing just that over the last decade, from USAC to IndyLights and NASCAR. Last November, just a month before he turned 30, Windom’s efforts were rewarded with a National Midget Car Championship—the final jewel for his USAC Triple Crown.
Over the past three decades, only six other drivers have accomplished the feat—a milestone not lost on Windom.
“It was pretty cool,” Windom said. “Obviously, it was a weird year. Normally, I feel like it all settles in when you go to the banquet and get all of the awards and have your speech, but we didn’t get to do that this year. So it felt a little different afterwards.
“Still, it was something I worked for my entire career, so it’s a pretty special feeling to be able to accomplish that.”
Windom’s title run came down to the final lap of the last points race of the USAC midget season at Bakersfield (Calif.), Speedway. Mired in traffic following a poor qualifying effort, he was tied with Tyler Courtney in the championship standings with only Ricky Stenhouse Jr., standing between Windom and the title. Windom had no regrets turning Stenhouse in the final corner to get the one point he needed to break the tie—even though the outcome chapped Courtney in the process.
“He was able to get over that,” Windom said with a laugh. “We went on vacation together a month after that. I don’t know if he was ever really mad at me. He was just disappointed that he lost the championship. I probably would have been pissed off, too, for a while. But, no, we’re still friends.”
Windom hopes to tackle the full complement of USAC tours—Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midgets. While he hasn’t secured his Silver Crown plans yet, Windom will continue to race the No. 89 Chad Boat midget and the No. 19 sprinter for Brodie Hayward.
While 2020 was a year of transition as Windom acclimated to his new teams, he feels that both CB Industries and Hayward Motorsports can build on the foundations they developed last season.
“We only got in half the races we had planned on running,” Windom said of his schedule with Hayward Motorsports. “There was a little bit of a learning curve, because we brought Austin Wenrich in and he and Derek Claxton split time as crew chief now. We switched up shock packages and moved to FK Shocks. It took us a little time to learn everything together, but I feel like now we have a good grasp on things.
“We had a handful of wins and a lot of podiums, and we were in the championship battle on the final night. It was a good season. You always want more. We obviously want to win the championship and win more races, but I think after one season together I’m really confident going into 2021 with all these guys.”
Windom finished second in the USAC sprint car season, 39 points behind Brady Bacon. He scored three wins, tied Bacon with 24 top 10s in his 27 feature starts, led the tour with 18 top fives and earned the Prosource Passing Master Award by 99 points over Robert Balou. Prior to Windom joining Hayward Motorsports last year, the team had amassed 13 sprint car wins between Bryan Clauson, Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr., in its first five seasons.
After testing the waters with Windom in a winged sprint car with the World of Outlaws last year at Kokomo (Ind.), Speedway, Hayward has elected to expand their schedule to include the All Star Circuit of Champions.
“Hayward Motorsports has built a 410 non-wing car,” Hayward said. “We debuted it last year at Kokomo with the Outlaws. Chris has an interest in winged racing—as do I and my family—and we both want to do that. It’s probably going to be a natural progression for us.
“We’re obviously still doing the USAC 410s right now but there will be a transition to winged cars in the future. We have a little bit of everything at Hayward Motorsports. We have midgets, we have 410 non-wings and now we have 410 winged cars. We want to spread out our driver. As much as he wants to race, so do we. We just want to have good drivers, good equipment and good finishes. Chris has produced that for us and I think we’ll have a good year this year as well. ”
Windom will debut the No. 19 Hayward sprinter at East Bay Raceway Park on Monday. Hayward expects to run 12-15 winged events with the 53 USAC sprint races already on their schedule. The team is grateful to have support from David Byrd, Nos’ Lauren Albano and Amsoil to continue their quest.
“All sprint car racing has received a lot of exposure this past year,” Windom said. “It continues to grow and we want to grow with it.”
Although it has been nearly a decade since a driver won consecutive midget titles—Bryan Clauson was the last in 2010-11—Windom believes the CB Industries team is up to the task.
“With Chad being a driver before, there are things that are easier to explain to him compared to a guy that never raced before might,” Windom said. “We work well together. We keep things pretty simple at the track. I just have to say a few words and he basically knows what I want and need. No drama. It’s a fun team to be on—same as the sprint car. Everyone is friends and everything seems to work out a little better, too.
“I’m confident going into the year. We had a lot of speed all of last year—almost every race—and Chad brings some great cars to the track. I think after a year under our belts, we’ll come back even stronger.”
Then USAC kicks into overdrive with two weekends at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.,—first with midgets on Feb. 5-6 followed by sprint cars, Feb. 11-13. Practice for the midgets is scheduled for Thursday night at Bubba.
“It’s definitely different—everything about it,” Windom said of 3/8th-mile D-shaped track. “It’s almost like a sandy-type of dirt and the track’s shape is definitely different than anything we go to all year. At some times it challenges people. It has definitely challenged me in the past. But we’ve had a lot of success there the last few years in both the midget and the sprint car.”
Windom won the Saturday night feature in last year’s Winter Dirt Games XI and won the ProSource Passing Master Award after passing 14 cars over two nights of competition. He was victorious in the sprinter in 2019.
“I’m always excited to go down and race anytime in Florida,” Windom said. “Nice weather and obviously we go down there to win races so I’m looking forward to it.”