Story by Rhonda Beck. Photo by Richard Barnes.
I first interviewed Carson when he was 11 years old and already finding success in motorsports as a racer in North Carolina as well as across the country. Although some of his views may have changed over time, he continues to be very excited about the sport. Now 19, Ferguson talks about a few of his present and future goals and dreams.
Race car driver Carson Ferguson of Lincolnton, NC appreciates NASCAR’s increased promotion this year of grassroots racing as well as drivers in NASCAR’s top three series helping out at local tracks.
Despite his success in previous years at Charlotte Motor Speedway and other places, Ferguson has seen first-hand the challenges of getting ahead in the business. Wins and hard work may or may not propel competitors to a higher level of racing.
In July, Ferguson won the Boston Reid Real Estate Pro division finale in the BoJangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He held off Joey Padgett and Bubba Wallace to claim the victory in the Legends car and another championship for Ladyga Motorsports. Some of his other past racing accomplishments include over 75 career wins in Bandoleros with a national title in Bandolero Bandits in 2011, over 75 wins on the Legends circuit with dirt, asphalt and road course national points championships in 2014, and over 50 wins in karts. He won the Pro Nationals 35-lap Legends feature in Las Vegas in 2018.
Ferguson feels that continued grassroots promotion is needed to help individuals like himself, who have at times raced against those who are now in the NASCAR ranks.
“The more exposure you can get, you kind of have the hope that there’s a chance to get to the top level of the sport,” said Ferguson who has competed against and beaten drivers such as Harrison Burton, William Byron, Noah Gragson, and Christian Eckes at some point in Bandoleros, Legends, or other series.
One NASCAR driver he has gotten to know over the past year out at Charlotte Motor Speedway is Austin Hill. Hill, currently competing for a NASCAR Gander Truck series championship and a winner in the regular season at Daytona and Michigan, came up through the ranks in Bandoleros and Legends and has helped Ferguson at the track.
“He was my spotter for a couple of races and we worked together like with scuffing tires and breaking them in and spotting-wise. The Legends cars allow you to have spotters now; they know what you want to hear and what you need to hear. They’ll tell me how far back the next car is and whether to enter lower and don’t go as high–just stuff like that which is important for you to hear to protect your position or advance a position,” said Ferguson.
Hill, who likes to go out to places like Myrtle Beach Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, enjoys being able to driver-coach and teach young racers the things he’s learned through the years.
“I know him really well,” said Hill regarding Ferguson. “I practiced the car he won in and broke in some tires for him. It’s been cool to help him out.”
Currently, Ferguson is racing on both pavement and dirt.
“This year we’re following the FASTRAK Nationals Series on dirt and we’re leading the points there. So I want to stay in the points lead, really try to finish the year off strong. It would be a huge help for us to win the championship. It helps with a small team,” Ferguson said.
As far as money goes, the FASTRAK series is more affordable for a lot of drivers like Ferguson.
“The crate motors now are like $5600. You get the headers at $1500 and the carburetor at $1500 and by the time you get everything, said and done, it’s about $8000. But then you have the super (late model) motors where they’re $40,000 alone. There are different motor components transitioning from a crate 604 to a super; you’re still looking at about $43,000 to run a super,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson potentially had a ride with a particular team, but they decided to go with a guy who ran supers.
“I wished things would have worked out differently, but the guy they chose had experience and that’s what it took,” Ferguson said. “That’s why we went to dirt with a crate because it’s affordable and I’m a racer and I want to race as much as I can. I’d rather race 30 times a year on dirt versus eight times a year on asphalt for the same amount of money. So that’s really why we went dirt.”
Ferguson works on his own equipment along with his dad and a few other people.
“The guys who help me have kids and they have full-time jobs like me and my dad do. So we aren’t able to focus as much on the car as we’d like to or race as much as we’d like to. But I work on my car every night that I can at the shop, and we’re out at the track working on it. We really have been fast this year,” Ferguson said.
As far as the rest of the season goes, Ferguson is running for the Legends car championship and the FASTRAK championship.
“I won the Legends Nationals race last year in (Las) Vegas. I want to try and win the Legend car nationals in the 48 car,” said Ferguson.
On the dirt, he recently finished second to Logan Roberson at Virginia Motor Speedway on August 24th. He won at the same track in June. His other FASTRAK victories this season were at Toccoa Raceway and Friendship Motor Speedway.
Ferguson has a lot of good competition on the dirt.
“For the points championship, the guy who is second in points that has a chance to win it is Nick Schlager. I also like racing against people like Logan (Roberson), Matt Long, Michael Brown and Layton Sullivan,” Ferguson said.
Over Labor Day weekend, the FASTRAK series will be making a stop at Princeton Speedway in Princeton, W. Va. on Friday and then heading to Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W. Va. for races on Saturday and Sunday.
Many competitors are looking forward to the $50,000-to-win FASTRAK World Championship at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Va. September 13-14, 2019.
“For this event there will be a lot of super late model drivers coming in,” said Ferguson. “There’s a lot of people complaining about that, but there’s only so fast you’ll get in a crate car. If you’re a good driver and you’ve got your stuff right, you’ve got experience every week in a crate car. The thing where the super guys have the upper hand is they’re not going to make mistakes. I think the only difference is that other times you’re able to get away with a mistake or two, but this time you’re going to have to be mistake-free to win. That’s just my view on it. I enjoy racing against better people and more experienced people.”
Ferguson compared the scenario to Cup drivers like Kyle Busch racing a truck every now and then.
“Whenever you race against someone like Kyle, he isn’t going to make a mistake and he’s going to be aggressive. You’ve just gotta give it right back—be just as aggressive, if not more so,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson appreciates the backing he does have. Some of the people who have supported him along the way include his cousin Chris Ferguson, Chris’s brother Brandon Conard and their dad Brian Conard as well as Steve Hendren who rebuilt his 604 engine.
“They’ve helped me a lot as well as my dad and step-mom (Tony & Teresa Ferguson) who take me to races, my mom and step-dad (Jamie Johnson Limer and Kevin Limer) who are great supporters of my racing, Cameron Loweman and Ethan Landers,” Ferguson said.
His sponsors include Hoopaugh Grading, The Racing Warehouse, ProFabrication, Beaux-Tie Limousine Service, Carolina Roofing and Gutters, PFC Brakes, FK-Rod Ends and MPI.
In the Legends series, he thanks Timmy and Cheryl Ladyga of Ladyga Motorsports, Brett Hartley, Tyler Malboeuf, Daniel Hemric, Austin Dillon, Papa Nicholas Coffee, Andrews Motorsports, US Legend Cars Engine Shop, MPI, South Point Hotel and Casino, Carolina Financial Partners, and Rising Star Management Group.
While continuing to compete in these series, Ferguson hopes to find different racing opportunities in the future. He is realistic about what may or may not happen.
“When I was younger I said I wanted to make it to NASCAR, and you think you can if you have what it takes. I’d also like to race super late models on dirt whether it be for Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws. I guess my dream is that I’d still like to make it to NASCAR. At the same time I kind of know that it’s not really possible if you don’t have a big check. I’m not as devastated as I used to be, realizing this, but I still have hope. All I can do is perform on the track and have a good attitude off the track,” said Ferguson.