MERCED, Calif. — Chris Windom wasn’t a factor during Saturday night’s USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series finale at Merced Speedway, but he didn’t need to be.
Windom’s place in United States Auto Club history was secured the moment he pushed off for hot laps.
By presenting his No. 89 Tucker/Boat Motorsports entry for competition Saturday, Windom secured his first USAC National Midget Series championship, adding the one missing jewel to his star-studded résumé.
With the final two events at Merced paying appearance points only, not even a podium finish by Tyler Courtney, nor a win by Tanner Thorson could upset the one-point margin Windom held atop the standings.
Windom became the seventh driver in USAC history to achieve the coveted Triple Crown, adding the national midget title to previous championships in the USAC Silver Crown Series (2016) and USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series (2017).
He joined Pancho Carter, Tony Stewart, Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley, Jerry Coons Jr. and Tracy Hines in that elite fraternity.
“This is all I’ve thought about for the last three or four months,” said Windom. “I worked my whole career to get in this position and there’s so many people who have helped me along the way. Thank you to NOS Energy Drink, Chad Boat and the entire Tucker-Boat Motorsports team, as well as TRD and Toyota for their support with our engines.
“I can’t put into words what this means to me. It’s pretty special.”
Windom put together a stellar season in Tucker/Boat Motorsports’ fifth full year on the road, with four victories and 13 podium finishes propelling him to the historic championship.
A win at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park in February, on night two of the season, was only the beginning.
Windom went on to add victories at Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway in June, during Indiana Midget Week, and Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway in July before piling up top-five results to increase his point lead.
His fourth and final victory of the season came at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in late September, but the turning point in the title fight came on Nov. 14 at Arizona Speedway during the Western World Championship finale, when season-long rival Courtney retired from the feature with a mechanical issue.
That allowed Windom to take the point lead, which he narrowly held onto during the final full-points night at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway on Tuesday after a final-lap battle with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Passing Stenhouse, Windom noted that night, was ultimately what gave him the edge.
“I knew all I needed was that position to secure the title,” Windom added following Saturday’s finale. “I knew everything came down to that one spot. I drove in hard, got into the back of him and it spun him around. That’s definitely not ideal and it’s not something I’m wearing as a badge of honor.
“Tyler (Courtney) and Tanner (Thorson) had incredible seasons and deserved to win the championship as much as anyone, but I’ll forever be grateful to everyone at Tucker/Boat Motorsports that we were able to be in a position to close it out, and ultimately did so.”
After a runner-up finish in points in 2018, Saturday marked the first USAC midget title for the team co-owned by former driver Chad Boat and ace mechanic Corey Tucker.
It was also the seventh championship in eight years for Toyota Racing Development as an engine manufacturer.
“Congratulations to Chris Windom and the entire Tucker/Boat Motorsports team on earning their first USAC National Midget Championship,” said Paul Doleshal, Group Manager, Motorsports and Assets, Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota is proud of our grassroots racing efforts, as this title marks the seventh USAC championship for Toyota in the last eight seasons.
“We have seen the growth of the Tucker/Boat race team since first partnering together in 2016 and look forward to what the future holds.”
Windom’s one-point margin over Courtney ties the 2008 season for the closest championship finish in USAC National Midget Series history.