On any given weekend, Chris Dilbeck can be found at the short tracks or the NASCAR Sprint Cup scene checking brake temperatures and discussing the science of race car braking. Dilbeck was a journeyman Late Model driver years ago when he looked for another avenue in racing. After trying to make a name for himself as a driver, he eventually became one of the leaders in the asphalt racing braking industry.
But even when they take a job outside the driver’s seat, true racers rarely ever fully retire from wanting to wheel a racecar. Dilbeck was no exception to that rule. With his busy schedule on the road it would seem almost impossible to find a place to race, but he did in his own back yard.
The Hampton, Georgia native clinched the Watermelon Capital Speedway track championship last weekend – his first behind the wheel of a Late Model of any kind. The title at the Cordele, Georgia track was not only hard-earned, but also somewhat unexpected for the 28-year-old.
“I didn’t think I could be a champion,” said Dilbeck. “Especially not in a Late Model. I worked with David Ragan a bunch and being around Charlotte helped me learn what I needed to do when I went back to the track.”
It all starting coming together in 2013 when he was asked to drive the Tommy Gardner and James Perkins-owned Outlaw at Watermelon Capital. The team missed the first race and took podiums in their first three starts. Then they started winning.
“We won five races in a row to finish the season and missed the championship by eight points despite missing a race,” said Dilbeck. “This year we started off with a double points night and I had a flat and finished ninth putting us way down to start things off.”
From there Dilbeck began to chip away at the deficit. He won four races before going into the season finale, which was also double points. Dilbeck was seven points back, but when point leaderStuart Dutton had problems and finished 14th, the window opened for Dilbeck. He finished third and won the championship that slipped through his grasp in 2013.
“To have the roller coaster year this year and get the title was special,” said Dilbeck. “Stuart had his misfortune and we were able to capitalize on that. I traveled a lot more this season for PFC and that didn’t allow us as much time as we need to focus on the car.”
Dilbeck was a driver, crew chief, body man – you name it when he had his Pro Late Model car years ago. His current job and car owners have allowed him to approach racing differently.
“It’s almost like I don’t have time to over analyze things,” said Dilbeck. “I drove straight from Martinsville to Cordele on Saturday to run the finale. I got there just in time for qualifying. I can just focus on driving. I have great owners with Tommy Gardner and James Perkins who just allow me to show up and race. It’s a lot more special and a little less pressure.”
As a racer Dilbeck understands what racers need from their brakes. As a PFC representative, he’s been able to use the products that sells during the week. Nine wins in two seasons and a championship are pretty good marketing tools.
“There is no comparison to our products in the short track market,” said Dilbeck with confidence. “I can tell you for sure because I used a lot of stuff before I ever got on PFC and that was an eye opener when I got to be a user of PFC products. I wouldn’t use anything else.”
– By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Operations Manager – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
– Photo credit: Chris Dilbeck