Not that long ago, Carson Ferguson was perhaps best known for being a very good Crate Late Model driver and the younger cousin of Super Late Model racer Chris Ferguson but that is hardly the case anymore. The two-time Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals champion is well on his way to making a name for himself at the top level of Dirt Late Model racing.
Ferguson made his Super Late Model debut in November of 2021 and immediately showed that he could handle that type of machine. The very next spring he won the first of his now successive Spring Nationals titles and has scored multiple feature victories since then. He also won a heat race in preparation for last year’s Dirt Late Model Dream at the Eldora Speedway and was named ‘Rookie of the Race’ for that event.
Considering the short amount of time he has had to acclimate himself to those powerful cars, the Lincolnton, NC hot shoe has achieved a great deal.
“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Ferguson declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Last year at the start of our Super career, it was a lot on me just trying to get all of the tracks for the first time. It was such a learning curve just trying to get used to a Super then going to all of these new tracks that I had never been to as well. With this being our second year, I’m proud of where we’re at after being able to build a notebook last year and coming back this year in a good starting spot, a baseline, coming to all these tracks for a second and third time has really helped a lot.”
Ferguson steers a Longhorn Chassis by Wesley Page owned by Paylor Motorsports. That Donald and Gena Bradsher-led organization also fields cars for two-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Tim McCreadie. The young driver understands that he is in a good place.
“As I have said, I’ve got a lot more resources than people do whenever they start out new,” Ferguson recognized. “That definitely is the biggest reason that we run good, everybody with Paylor Motorsports and Donald and Gena Bradsher, Wesley Page, Longhorn. I have all the resources I need. A lot of people when they start out fresh doing something they don’t get to be as lucky as I am.”
Ferguson won a pair of $7,553 Spring Nationals events earlier this season at Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, NC and I-75 Raceway in Sweetwater, TN. His biggest paycheck of 2023 came from a Hunt the Front Series triumph at Swainsboro(GA) where he collected $10,000.
Coming from Crate Late Models, where he was a Fastrak Touring champion and a Fastrak Triple Crown winner, Ferguson had to adjust his mindset after moving to the more powerful cars.
“I definitely had a series of adjustments I always made with the Crate stuff throughout the night but the Super stuff is just so different,” he pointed out. “You can go to tracks and the adjustments work the same then you can go back to those tracks again and it’s totally different. In the Crate car, there’s usually not that much difference between your adjustments and stuff like that. There’s so much more that goes into the Super stuff whether it’s power or what tire you’re putting on where in Crate cars everybody was kind of on the same tire everywhere you went.”
Competing in a Super Late Model is not just a matter of sitting in the seat and driving. A great deal of thought and planning is required.
“With this stuff, the field is always split up with who puts what tires on,” Ferguson explained. “There’s just a lot more that goes into adjusting a Super car compared to a Crate car. There’s a lot different mentally wise because you can’t stay in the same format that you usually did, you’ve got to be able to open your mind to ideas and never be content with what you’re doing. You’ve got to always be willing to change what you’re doing.”
The recently completed Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals went down to the wire. Jimmy Owens entered the finale at Tazewell(TN) Speedway with a slim lead over Ferguson, Donald McIntosh, Ricky Weiss and Kenny Collins. Unfortunately for Ferguson, he was caught up in an accident not of his own making early in that feature and ultimately finished fourth in the final standings.
But had someone told him a year ago that he would be battling one of Dirt Late Model racing’s all-time greats for a championship, what would his reaction have been?
“I would have told you that you were lying,” he replied with a smile. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how lucky we are to do this, just like this summer deal being able to race on weeknights when other people are working or just getting off work. I’ve had a day job the past few years but I’m doing this full time now so I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s hard to let your emotions get to you when you’re racing a race car for a living.”
In the tour’s penultimate race at North Georgia Speedway this past Friday night, Ferguson led 52 of the 53 laps. However, he found himself caught up behind a pair of slower cars going into turn one just after taking the white flag. Disaster struck for the No. 93 car at that moment which allowed Dale McDowell to slip by on the outside and drive on to the checkered flag.
“When you have nights like at North Georgia, it’s kind of hard to show how much you appreciate everything in the moment just because you’re so frustrated with the outcome,” Ferguson admitted. “Racing against Jimmy, he was one of my favorite drivers growing up, when you’re running around in the four-wide salute or on the pace laps or even when I’m behind him it’s like ‘Holy crap, I’m behind Jimmy Owens’ and it’s the same with Dale McDowell because he’s one of the guys you always look up to. Whenever one of them is on the track, no matter who else is out there, they’re one of the ones you’re going to watch whether it’s because they’re fast or just to see where they’re running on the track to see what lanes they’re running. Even when they’re not fast, they always know where to be on the track so you can always learn something from them.”
The rising star hopes to learn from every race he enters so that he can continue building on a promising career.
“All the keyboard warriors on Facebook and Twitter say that Dale went high and I could’ve done the same thing, but if you watch the last ten laps of the race, I sat there and ran behind the 25 car(Mike Benedum) the whole time and it was just rubbered up on the bottom. When you’re behind people, you can’t see because the cars are so jacked up and they’re so wide. All I saw was the back of the 25 car and I’m already committed to the bottom getting into one, and all of a sudden, he turns low and there’s another car stopped there. I was in my lane at that point and can’t hang a dead right because you don’t know who’s out there. It was disappointing because we were so close, but looking back, the lapped car couldn’t help that he had a flat tire so it was just wrong place at the wrong time.”
In just a short period of time, Ferguson has progressed to the point that he can be disappointed with a second-place run.
“Anytime you run second to Dale and beat Jimmy it’s nothing to hang your head about,” he declared thinking back to the North Georgia situation. “In the moment, when you led 52 of the 53 laps, you don’t know the situation- a lapped car had a flat tire and I didn’t know that at the time- so I was pretty hot when I got out of the car. I’m glad I didn’t say anything I regret. It was just ‘wrong place at the wrong time’.”
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