Chris Ferguson Breaks Down His Cherokee Win

Chris Ferguson Breaks Down His Cherokee Win

Ferguson charged from the tail to the lead last Saturday at Cherokee—and FloRacing caught up with him to get the rundown from the winning driver.

Nov 28, 2017 by Dan Beaver
Chris Ferguson Breaks Down His Cherokee Win

Chris Ferguson charged from the tail of the field to the lead in the Performance Automotive 100 at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC, last Saturday, and FloRacing caught up with him early in the week to get the rundown from the winning driver.

His trip to Cherokee Speedway didn’t start off very well. Ferguson got into a lapped car while racing for the lead in his Friday night heat — and that set him back for the weekend.

“I got in a wreck Friday night racing for the lead against the T1 car [Timbo Mangum],” Ferguson said. “What happened was we caught a lapped car, and he and the lapped car made contact. He slowed down and I had a head of steam. I got into the left side of the lapped car with my right front and it tore up my right front. I got sent to the back with two laps to go. 

"We passed two cars on the restart, but I hurt my hand and wrist when I wrecked because the steering wheel got pulled out of my hand. I missed the C-main, and luckily there was a fast time provisional and I used that provisional knowing I wouldn’t make the B-Main to start at the back of the feature.”

Actually, it was an uphill battle before the track even opened for hot laps. The Southeastern Crate Association (SECA) race was stacked with talent, as the best of other series drivers invaded this late-season race. Starting 23rd, Ferguson would have to get by drivers like Dennis “Rambo” Franklin, Trent Ivey, and newly crowned Fastrak champion Benji Hicks.

The race ran caution free for the first 27 laps of the 100-lap feature. This gave Ferguson the opportunity to run the top line into contention with the race leaders.

“I know we ran all the way to lap 27 without a caution,” Ferguson said. “When the caution came out I was in second. I didn’t really know it either. I knew we passed a lot of cars. And I knew that when I started catching guys like Rambo and Max Blair and Layton Sullivan — I knew when I passed those guys I was getting close to the front. I just didn’t realize I was in second.”

On the restart, Ferguson started inside the second row with only Ivey in front of him. Ivey was the dominant driver for the first quarter of the race.

With the two cars battling in clean air, it took Ferguson five laps to get by Ivey to lead the race for the first time. Around the halfway mark, the second caution of the race set the leaders back within striking distance of the remainder of the field. Now that the track was well worked in, the white stripe that SECA regulates as the firing line for the leader was all but blown away, causing a confused Ferguson to fire off early. He was called for jumping the restart.

“We had a caution about halfway through, and I didn’t know that they had a firing line that they wanted the leaders to start the race at,” Ferguson said. “With the track being raced on for 50 laps you couldn’t see the line anymore. I fired coming off of turn four, and they called me for a jump even though I was in the lead, moving me back a row. 

"It was a little frustrating on my part because I couldn’t see the firing line 50 laps into the main event. The white line was gone. It took me about another five or six laps to pass Trent again after that restart, and then I led through a couple more cautions and led out from there.”

With the lead reclaimed, the night wasn’t over for Ferguson. SECA allows drivers to pick their tires and their choices came into play in the second half of the race. 

While Ferguson raced with the second hardest tire, he was determined not to suffer the same fate he did last Monday at Cherokee. In that race, he lost a tire with 30 laps remaining. 

This time he was focused on conserving the lead and tried not to be overly aggressive with the lapped cars he and Ivey were catching.

“One of the challenges was that I didn’t go with the hard tire, I went with the second hardest tire,” Ferguson said. “I knew the week before that in the Blue/Grey 100, I had a flat tire around lap 70. So when I got out front I wanted to conserve and keep my tires under me for a 100 laps. Because I was conserving, I wasn’t being really aggressive with lapped cars. I’m pretty sure that Trent caught us about two or three times in lapped traffic, but then my brother would give me the signal, the spotter 'T' signal which meant to go around the top of the lapped cars.

"That’s how I got to the front as well I was the first car up at the top at the beginning of the race. Once I got to the lead, I cruised the middle bottom until my brother would let me know that Trent was catching me again. I just had to turn back up and start passing lapped cars to keep the lead that I had.”

Ferguson walked away from the roller coaster weekend $10,000 richer with his second Crate Late Model win of the year. His first came in the Ultimate Southeast Late Models Series mid-April at Modoc (SC) Speedway.