Story and photo by Rhonda Beck.
Super late model driver Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C. has been on a roll early this season, winning big with the XR Super Series at Bristol like he did last year. Ferguson now is ready to race with the series in his own backyard at the Dirt Track at Charlotte for The Colossal 100 May 11-14, 2022. He spoke about his season so far and some of the great competition on dirt in the Carolinas and the surrounding area.
Rhonda Beck: I haven’t talked to you since you competed at Bristol with the XR Super Series. Any comments on that event?
Chris Ferguson: Bristol was pretty amazing for the most part. We had a lot of success and were able to run 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and then we had a DNF one night because we had a flat tire. Luckily, I pulled off before it blew out. But it was definitely a career weekend for us. We were able to bring home the $115,000.
RB: Yeah, a good payday.
CF: The points purse for that whole deal–I’m very thankful for it, thankful that we get to race for that amount of money. And just happy that we were able to run good when it counted. We almost had a shot at winning the extra $150,000. Like I said, we didn’t need the DNF, but it all worked out because a lot of people who had flat tires really tore up equipment. We were able to just pull in and find it afterwards, so it all panned out good for us.
RB: And what do you like about The Dirt Track at Charlotte, where you’ll be next week for The Colossal 100?
CF: Yeah, we’re pumped. It’s a really similar format. Four days there instead of three. But the first three days pay $25,000 to win. They’re $2500 to start for four races. So if you go out there and make all four shows, you basically bring home $10,000, no matter what. I know it’s tough for fans to make it to midweek races, but I really hope that the fans come out, at least for Friday and Saturday. I hope the fans tune in online. Because there’s not been a lot of promoters that stick their neck out for the racers the way this guy’s done this year so far. I really hope a lot of people can get on board and support it. I’m looking forward to racing in front of all my friends and fans and local fans because we don’t get to do this normally but once a year, and that’s in November when it’s cold outside. But it’s beautiful right now. It’s just nice to be able to race at the premiere facility in Charlotte in good weather; just really looking forward to it.
RB: The classes of the 604s and 602s will be there on Friday and Saturday as well. You kind of touched on it like at Bristol, that the staff and promoters try to support other divisions as well.
CF: Oh yeah. I think the fans enjoy it. We all kind of know this as an industry. The fans don’t want to see eight or nine classes ran on top of a big race like some places do. But I think the fans do get enjoyment from watching one to three or four classes with the supers. It’s cool that they come to see the super late models but if you do it right and have other support divisions, the fans get behind that too. I think it’s cool that they brought them in. Like I said before, I don’t think it’s a good idea to run seven or eight or nine classes with the supers because if you turn a four hour show into a seven hour show, no one wants to be there that long. I think it’ll be fun to see all the local guys that race here in crates get to come out and race with us in the supers. It’s a good time of the year.
RB: After Bristol you were at a few more places like Wythe Raceway. You had a pretty good run up there.
CF: Yeah, we always enjoy going to Wytheville. It’s one of the most underrated tracks in the country. It’s always smooth. We had a good third place finish there behind two of the best drivers in the world right now, Brandon Overton and Jonathan Davenport. We started fifth so we passed some really good cars, but we were happy with it. And then All-Tech, it was the first time I’ve ever been there, so we weren’t really happy with our finishes. We were 13th and seventh, but we learned a lot for the next trip when we go down there in December. We definitely finished the weekend better than where we started. We felt like on Saturday when we were able to drive up to seventh from where we started, maybe 11th or 13th, we felt like we learned a lot. We probably should have finished better, but we’ll take a seventh on the finale. And it paid really good to start both nights. I believe we brought home maybe $6000 from that weekend which is big whenever you can kinda go run mediocre and still bring home $6000, especially with the cost of fuel right now. So we were really happy with that.
RB: I noticed down there they had the autograph sessions. Any thoughts on that and other innovations, like the cams inside the car where you can watch the race and the iRacing and simulator machines at the track. Is that something that XR Super Series has focused on?
CF: Yeah, I think they’re kind of wanting to promote the show, not just the race. They announced and shared on social media that we were doing an autograph session. They purposely started the race a little bit later than normal down there. I think it started around 7. But that gave everybody time to get there at 5 and then we had our autograph session at either 5 or 6. They walked around with video cameras and filmed it. I think with them starting the show later on, it gives people more time to enjoy the event instead of just rushing from work to get there just to watch the race. They want to turn it more into an event or into something so the fans can interact with the drivers. I think that’s something that a lot the big races miss because they’re so big. You’re so focused on the racecar and you’re so focused on being ready, come three or four o’clock for the heat races, that sometimes the fans get overlooked. And tying in the iRacing stuff and the merchandise stuff creates just an atmosphere that when we have the time to do it, it just helps grow the sport overall. They seem to understand that and they seem to really push it on their end from the promoter’s side, not only just us drivers pushing it from our end.
RB: Any comment on your cousin Carson Ferguson getting his first super late model win at Crossville Speedway? He’s doing pretty well and leading the Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals points.
CF: Yeah, I’m not surprised. He’s supertalented. He is very fortunate to be in the position he’s in, but he’s taken full advantage of it. He’s able to drive for one of the premiere race car owners with Donald and Gena Bradsher, and they’re steering him in the right direction. He went out there and won and had a shot at winning at Clarksville too. He’s got superior talent and I really think when you have the talent– and a lot of people battle this—when you got the talent and don’t have all the equipment, sometimes you don’t get the opportunities. Carson always had the talent, but now he’s got the opportunity and he’s winning the races. I’m pumped for him. I’m looking forward to racing with him. Because I’m his biggest fan and at same time he’s going to be a competitor–he already is a competitor. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s my cousin and I love him and I want to see him succeed. And skip a lot of the hardships that I had to face over the years.
RB: And I know there are many good racers in various divisions and a lot of great talent that should be celebrated in the same way. I recently talked with Adam Yarbrough who just got his first super late model win with the Carolina Clash. Drivers put on great races in many of the regional series too.
CF: Oh a 100%. Like this area. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s so much talent in this area. It’s really cool to see. I got to see Adam get his first win and then Michael Brown kind of branched out, and Jeff Smith, and raced down at All-Tech. Both of them made shows, which is a feat because there are 40 drivers which are 40 of the best drivers in the world there. And then you see guys like Zack Mitchell, who is one of the best, just grab wins. These are all guys that are within a two-hour span of each other. There’s 20, 25 drivers that can win anywhere in the Carolinas and run good anywhere in the country. That’s one thing I’m proud of when I tell people that I grew up racing in this area. That nothing’s handed to you around here; you have to earn it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Ultimate race, Clash race, World of Outlaws race–you have to outrun some really good drivers, no matter what.
RB: Definitely. And I happened to find an old Shrine 100 article from 2010. Jonathan Davenport had won that race at Carolina Speedway and you had put a pole award up for it. Your mother had a quote that the award was in memory of her father, Blair Ferguson. Do you have any comment on the legacy of that race and it being the 50th Anniversary this year?
CF: Yeah, naturally when I was a kid, my grandpa loved the Shrine 100. He would pass out flyers. Back in the day there wasn’t social media, so you had word of mouth and flyers and billboards. He would get a stack of 150 or 200 of them and take them to gas stations. What it all boils down to is that he was proud to be a Shriner. And he instilled that in me. Like we do our Carolina Bad Boyz shirts every year and last year we raised 12 grand for the Shriners Hospitals. The Shrine 100 has always been a staple in Gaston County. You know, for it to be around for 50 years, says a lot. They do a lot of good for a lot of kids that are unfortunate and the miracle work that they are able to perform at the hospitals is second to none. We all have problems, but our problems are nothing in comparison to some of the kids who get treated at those hospitals. I’ll be there at The Shrine 100. I’m not 100% sure I’m racing yet, but I will be there in attendance, more than likely myself and my race team. We usually do some sort of donation. And we’re just thankful for all the Shriners. The ones that put on the race and the Shriners organization, everybody that’s a part of them. They do more and give a lot more than what the normal person or any racecar driver does. It’s amazing that they’ve been around for 50 years and I’m very honored to be one of the guys that’s won that race.
RB: If there were any pioneer drivers that you never got to race with, but would like to have raced against, who would that be? Did you get to race with Freddy Smith?
CF: Yes, I did get to race against Freddy and Mike (Duvall) my first year. But I would say Billy Scott. Billy Scott’s one of ‘em that I wished I would have gotten to race against. And then Stick Elliott. And probably one person that kind of sticks out–I didn’t really get to race with Buddy Smith in supers. I raced against him in crates for the first year that I raced. But never got to race against him in supers. He was always a tough one to beat at the Shrine race. I would have loved to have gotten to race with those three guys.
RB: Finally, they’re planning to do all that great stuff with North Wilkesboro Speedway. Do you have any plans to be there with the dirt racing this fall?
CF: I would say I’m 75-90% sure, because it’s going to be an XR-promoted race. So if it’s anything like all these other ones they’re doing, they’ll be done right. And it’s only an hour or so up the road, so I would say we’ll be there.