On a chilly night in the Arizona desert back on January 27, 2018, Chris Eggleston and Preston Peltier heated things up at Tucson Speedway with an epic duel over the final laps of the Chilly Willy 150. In the end, it was Eggleston taking the $10,000 check in a thriller to kickoff the western Super Late Model season that year. Now after two years, the Colorado driver is loading up his trailer to go for it again.
In fact, Eggleston is going for four straight wins on the old 3/8-mile oval in just over a week. A streak that goes back to a win on the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West almost three years ago, and then went on to include a SLM win in the track’s Turkey Shoot 125 in November of 2017 and finally that Chilly Willy triumph.
“I’m excited to be going back, we’ve had success down there, won in the K&N Series, we won the Turkey Shoot, and the Chilly Willy. It’s a fun place to race, got the history, so we’re ready to get after it,” Eggleston told Speed51.
The 2018 victory was of great redemption for Eggleston, after losing the first Chilly Willy in controversial fashion in 2014. Despite checking off the race on his to-do list, he still harbors a chip on his shoulder after six years.
“I know the stats show we won that race only once, but in the inaugural race Dustin Ash, who ended up winning, his transponder wasn’t working for whatever reason. He was playing the tire game, running last, just conserving tires, we had lapped him once, and he wasn’t on the scoreboard. When we crossed the line, we celebrated, gave me the trophy, the whole bit, later they took it back, and said he passed us with two laps to go even though he wasn’t on the scoreboard.”
But, you switch the topic to 2018, and that is a different story. It is a win that will forever stand out in Eggleston’s career, simply because of who he had to go through.
“That race, I love racing against Preston Peltier. That dude is a great driver, the way he preps his stuff, and he’s always got good equipment and crew. Anytime you can beat Preston is a big deal, especially at a big race like the Chilly Willy that pays $10,000 to win, that’s his specialty. Racing door to door for 20 laps and it was hard fought on both parts. Also knowing I had to keep my car in one piece to go to Kern the following week, and still come out with the win was big.”
Now in 2020, Eggleston is in much the same situation he was the last time he wheeled his No. 22 SLM down to Tucson.
“We’re going to have to do the same thing this year, we’re going to Irwindale the following weekend. Have to keep it clean, we only have the one car, no backup. Keep it in one piece and hopefully it be a contender again. We got some good notes there, we can get it balanced in the shop, and just tweak it when we unload.”
Away from the track, Eggleston has been busier than ever with an expansion to his family at the end of 2018. While he hasn’t hit the road much in recent days, he has kept his skills sharp at his home track of Colorado National Speedway.
“We had our first child at the end of the year before, so last year was more about being home with family, we didn’t do a lot of traveling. We were supposed to go to the Summer Showdown at Evergreen, but we had a family member end up in the hospital, so we didn’t make it. But, at home our stuff was pretty good, they just paved CNS last year and it didn’t take us long to adapt to the new surface. We finished the year strong, won some races, got some momentum. But again, we’ll have to go into the notes for Tucson’s old surface.”
The plan for this season is going to be much the same as 2019, racing close to home for the most part. But, the two weekends are the exception, as Eggleston looks to claim a pair of trophies, bragging rights, and lots of money.
“It’s our one hurrah for the year honestly, go to Tucson and Irwindale back to back weekends, then we don’t plan on traveling a ton this year again. It’ll be great to get out of the office for a bit and just go racing. I know a lot of guys are getting ready for Cordele and New Smyrna, but this is the first big Super Late Model race for us out here, and to pick it up would be pretty cool; make some headlines, carry that momentum into Irwindale, and go for two.”
The Chilly Willy Weekend begins on Friday night January 24, with qualifying on Saturday, January 25, and then the 7th running of the Chilly Willy 150 on Sunday, January 26.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51