On dust and asphalt, with and with out fenders, Chris Windom has competed on a few of racing’s greatest levels.
There’s the Chili Bowl Nationals, the place he completed sixth this previous January. At fabled Eldora Speedway, he’s a previous winner in USAC competitors and raced twice within the NASCAR Tenting World Truck Collection. He’s tackled Daytona Worldwide Speedway’s excessive banks in an ARCA inventory automotive. And he’s crossed the Yard of Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy Lights automotive.
Now, Windom – the reigning USAC nationwide midget collection champion and the seventh driver to win a title in every of USAC’s high three collection – is making his debut in NASCAR’s premier division, because it hosts its first race on dust in over half a century.
The place will this rank amongst his adventures?
“I feel it’ll be proper there close to the highest,” Windom informed NBC Sports activities on Tuesday, earlier than he made his technique to Bristol Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race.
“Ever since I used to be a bit of child, I’ve all the time needed to race on Sunday with the Cup guys. To get that chance – and for the primary alternative to be on dust, the place I’m extra comfy on – makes it even cooler.”
Windom is driving the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. After assembly his RWR crew for the primary time earlier this week for a seat becoming and weekend prep, he turned his first laps in a Cup automotive on Friday.
He was thirty fourth quickest within the first observe session, then twenty eighth quickest within the closing session.
— Rick Ware Racing (@RickWareRacing) March 26, 2021
Whereas many Cup Collection regulars have prior dust expertise or have been constructing theirs up just lately, Sunday’s race continues to be a chance for Windom and different dust regulars to showcase their abilities on a comparatively stage taking part in subject.
Together with Windom, dash automotive driver Shane Golobic (No. 78 Dwell Quick Motorsports Ford) and previous World of Outlaws late mannequin champion Mike Marlar (No. 66 MBM Toyota) shall be within the subject.
“I’m certain there’s a whole bunch or 1000’s of (dust) guys who’d like to get the chance to do it,” Windom mentioned. “I positively need to have an excellent exhibiting for all of the dust racers on the market that I’m certain shall be watching. I’m wanting ahead to carrying that badge and hopefully make everyone proud.”
Two of Sunday’s favorites additionally plan to maintain tabs on the dust regulars.
Larson mentioned this week that he’d like to see them competing for a win, however that such a prospect is a tall order.
“I feel that shall be actually arduous, simply because although it’s a dust monitor and we’ve by no means accomplished it, a staff like Hendrick Motorsports has far more information and expertise of establishing a automotive to go to Bristol than the groups they’re racing for,” Larson mentioned.
“I nonetheless suppose that they’ll be type of preventing an uphill battle, however I feel with their driving skills, hopefully they’ll crack inside the highest 20 or whether it is actually even, perhaps into the highest 15 or 10 and have an superior day.”
As for Bell, he named Windom and Golobic earlier this week as amongst a listing of drivers he anticipated to run properly.
When requested if Windom had requested him for recommendation going into the week, Bell mentioned he hadn’t, however that “he’s going to be positive” whereas referring to Windom’s previous ARCA expertise on the Illinois dust miles at Springfield and DuQuoin.
“The ARCA vehicles are most likely going to be actually comparable, at the least on the miles, to what we’re going to do that weekend,” Bell mentioned. “I feel he’s acquired as a lot expertise as any of us, so I feel he’ll be a competitor for certain.”
Earlier than Sunday, nonetheless, come 4, 15-lap qualifying warmth races Saturday. Factors gathered in these warmth races, from each finishes and positions gained from their beginning place (passing factors), will decide the beginning lineup for Sunday.
Windom shall be a part of the fourth warmth race, the place he’ll race in opposition to the likes of reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. Whereas he expects the heats to be “fairly intense,” he additionally acknowledges the significance of avoiding issues.
“Going off the place I ran the Truck race at Eldora, it appeared like quite a lot of guys … spin out and get themselves in hassle within the heats,” he mentioned. “You don’t need to bury your self, however you additionally must be aggressive. I feel there are going to be guys that go for it – and it would work out or it may not.”
As for Sunday, Windom doesn’t have a objective in thoughts so far as finishes go. However he’s conscious that RWR, a staff that normally runs towards the again of the sphere, is seeking to give him an excellent automotive that may get them nearer to the entrance.
If he can provide them a run to be happy with whereas fulfilling certainly one of his childhood goals, a lot the higher.
“I’m actually wanting ahead to it,” he mentioned. “It took fairly a couple of individuals to place this deal collectively. I’m certain it’ll develop into extra surreal as soon as I’m really there, within the automotive. I don’t have any expectations (about finishes). However as soon as my helmet goes on, I all the time flip right into a racer.
“I’m there to win the race, however I’m there to additionally take pleasure in it.”