Chris Windom’s month of May was unprecedented, largely for the amount of racing he packed into it and the number of different divisions in which he competed.
After all, there have been very few drivers in any era who would have taken on the challenge of adding the Indy Lights Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a schedule that already included full-time rides in the USAC National Sprint Car Series, USAC National Midget Series and USAC Silver Crown Series.
However, Windom’s month of May was also unprecedented for the amount of carnage he endured and had to battle back from — a tall task for any racer anywhere in the world.
Windom’s holiday week of racing featured five different disciplines — Indy Lights, non-winged sprint cars on both pavement and dirt and Silver Crown cars on both pavement and dirt — in a seven-day span.
While that kind of a rigorous schedule alone is something that might scare off most grassroots racers, it’s a challenge Windom embraced with open arms because of his passion for the sport.
“I love racing more than anything, and particularly racing anything I can, anywhere I can,” said Windom. “It’s what I signed up for, I guess. I’m fortunate to be a guy who gets to do that, because very few people have gotten the opportunities to be able to do the things that I’ve gotten to do. It’s pretty cool that I have the people backing me who want me to do things like what we tried to do in May this year, and it definitely fuels me to keep going and trying to win races because that’s how you get more chances.”
Windom began his wild week on May 21 with an Indy Lights test session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then practiced his non-winged pavement sprint on May 23 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway before rolling over to the Terre Haute Action Track later that night to run the USAC-sanctioned Tony Hulman Classic sprint car race on dirt.
May 24 saw the Canton, Ill., native practice and qualify his Indy Lights car at IMS, helicopter over to Anderson Speedway to qualify his Little 500 sprint car and then rush to the Indiana State Fairgrounds dirt mile for the Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown Series event that evening.
The Freedom 100 for Indy Lights took center stage on Friday, May 25, followed by the Silver Crown Carb Night Classic that night before the Little 500 on Saturday, May 26.
A non-winged sprint car event at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway, honoring Windom’s longtime and late friend Bryan Clauson, capped off the week-long stretch on Sunday night, May 27.
Amid that week was chaos and crashes aplenty for Windom, who started a sequence of hard hits on lap six of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indy Mile, shredding a tire coming down the frontstretch and barrel-rolling violently before climbing out under his own power.
The bad news continued the next day when Windom was swept up in an opening-lap melee during the Freedom 100 after David Malukas spun into his path and Windom’s Indy Lights machine launched into the turn-four SAFER barrier.
Windom’s string of three crashes in three straight races concluded with a bang in the hours following the Freedom 100 when the engine blew in his Silver Crown car at Lucas Oil Raceway and he pounded the outside wall.
Many drivers faced with such a string of adversity might have thrown in the towel, but not Windom. He soldiered on to compete in the Little 500 — a 500-lap sprint car race on the high-banked, quarter-mile paved oval.
Though he ended the race down four laps to winner Kody Swanson, Windom finished fifth — a result he considered “a win, given everything we went through to get there.”
It was the start of a turnaround to Windom’s luck, which continued despite a rainout at Kokomo.
He went on to win his first USAC National Midget Series feature during Indiana Midget Week in June, a long-awaited triumph with Clauson-Marshall Racing that came at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway after a battle with teammate Tyler Courtney.
That was the moment Windom admitted he was “back to full song,” something that had been a tough feeling for the Prairie State native to come by in light of his rough month of May.
“The win at Lawrenceburg really started to heal the wounds of what went on for us during the month of May,” explained Windom. “We just had to — and I’ve been doing this for quite a while, going back to the beginning of my career — forget the lows and focus forward, because if you beat yourself up or get down, it’s hard to get out of that funk when you get down on yourself.
“You just have to go out with confidence in yourself, believing you can win and confidence in every race car that you strap into that it will go out and perform for you when the green flag drops.”
Windom is far from the first driver to go through a run of adversity and have to battle back; it’s a song and dance that happens to rookies, veterans and champions alike.
Click below to keep reading the story.