Every year before the race season starts, race fans across the country wait to see who will be on the rosters of the big-time traveling series. In the dirt late model world, we keep our eyes open to see what regional stand out is going to try and make the jump to a full-blown national campaign. We have seen many over the years, including some in 2018, start running a national series only to fall off early. Others may make it further in the year, only to run low on funding and ultimately ending their run.
This season, Chris Ferguson was one late model driver fans kept an eye on, as many thought he was long overdue to join a national tour. A favorable schedule made it possible for Ferguson set his eyes on the Rookie of the Year title with the World of Outlaws Late Model series. “Fergy” was able to start and make all twenty series events he entered. But, only boasting one top 5 and eight top 10’s, left Ferguson and the team less than satisfied with their campaign.
After 20 shows, Ferguson and team decided to pull off of the tour and regroup. This would not only mean taking a break, but making a change as well. After seeing Ferguson’s team in victory lane with Scott Bloomquist after an LOLMDS win, the change many had speculated was a switch in chassis makers. It was finally announced, Ferguson would join forces with arguably the best driver to ever wheel a dirt late model and jump into a brand new Sweet-Bloomquist Chassis. While Ferguson had been in the Rocket Chassis camp, a frustrating year led to the decision to make a big change.
The problem was we showed speed at places we’ve always been good at. — Chris Ferguson
“We got that new Rocket we built for PRI last year, and we just couldn’t get it figured out. We spent a lot of the year just chasing our butts, and it wasn’t like we weren’t working, we were trying all kinds of stuff. We showed a little bit of speed at times, but the problem was we showed speed at places we’ve always been good at,” Ferguson explained.
After trying and thinking of everything in the book, the team decided it was either time to modify the chassis and change components, or move to a new mount.
“With the combination of the shocks and the car, it just wasn’t working right. Sometimes you just can’t figure cars out. I could’ve cut it and changed it, but it wasn’t worth it to us. Plus, we had a guy who offered to buy the thing so how do you not take that deal? So, we decided to just kind of regroup.”
When the team moved the old chassis out, Ferguson knew the next chassis was going to be a Sweet-Bloomquist, as the team was looking to gain an advantage on hitting the slick track surfaces where they have struggled. A relationship with Bloomquist had blossomed over time, ultimately opening the door for the North Carolina driver.
I’ve been known to be good when tracks are heavy and fast, so why not go for my exposed weakness. — Chris Ferguson
“We decided to regroup, and this whole deal with Scott came about to get in his cars. I’ve known them for a long time. I’ve known Cody [Bloomquist’s crew chief] for a long time, and have worked with Scott for a little while on racing seats and stuff. So we just talked about it three or four times and we decided to get one. A lot of it is what your trying to get better at. For me I’ve been known to be good when tracks are heavy and fast, so why not go for my exposed weakness, which is the slick [tracks] and work with the best guy in the country when it comes to that.”
While deciding to purchase the chassis was easy, the logistics of getting it were not. Ferguson’s dad made the 20-hour trek up to the Sweet Manufacturing’s shop in Michigan to pick the car up. He was only able to make the journey after waiting two weeks while the chassis was built. That led to the chassis going to North Carolina, only to be taken back up to Mooresburg, Tennessee, to be assembled alongside Bloomquist and crew.
“We had to wait a couple weeks for Sweet to build it. Once they got it done, we brought it home, and then took it to Scott’s. Dad actually drove and picked it up, which was pretty crazy, he left right after work one night. He brought it back home and we worked on it a little bit, then we took it back to Scott’s shop and built this one and here we are.”
Getting into a new a Sweet-Bloomquist chassis means more than just getting a chassis. You’re also getting the knowledge of one of the best in the business. In today’s racing landscape its all about sharing information. Many chassis companies help when buying their product, but assembling a new car right next to the mastermind also proved helpful to Ferguson and crew.
“My biggest thing was that I want to be able to learn from Scott. Just building the car was a big learning step. It’s been pretty cool. They definitely worked hard and got a lot of stuff done on it for us. It was a joint-effort between my crew and his people,” He said. “It was nice to have someone there to guide you while your building it, and also help you understand why he does the things he does. Everything on the car, Scott or Cody took a look at, to make sure it was right. Ultimately, Scott doesn’t want to see me suck in his car, so I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point. When I went testing the other night, Scott called me four or five times to figure out what we did, and what we thought about it.”
At the time of this interview, Fergusons only had one night of competition under the team’s belt. An early mistake threw the night off, but it ultimately ended with a positive result. Chris had accidentally hit the clutch instead of the break on his qualifying run, putting the team behind.
“Last night we struggled in qualifying because I screwed us up. The track wasn’t really easy to pass on, but we were one of the only cars in the feature to pass. You know, 19th to 11th isn’t a big deal, but at the same time, we were passing guys like Eddie Carrier Jr. and Dennis Erb. We weren’t passing guys that aren’t big-time drivers, these guys are top-of-the-line drivers.”
There are still a lot of big shows left in the 2018 season for the dirt late model division. With time, comfort will come for Chris Ferguson in his new car. He has cashed some large checks regionally, but if things continue in a positive direction you can be sure to see him going for the large national purses as well.
“Our performance really dictates where we go, but I’d like to say if we keep running well and keep getting better, were definitely going to run some big shows.”