By Tommy Goudge/OntarioOval.com – Chris Durand is one of many young drivers who have found a home in the Sprint Car division. Like many others from his area, Micro Sprints served as his introduction to racing before moving to the full-size version. Chris and his family-owned team don’t have a large budget by any stretch, but they make the most of what they have, and they always have fun at the track. Chris has a unique lifestyle, spending winters on snowy slopes in Alberta and BC, and summers on Ontario dirt. We sat down with Chris to discuss his past, present, and future in this edition of “Question Session”.
Birthdate: November 8, 1989
Hometown: Port Stanley, Ontario
Years in racing: Going into year 7.
Career: Ski/Snowboard Industry
Everyone has a unique story about how they became a race driver. When did you first become interested in racing, and how did you end up as a driver?
“Growing up, life in my family just revolved around racing. When I was a year old, I was at Lonestar Speedway where my brother was racing go-karts. Most of my childhood memories are in the pits or grandstands at tracks like Lonestar, Grand Bend, Wilton Grove, and Wonderland, so it was almost guaranteed that I would be racing at some point. I got my first taste of being behind the wheel as a 7 year old, and I was pretty much just terrible, so that didn’t last long…but when I was 16 I took over the driving duties in the Micro Sprint for 3 seasons once my brother and Dad both finished racing, then got behind the wheel of a 360 Sprint Car at (age) 19.”
You’re a Sprint Car racer, accomplished skier and snowboarder, and you tried out for the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition over the winter. How many other crazy things are you going to try?
“Honestly I get way too bored in life when I have too much downtime, so I pretty much always have to find something thrilling to be doing – that’s just how I work. There’s still so many sports I have an interest in getting into recreationally: Skier Cross and Boarder Cross are close to the top of my list. At the end of the day Sprint Car racing is always a priority, so I have to remember to be careful and think of the big picture.”
You surprised a lot of people – perhaps even yourself – with a 3rd place at Brockville last season. How did it feel knowing you had finished ahead of several very experienced and competitive racers?
“That night at Brockville was definitely one of the the best nights of my life, and a major learning experience racing-wise. To be able to pull off a 3rd place finish in the field we were in was almost like a win itself to us, and it felt that set-up and driving as a team helped us finally step our game up another level in Sprint Cars. I think that result came from our approach, advice from some teams, taking some set-up risks, patience, and luck.”
What is is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your first 3 seasons in the full-size Sprint Car that you didn’t know before you started?
“I’ve definitely gained a lot more respect for Sprint Cars, money, and the sport in general. The main things I’ve really worked hard on learning would be how to adapt to different tracks and track conditions, and learning more about how setups work. I’d say the biggest thing that I’ve learned is: If you want to be a good successful Sprint Car driver, it’s a major life commitment, on and off the track. You have to be on your game with working on the car, knowing what setups to throw at it, and working your butt off behind the wheel.”
Number 67 isn’t all that common on race cars. Where did that originate?
“When my brother started racing he used #76, then when my Dad started racing and Durand Racing became a two car team, he went for #67. After my brother and Dad finished racing at the same time, I was the next in line. So I decided to use #67 to follow my Dad.”
Like most Sprint Car racers, you’re a member of the upside-down club. What does it feel like to be inside a flipping race car?
“I’m not sure if that’s always the best club to be a part of, but I guess it’s bound to happen eventually with Sprint Cars, and it just means more experience. The first few flips I had in Micros and in the Sprint Car always seemed just hectic and intense, but now they just feel like everything goes into slow motion and you have time to turn off the fuel and engine, brace yourself, and think: ‘oh crap, here we go again’. It generally never feels awesome.”
Wonderland Speedway has helped to further the career of many local racers. What did you learn racing there, and what is your favourite memory from that track?
“Wonderland Speedway was where I spent almost every Friday night in the summer when I was a little kid until I was 18. As a track, it meant a lot to my family and me, from watching my brother and dad race there to driving there myself. It was the track that I first learned to race at, and drive a car in general. I even spent some of my high school prom night in the pit area. Some of my best Wonderland and childhood memories were the late nights at the track after all the racing was over, wandering the pits with my dad and just socializing with all the teams. Wonderland always felt like a big family in a way.”
* Editors Note: Although originally reported that Wonderland Speedway would be closed for the coming season it has been brought to our attention that they will indeed be open with a full slate of Micros and Outlaws.
Your family is very supportive of your racing career, and even help to work on the car and promote your team while you’re away working out west each winter. Talk about how much they mean to your racing efforts.
“Racing has always been a major part of my family – every summer for the past 20 years, one or two Durand boys have been racing. Without my parents major effort, passion and funding behind the scenes, we wouldn’t be racing at all. From my Dad working on the cars in the shop almost every spare minute he has, to my Mom not only being one of our major sponsors (Joy Durand at Elgin Realty) but she also meets us at the tracks with the trailer and car on those days when we don’t travel with the car. Usually at all the races we have a Car Owners/Driver relationship, but before and after we still always have the family thing going. I definitely appreciate everything they have done to help my racing career.”
What are your long-term goals in racing? Are Sprint Cars your thing, or do new challenges await?
“For me racing 410 Sprint Cars is always my number one goal for a career eventually, either with the World Of Outlaws or the Sam Hafertepe, Jr/true outlaw style. If for whatever reason racing doesn’t work out for me, my plan B would be to coach disabled ski racing full time, hopefully at a Provincial or National level.
What is something most people don’t know about you, and might be surprised to find out?
“I think with racing people generally see the more intense, focused, and serious side of me, but anywhere away from the track I’m generally ridiculously mellow and relaxed. Besides being in a Sprint Car, the next best place I’d rather be hanging out would be somewhere cold in the middle of nowhere, with great friends, and a ton of snow. If I were not racing in the summer months, I would most likely just be following winter around the world.”
Stay tuned for the next edition of “Question Session”. If you are a driver, team member or track official and would like to be considered for an upcoming edition of “Question Session” please CLICK HERE to contact us