For several years Chris Ferguson has been known as one of the top regional Dirt Late Model racers in the country. And in 2018 the Mt. Holly, NC driver decided to take his racing exploits on the road as a follower of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series to the delight of his fans. However, the finishes in the early part of the season were not what he had hoped for which led to the No. 22 team dropping off of that national touring series.
In hopes of improving those results, Ferguson made the decision to switch his efforts to a different chassis brand. Ultimately, the choice was made to build a new Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car and to do so at that company’s Mooresburg, Tenn. home base.
“We just struggled this year with the car we had,” Ferguson explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Last year’s car we had a little more of a handle on. We started out with a new car this year and I was struggling because of the combination of that car with the shocks we were running. We just couldn’t get it figured out so we just got tired of struggling.”
Ferguson’s struggles not only hindered his efforts on tracks where he had little or no experience but also at venues where he had previously succeeded. It was then that the 28-year-old racer began to seek out a chassis that he believed would better suit his efforts.
“This whole year we’ve raced in races that we should have done better at and we just feel like we weren’t where we needed to be,” he went on. “Then this whole opportunity kind of presented itself around May and June and I talked to all my sponsors and I talked to the team and everybody was on board with it so we decided to go that route. I’m really happy with what we’ve got so far. We’re making progress right now on getting this thing done.”
As is often the case between drivers and perspective chassis brands, the deal between Ferguson and Sweet-Bloomquist came down to relationships. In particular, the driver pointed out crew chief Cody Mallory and Hall of Fame driver Scott Bloomquist as guiding influences in bringing him to that particular car.
“A lot of it had to do with my relationship with Cody and the same thing with Scott,” Ferguson declared. “I’ve known Scott for three or four years by working with him on Butler Built Seats. That had a little bit to do with it and the other thing was the places where I tend to excel in dirt racing is typically on faster tracks, more tacky tracks, where Scott really excels when it gets slow and slick so we knew where we needed to get better and we feel like this was a step in that direction. We typically run good in the forty to fifty lappers and he typically runs really good in the 100-lappers. We just felt like that if we’re were going to improve in the areas we’re not good at, this was our best route.”
To some degree, Ferguson is taking a leap of faith with this move. He has piloted Warriors, Langhorns, and Rockets in the not-too-distant past, but only once has he sat behind the wheel of a Bloomquist car and that was some time ago.
“I drove one(Bloomquist Race Car) a long time ago for Kelly Hamrick out of Gaffney in one race,” the winner of more than 60 Late Model features recalled. “That’s back when Jeremy Clements was still racing on dirt and he was actually the driver, but he had an Xfinity race so they put me in it. I think we ran like fifth in that race. It was probably just my second or third time in a Super Late Model so that’s the only prior experience and was somewhere around 2007 or 2008.”
So what role has Bloomquist himself played in the building of the car “Fergy” will drive?
“It’s been huge,” Ferguson quickly stated. “We built it at his shop so that was the big thing. Scott’s been really open and very receiving to any ideas that I had for the race car and he gave me his ideas of what he wanted on it. Naturally, his outweighed mine 99% of the time so it’s been very good to have him basically either working on the car or telling me and my crew what to do on it. And not only that, but I was very fortunate to have Cody building a lot of the stuff on my car. I truly believe that having that hands-on experience with one of the best, not only right now but in all of dirt racing, has been a blessing. I think it’s going to be very influential in my racing career.”
Ferguson believes that the differing chassis brands do provide different feels for the driver. And he says that he knows when one of the biggest changes in the sport’s recent history occurred.
“I think they all have their strong suits,” he said of the Dirt Late Model chassis types. “They’re all a little bit different. When I switched to the Longhorn stuff at the end of ’14, I had been with Warrior for about three years. I think that Longhorn that came out in ’14 really changed the game for everybody. I think that a new generation of cars were born and I think when Longhorn did that everybody else had to do the same.”
And for those who claim there aren’t big differences among the car types, Ferguson has a message.
“Going from the Warrior to the Longhorn was a big difference and going from the Longhorn to the Rocket was a big difference,” he insisted. “They all have their own attitudes and they’re all built differently. People that say they’re all built the same, I don’t know where they get that after seeing the different geometry, the different spindles, the different control arms, rear ends, bird cages, everything is so different. I think that has a lot to do with why you’ll see some of them run exceptionally well in certain areas and some of them will struggle and you don’t just see one car dominate. I think it’s because they all have their strong points and they all have their weaknesses. But as Scott told me, some of these cars drive so good sometimes that even his grandma could get in it and drive it.”
So when and where will Ferguson put his new car on the track?
“We talked about trying to go to Florence this week but things just didn’t match up whenever we went to put oil lines on the motor. I had to carry the car down to Brown & Miller and get them to plumb it. I would say in a perfect world we will do a couple of regional races then I want to be at the Dirt Million race, then at the Hillbilly 100, and then be at the World 100. I’m looking forward to being back at Eldora after skipping it this year at the Dream. I think we’ll just kind of be doing the same thing we’ve been doing over the last couple of years. A lot of people don’t realize just how many crown jewels we really do run. We’re just going to take it week by week and it will just depend on how it goes. We want to go travel and get better at some places where we don’t run good so I’d say it’s kind of up in the air. It will be a mix between regional and national races.”