KAUKAUNA â Chris Wimmer can still drive a race car competitively. At least heâs pretty sure he can, and after 2Â˝ years, the itch to find out is getting more persistent.
The onetime NASCAR Truck Series driver from Wausau is more interested, though, in helping other drivers win races.
Thereâs more of a future in that. A past and a present, too.
So the Wimmer Motorsports team was back at Wisconsin International Raceway on Tuesday night, trying to pick up another victory in the ARCA Midwest Tourâs Dixieland 250, one of the top super-late model races in Wisconsin. The event, which started in 1981, is certainly the most grueling, and at $10,000-to-win one of the most lucrative and most prestigious.
A year ago Wimmer won it as crew chief for Chase Purdy, a 19-year-old NASCAR hopeful from Mississippi, in conjunction with Anthony Campi Racing out of Florida. This year he came back withÂ the car he owns with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup rookie Daniel Hemric at the wheel.
âI never really had the (burning) desire to go the whole way (driving in NASCAR),â the 40-year-old Wimmer said quietly, peaking out from beneath the arched brim of a ball cap he always has pulled down to his eyebrows.
âI had some opportunities to race some of that (from 2004-2007). When youâre young like that â I wasnât that young, compared to these kids now â at the time I was just going to go with it and see what happens. It didnât really play out, so. âŚ.
âI still really enjoy working on the cars and doing this, so thatâs what led me into this. I wasnât concerned. âŚ If something happened, it happened. If it didnât, come back and do this.â
Wimmer drove some short-track races after the NASCAR opportunities dried up and won the 2014 Slinger Nationals at Slinger Speedway, another of Wisconsinâs crown jewels of asphalt racing. Then he connected with longtime NASCAR crew chief Tony Eury Jr. â Dale Earnhardt Jr.âs cousin â and worked for Fury Race Cars, the short-track car builder in North Carolina formed by Eury and his partners.
âWe had had all of Harrison Burtonâs stuff over there,â Wimmer said of the 18-year-old son of retired NASCAR driver Jeff Burton. âI was working exclusively on that, and then once Harrison started moving up, I decided Iâd move back home and worked out a deal where Iâd be the Midwest dealer for them and handle all the stuff for them up here.â
Wimmer moved his family back to Wisconsin last year. He assembles cars and has sold them to teams around Wisconsin as well as Iowa and even New York. But in addition to working in the shop â at the moment heâs a one-man band â Wimmer also fields his own car in special events and works with his customers on chassis setup.
Besides Hemric, John DeAngelis, Luke Fenhaus, Dan Fredrickson and Gabe Sommers raced at the Dixieland in cars Wimmer had built, and Wimmer was willing to help any of them. At the Slinger Nationals, he also shared information with Eury and the drivers who worked closely with Eury.
âChris himself, I knew him for a couple of years before ever driving his race cars,â said Hemric, who met Wimmer while racing super-late models against Burton. Hemricâs wife, Kenzie, and Wimmerâs wife, Jana, became close friends.Â
âHeâs always been a little quiet and a little more reserved on that side of it. But when he gets his cars to the racetrack, Iâve learned that itâs nothing short of what I expected. His cars are always nice, the quality of work and obviously the guys he assembles around his Wimmer Motorsports team are exactly what I expected, top-notch people.â
The Dixieland was the last of three races Hemric and Wimmer had planned together for this summer. Hemric ran in the top five in the Slinger Nationals before finishing ninth and was third at the Redbud 400 at Anderson (Indiana) Speedway.
Wimmer would like to get his older brother, Scott, back in a race this season. Scott, 43, a six-time winner in what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series, hasnât raced in about seven years.
He also is hoping to find time to race a special event or two as the season winds down, if his workload at the shop and the trips to the track with others permit. Â
For Wimmer, watching another driver racing his car is more nerve-wracking than actually driving it himself. But the goals and expectations are the same either way.
âThereâs nothing like winning,â he said. âWhether youâre driving or youâre involved with it, itâs pretty special.â