CONCORD, N.C. – For something he designed with his crew chief in a pole barn behind his house, Rusty Schlenk sure has been making a statement with the newly designed Domination Race Car lately.
Three race tracks visited over the last three weekends; three trips to DIRTcar Victory Lane.
“These cars, by far, are the best cars I’ve ever sat in. They steer better than anything, they traction-up better than anything,” Schlenk said. “I’m excited for what it’s got to bring. I think we’ve got a car developed where anybody can jump in it and go fast.”
For several years, the Ohioan piloted the Midwestern favorite Rayburn Race Cars chassis to 40+ feature wins in DIRTcar competition and was awarded the 2017 and 2018 DIRTcar Late Model national points championship titles, using the tips and tricks he was given from famed chassis builder C.J. Rayburn.
Two national titles, an overcrowded trophy cabinet and tens of thousands of dollars in winnings earned for the 33-year-old during that span in Rayburn cars is a lot more than a lot of drivers can say they’ve won in their entire careers.
“I’d say  was probably the best year we’ve had on record, for sure,” Schlenk said. “I’ve never really felt confident going into the Summer Nationals that we actually had a shot to win the title. I just go into it with goals of finishing it and maybe running top-five, top-three in points. But honestly, this year I feel like we’ve got a car good enough to win the deal if we’ve got some luck on our side.”
But soon, Rayburn decided to call it a career himself. Fortunately, Schlenk had already been hard at work preparing to design and fabricate a chassis style of his own that took elements from the Rayburn he already had so much success with.
“We’ve been in the Rayburn deal for the last three years. I knew things were kinda getting slow for [C.J.]. He didn’t really have any workers around there, wasn’t really selling many racecars. He’s 80 years old,” Schlenk said.
“I had actually been piddling around with building my own car a few months before C.J. announced that he was quitting. I was just trying to get things in place because I knew it wasn’t going to be long. When I heard that he pulled the plug and wasn’t going to do it anymore, he tried to get me to come down and take the place over.”
In the end, Schlenk turned down Rayburn’s offer. It’s three-plus hour drive from Schlenk’s home in McClure, Ohio, to Rayburn’s race shop in Whiteland, Ind., and the logistics just weren’t going to be practical. So, he went ahead and pulled the trigger on founding Domination Race Cars.
“I finally decided just to do it myself when he quit. It was either that or completely start over and go with a different brand, and we just didn’t have the money to do that. So, I just developed my own deal,” Schlenk said.
The first car made its debut last year at Duck River Raceway Park’s Deep Fried Fall Brawl. Schlenk strapped a Chevy Performance 604 Crate engine in the car and put a hurting on the field, lapping most of the 17-car roster before the checkered flag waved. In qualifying, Schlenk said his fast lap in the Crate car was quicker than his best time in his super late model.
“I was definitely not expecting it to be that good out of the gate. I knew we had a good piece; I knew we built a good car and I was confident in it. But when you build something from scratch out of your pole barn, you don’t expect it to go out there and kick everybody’s ass the first night,” Schlenk said with a laugh.
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