BOYD, Texas — Over the past several years, a handful of racers who were used to competing in a straight line have made the switch over to dirt ovals. It's a whole new world going in circles on dirt; learning chassis setups, tire stagger and keeping up with changing track conditions.
Yet for 29-year-old Chris Wolfe, adapting to the world of chassis dynamics, weight transfer and roll center has been like a walk in the park. After getting his feet wet a little in 2020 and 2021, he dove head first into full-time Factory Stock action last year – and came away with a points title at Boyd Raceway.
Wolfe earned four wins, 17 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes last year in 29 starts. You'll see an 'R' next to his name in the record books; as in, he was technically a rookie during his championship season. Let's just say the man is a quick study, soaking up knowledge like a sponge at every available opportunity.
“Coming from drag racing, I didn't really know there were things like shock packages and other key components that really help out,” Wolfe explained. “I started talking to some people, and finally got a decent shock package last year. I listened to the advice of friends, and started learning how things work.
“I also picked up a couple of sponsors last year who gave us a competitive edge. It allowed us to update the car beyond the point it was when I first brought it home. Our success last year is really all about just plugging away at all the little things that I honestly had no idea were so important. Now I know.”
As a drag racer, Wolfe couldn't possibly imagine how complicated his transition to the ovals would be.
“My Dad raced on the dirt ovals when I was very young,” he explained. “So I was was always tempted, but never took the leap. The COVID pandemic hit when I bought this car and put a damper on racing. In the middle of 2020, I started playing around with it a little, but didn't really know what I was doing.
“In 2021, I had a motor blow up and knew I had to take a big step back. I learned quite a bit during that off-season, put my head down and kind of figured it out in 2022. That showed in our results last year, and I'm proud of what we accomplished. I'm still learning stuff all the time.”
In recent weeks, we've looked at the level of competition at Grayson County Speedway. Wolfe says at his hometown facility of Boyd Raceway, the depth of talent is worth noting, as well.
“I was very surprised at just how tough the competition is in this class,” he said. “I had been told that Factory Stock was an entry-level division, so to speak. I don't agree with that statement. At Boyd, you'll have six or seven guys there very week capable of winning. You can't just show up and win.
“It comes down to how your cards play out, and the choices you make throughout the night. It's definitely tough to win or hit the podium, no matter where we unload in Texas or over in Louisiana.”
What makes Wolfe's accomplishments even more impressive is the well-worn race car he drives.
“I drive a 2016 HOT chassis,” he explained. “It's Chase Bresee's old car from down in South Texas. It ended up somewhere over in Louisiana, and the guy was selling it for a decent price. I figured it was a good starter car, so I went down and bought it. Chase said he was surprised it was still around.
“I've kept it straight, and it has treated me well. I'm going to see how much longer I can keep it going.”
Along with his raw natural talent behind the wheel and more-than-capable car, Wolfe also has several key people and valued sponsors in his corner.
“I want to offer a huge thanks to our top sponsors who helped carry us so far in 2022, including Ashburn and Fisher Construction, Sassy Cassie Sweets and Treats, Undercover Shocks, Moore Racing and Performance, Hades Transmissions and the awesome graphics by Hitman Designs.
“I also want to send a shout out to my friends Travis, Brian and Walt, who have been in and out of the shop putting in countless hours of hard work, laughs, frustrations and making memories; along with my girlfriend, Erica, who is my number one fan, crew member and is always willing to hit the road.”
We mentioned earlier how Wolfe picks the brains of veterans, and several have offered guidance.
“I'll also offer a shout out to Evan Moore, Jeff Hammitt, Jeffery Kinnard, Ricky Sessions, Sean Hill, the Smitherman family, and anyone else I may have forgotten for always picking up the phone when I cal for tips, tricks, advice and things to change. I truly couldn't do this without your help.
“Lastly, I'd like to thank RaceOnTexas for providing Live streaming of our races so all of our family, friends and fans can watch from the comfort of their homes when they can't make it out to the track. We've got 10 super sponsors/partners on board for this year, and we're ready to see what it has to offer.”
As the 2023 season openers draw ever closer, Wolfe has a plan in place as he continues to mature.
“We're going to try and travel around a little more this year,” he concluded. “We want to broaden our horizons and be competitive at multiple tracks. I have a pretty good grip on Boyd, and I've done okay at Kennedale but would like to do better.
“I probably won't focus entirely on Boyd, even though it's five minutes from my house. I enjoy getting to new tracks, we actually qualified for the Cajun Classic last year in my first attempt. That was huge for us, so we want to go out and try a few of the bigger shows. We'll see what we can do this year.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Mike Frieri