Eldora Speedway has been very kind to Chris Windom throughout the years. After all, it’s a place he’s collected two career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car wins in 2013 and 2018, plus two in Silver Crown in 2013 and 2016 coming into this weekend’s #LetsRaceTwo Friday and Saturday, May 10-11 at Eldora Speedway.
In 2016, he rose to climbed to the top of the stage, claiming his first USAC National crown by securing the win and the Silver Crown title all in one fell swoop.
Since then, not that he wasn’t already, but he has cemented his star status within USAC, winning another “Indiana Sprint Week” title, a pair of “Eastern Storm” crowns and his first USAC National Sprint Car championship in 2017. Last season was another banner year with the Canton, Ill. native finally getting his first win in May at Eldora, which eventually thrust him into the point lead by June before falling back to third by year’s end.
Thus far in 2019, with new digs in the Goacher Racing No. 5G, it’s been a mixed bag of sorts following his spectacular opening night victory in Ocala, Fla. with a 21st, 5th and 9th following the win. But his connection between Goacher, himself and Eldora is quite interesting. Prior to the February win, Goacher’s most recent USAC Sprint win came in 1992 at Eldora with driver Danny Smith.
Once again, this is going to be a big May for Windom with a jampacked schedule of short track races across the Midwest in all three National series and is on the verge of getting another shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy Lights car at the “Freedom 100” on May 24.
While last year’s Indy try went haywire against the wall, the beginning of May was certainly a highlight as Windom took the lead from Kevin Thomas, Jr. on the fourth lap of the 30-lap feature at the western Ohio half-mile dirt oval and never relinquished it.
Rain was on the forecast and urgency was at the forefront as the show was pushed along to defeat Mother Nature. Yet it was Thomas who initially looked like the one to take the bull by the horns at the start, splitting between Chase Stockon and Windom just past the flag stand, then sliding up in front of pole sitter Joe Stornetta to grab the lead by turn one.
Windom immediately charged forth and tried to redeem a two-for-one discount coupon, sliding by Stornetta and Thomas in quick succession entering turn three to briefly snare the top spot before Thomas ducked back underneath to regain control exiting the fourth turn.
The first big incident of the night occurred in turn two on the third lap when 11th-running Justin Grant and another car made contact, sending the Ione, Calif. native on a wild ride that he would walk away from unscathed.
On the ensuing restart, more trouble ensued when third-running Stornetta climbed the outside wall between turns three and four and cartwheeled several times before coming to rest near the bottom of turn four. The series Rookie making just his second start at Eldora escaped injury.
On the restart, Windom got up on the wheel once again and went on the attack, running down Thomas with a successful turn one slider. Thomas fought back on both ends of the racetrack with a two-pack of sliders, to no avail.
“I don’t know if there was urgency, but clean air here, even in a non-wing car, is crucial,” Windom pointed out. “With the dust, and watching guys mess up on the cushion, it’s just a lot easier being in the lead. I knew that the slider line (Thomas) was running would work on restarts, but I thought if I could get up and start getting my momentum going up top, it’d be better, and it was. When I saw the opportunity, I just took it. I wanted to get out to the lead and get away from everybody as quick as possible. Obviously, it helps with the great racecar (crew chief) Derek Claxton gave me.”
Though it appeared Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team had the “it” factor going on from the get-go, it wasn’t initially clear to Windom how well his car was going to react as the race wore on at a feisty joint like “The Big E.”
“The first couple of laps, I didn’t know how great my car was with the way we were sliding ourselves,” Windom admitted. “Once we started rolling the top, I knew the car was really good. As long as I didn’t mess up on my end, it was going to be tough for anyone to get to us. This place is just so mentally and physically demanding. Running the cushion like that is tough to do for 30 laps.”
By halfway, Windom’s lead was a full-straightaway – a country mile, if you will – as a pack that included Stockon, Tyler Courtney, Robert Ballou and Friday night winner Brady Bacon sorted out the runner-up spot lap-after-lap with Courtney finally able to emerge with the second position on the 19th lap. But, by then, Windom’s lead was a nearly insurmountable 4.843 seconds. It was a lead so large that Windom was unaware of how large it actually was.
“I didn’t know I had that big of a lead,” Windom exclaimed. “I knew we were pretty good, but when you start getting into lapped traffic, every little lapped car can slow you down just enough. It’s such a momentum racetrack for a guy to catch you. You have to be slow and methodical through lapped traffic, but you can’t let up too much. I tried to pick them off as quickly as I could and tried to get some guys between me and second.”
By race’s end, Windom had lapped up to eighth place. Courtney was able to make up some ground as Windom got hung up while threading the needle through traffic. But the hang-up was a brief one and not nearly enough to stall Windom as he finished hammering the proverbial nail, winning by a margin of 2.3 seconds over Courtney, Stockon, Bacon and Ballou.
“We’ve had a lot of good runs. I think we’ve had four or five podium finishes so far. But you get sick of those after a while and you just want to win a race. It’s awesome to start it here!”
Tickets sales begin at the main gate and turn four for this Friday and Saturday’s #LetsRaceTwo at 1:30pm Eastern both days. The turn 3 pit gate opens at 2pm, spectator gates open at 2pm, drivers meeting begins at 5pm with cars set to hit the track at 6pm.
Adult general admission tickets are $29 and $34 for reserved. For children ages 12 and under, general admission tickets are FREE and $9 for reserved. Pit passes are $34 apiece.
Eldora Speedway is located at 13929 OH-118, New Weston, OH 45348. You can reach the track via phone at (937) 338-3815. The track’s website can be found at http://www.eldoraspeedway.com/.
You can watch the event LIVE on http://www.FloRacing.com/ or listen LIVE on the USAC app. Follow along with live updates on https://www.facebook.com/usacracing/ and https://twitter.com/USACNation with live timing and scoring available on the Race Monitor app.