INDIANAPOLIS – “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” is a creed that’s heard repeated all throughout the sports world.
However, what the quote doesn’t say is that, more often than not, it’s consistency that wins championships.
If an athlete’s final product of results is “boom or bust,” and met with the unpredictability of highs and lows throughout the duration of the campaign, the short-term reward may pay its dividends, but the ultimate result will find you behind the one who’s always in the hunt, always has a chance, and never, seemingly, has a night off.
Over the past decade, that’s been the mantra of Chris Windom.
Of course, he’s won his fair share of feature events in his USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car career. His 23 series victories equal that of A.J. Foyt and Roger McCluskey for 22nd all-time entering the 32nd edition of NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week on July 18-27.
The beginning of his season came with a different set of circumstances, however.
After two highly successful tenures at Baldwin Brothers Racing, which resulted in a pair of ISW titles in 2011 and 2018, plus a USAC national title in 2017, the team unexpectedly shuttered its doors.
Although this could’ve proven to be a major setback, at least in the short term, for Windom, the core of the group – Windom and crew chief Derek Claxton – stuck together when they signed on with Goacher Racing, winning the first race out of the box in February at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Throughout the season, the team has been consistent, rattling off 11 finishes inside the top-10 through the first 12 races of the season, including becoming the first team to reach multiple wins with a May triumph at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.
Consistency is of utmost importance in winning a title, and Windom has done just that during ISW, with 45 top-10 finishes in 68 starts, a percentage of 66%. He’s also finished in the top-five on 24 of 68 occasions, or 35% of the time.
Those are pretty solid numbers, considering his most recent Indiana Sprint Week win came eight years ago, in 2011 at the Terre Haute Action Track. But to win a title, it takes more than victories alone. In fact, it takes more than consistency too.
You’ve got to have the driver, crew chief and all facets of the team in perfect harmony.
“It’s a week of consistency, that’s for sure, between driver, crews, owner, everything,” Windom explained. “You’ve got to be on point that week. It seems the last few years that Derek Claxton and I have jelled together during those long, grueling weeks, whether it’s Indiana Sprint Week, Eastern Storm or anytime we have a long stretch, we seem to enjoy it. So far, we’ve had success with it. You have to have a little luck thrown into it too.”
To illustrate the fact of how tough it is to succeed on the national tour, or in a shorter spurt such as ISW, consider this. Windom’s two wins and nine top-fives in 12 season starts only have him fourth in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series standings.
The standards have changed on what is considered a “good” or “bad” night at the track in recent times. Riding out an ill-handling car, having a driver error or getting caught up in something not of your doing and finishing mid-pack on just one of the eight nights of ISW, could prove to be the fly in the ointment.
Driver and team have to be engaged and locked down to get every spot and point possible.
“The competition is so tough right now,” Windom pointed out. “A bad night at Sprint Week may be a 10th place. Anymore, you’ve got to be in the top-five every night, I feel like, to be in contention. That’s a tough feat when you’re running against 10 to 12 guys who can win every night. We seemed to have capitalized on it the last few years. So far, I’ve been really happy with our speed this year.
“I think we’re going to be in good shape to get another one this year.”