WARREN, Texas — Those of us who've followed racing closely for a number of years know guys who run every week have a big advantage over part-timers. They work with their setups constantly, and have a good feel for what the car needs to be fast since they're in it every weekend.
Just don't tell that to brilliant Crew Chief/setup consultant Chad Comer. You see, this 43-year-old mechanical genius hadn't raced in three years prior to last Saturday, and says he's raced maybe six times in the last eight years. Yet he went out and won the Limited Modified feature at 105 Speedway.
“Once I decided to dust off the car and give it a try, I worried about if I could compete,” Comer admitted candidly. “I know how fast all of those guys are, and how often they race. So I had my doubts as to whether or not I even belonged out there.
“But I won my Heat, started the feature on the outside of Row 1 and managed to keep them behind me. I'll say it was mostly a good car and my starting position, but I don't think any of it was the driver. I just turned the steering wheel and mashed the gas. I really haven't raced much at all the past several years.”
Always thinking about how to improve a car's setup, Comer says last Saturday was a little test session.
“I like to do a lot of R&D stuff to see if it has merit,” he explained. “I tried a couple of things on my car last weekend, and I think we're onto something good. I got back into a car again to get a feel for how my idea would pan out – or not. There's nothing like that seat-of-the-pants feeling in a race car.”
This mechanical wizard has been around the sport for many years, and acts just like a sponge.
“My Grandpa used to race back in his day,” Comer explained. “So I was around it at an early age. I've just always loved the mechanical aspect of racing; what it takes to make a car go faster. Chassis setups are a mystery to most; I like to know the details and share that knowledge. It's fascinating to me.”
Comer is the uncle of Corey Neil Jr., and has been heavily involved in guiding his career path.
“I've been working with Corey since he was 13 years old,” Comer said. “He's got incredible natural talent, and is now hooked up with a Late Model team that can propel him onto the National scene. We always had him in good equipment so he could focus on driving. He's an amazing young racer.”
The next young driver to benefit from Comer's vast knowledge is 14-year-old sensation Talan Willis.
“Talan is another of those special young racers with enormous amounts of natural talent,” Comer said. “He has such a good feel for the car at all times, and can tell me exactly what it's doing. Working with him as he wheeled the Limited Modified of Mr. Robert Metz has been incredibly rewarding this year.”
Willis split his time between a top-notch Street Stock machine this year and that well-prepared Limited that Mr. Metz owns. Overall, Talan has made 33 starts, with 12 wins, 18 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes. He's got talent beyond description, yet Comer has played a huge role in his development.
“Talan reminds me a lot of Corey in the way he hustles a car around, and talks about how it feels,” he said. “When a young driver can go in-depth on what the car is doing, it helps so much for a Crew Chief. You know which way to go right away, and how far you should go. It's all about communication.
“Nobody can win races or championships be themselves. It takes work to maintain a car, to constantly stay on it for reliability purposes, and to stay ahead of the competition. So we work hard to keep up, to learn, and always strive to improve. You can do that and still have fun in this sport if you're smart.”
When Comer put on his safety suit and got back into a race car, he climbed into a very nice machine.
“I've had this 2022 IRP here in my garage for quite a while now,” he explained. “It's in like-new shape and I figured it would get me around the oval with no issues. It has an AARE (All American Racing Engines) powerplant, and is really a very good car. I'm even more impressed with it now after the win.”
Along with his years of experience and superior mechanical expertise, Comer also has strong support.
“I have a lot of good people to thank for helping me get up and down the road to do this,” he said. “I need to thank Daren Haney at Allin1 Plumbing; Robert Metz at R&L Truck Repair; Travis Hudnall at Curtis & Sons Companies; and Randy Seals at Seals Hot Rod Shop.
“I also need to thank Stacy Sicinski at AARE Racing Engines; Dougie Murphrey at Murphrey Oil Company; IRP by C3 & Chad Comer Consulting; and Blake Beardon at Orange County Graphics. I also owe a special thanks to Dillon, and of course my wife, Brandi, for all she does for my program.”
With the 2023 season just about in the books, Comer is thinking about his plans for 2024 and beyond.
“I've actually been thinking about starting my own business,” he said. “I will be doing consultant work and Chassis setups for teams who are looking to improve. I've got to work out the details on just how I want to go about it, but that's what I'm working towards for a goal.
“We've enjoyed a great year on the ovals with Talan, and I really love this mentor/guidance role. As these young drivers come into out sport, they need good cars set up right so they can showcase those skills. I love to get a car dialed in perfectly and see what they can do. It's a very rewarding role to play.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Ron Skinner