INDIANAPOLIS – Coming into the new season following a championship year is an envious position to be in.
Chris Windom has experienced that twice before, having previously captured the 2016 USAC Silver Crown Series title as well as the 2017 USAC AMSOIL Nationals Sprint Car Series championship.
Now, he’ll take the mantra of defending champion into the year for a third time, as he celebrates the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series crown and pursues a second title in that division.
In a year where a championship is collected, it’s seemingly easy to rest on one’s laurels and figure that there is little to no room for more improvement while standing at the top of the mountain.
In reality, everything from top to bottom can be altered, not in the sense of reinventing the wheel, but finding more speed and extra motivation to prove that the feat can be done again.
That’s how Windom feels as he heads into his second season with the newly christened CB Industries No. 89, the team 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 last year’s campaign, 101 more than his closest combatant, to become the ProSource Passing Master for USAC.
It’s a hearty stat to be proud of, but Windom freely admitted that it came as a result of sub-par qualifying runs that positioned him deep in the field and created 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 third 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.
Repeat titles are something that’s happened 11 times in the history of USAC National Midget Series, and Windom wants to be the 12th driver to accomplish the feat.
Despite 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 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 this year.
It’s 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 noted. “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 got a practice night to see where we shake out, and I think we’ll be really good.”