Chad Chaffin will be the first person to tell you he is living the dream racing his No. 18 Dickies Dodge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Bobby Hamilton Racing. That isn't his only occupation, he owns a carpet padding recycling business...
Chad Chaffin will be the first person to tell you he is living the dream racing his No. 18 Dickies Dodge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Bobby Hamilton Racing. That isn't his only occupation, he owns a carpet padding recycling business and is co-owner of a sign business in Nashville, Tennessee, but racing is his chosen career.
"I think the biggest accomplishment I've done is just being involved in Craftsman Truck Series Racing," Chaffin said. "I didn't buy my way into the sport and it wasn't just handed to me, I worked at it for a long time. I'm really blessed to be there and it's been a great home for me. I think this Series and in particular BHR is really where I want to be racing for a long time."
Coincidentally the down-to-Earth Tennessee native and his truck owner Bobby Hamilton have the same roots. The two late model Nashville track champions used to compete against each other, and have the funniest stories to tell. Chaffin, who was also won four Most Popular Driver Awards, is proud of the fact his mentor came from the same background as his own.
"Bobby has been a great person to follow on and off the race track," Chaffin said. "He's done well in this sport and his business is one of the best truck programs out there. I'm glad I got the chance to drive for him. It's comfortable, we've had some good times over the years, and some really funny stories to tell."
Then the stories started rolling of his tongue.
"My favorite Bobby story is when I finally made it to late models, he was just moving up to the Busch Series," Chaffin said. "It was 1993 and I went to run this big race in Birmingham. Bobby was down there with Bobby Junior, but ended up helping me by changing tires because we were short handed. That track is known for redneck racing, well all racing is known to be redneck to a certain degree, but if you get down there messing with the local guys, you can get in trouble in a heartbeat. At the end of the race, this local hot-dog guy and I tangled and he crashed. When I got out of the car, Bobby said it looked like I won the Daytona 500 there was so many people around it, but they all wanted to kill me. There was Bobby, about three other guys and me looking at about 100 of them. It was just a racing deal, nothing I'd done wrong, but they weren't happy. Bobby looked at me and said, 'Man I'm getting out of here. Remind me not to help you anymore.' Looking back we laugh hard at that one.
"One time we weren't laughing so hard when we tangled at the end of the Pro Gold 150 late model race," Chaffin continued. "Right at the end it was a two-lap shootout and Bobby was right on my bumper. I came off turn two to win the race and then backed off. He ran all over me, I came so close to wrecking. He didn't realize because we were racing so hard that it was over with. I thought he was mad at me, but it was totally innocent. In the driver's meeting the next day, Darrell Waltrip was there. I was sitting next to Darrell and when Bobby walked up, Darrell nudged me and said, 'Old Hambone about jacked you up yesterday didn't he?' I laughed so hard.
"Ironically the first time I ever won a late model race was actually when Bobby won it," Chaffin said. "It was 1991 for the Motorcraft 200 and Bobby won the race. Then he left the race track after it was all over. Well his owner wouldn't tear the car down when the officials asked him to because he didn't want them to inspect his motor. We were there loading up our car after finishing second and the officials came up to us and told us to unload it. We took it to victory lane where they told us the deal. They said if we passed inspection, we were the winners. They tore us down for the next little while, and we won. I hate my first win came like that, but I'll take it anyway I can."
Chaffin's bubbly personality wasn't the only talent he showed last season. He won two Bud Pole Awards, in Kansas and for his home crowd in Nashville, posted two top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
Although he has yet to win a race in the Truck Series, Mr. Consistency is known to keep a cool head on the race track and finish the event, which he did last year except for three races when things happened beyond his control. Similar circumstances plagued Chaffin in his 80 starts in the Busch Series, where his best finish was ninth. But his talent was shown in the Hooters Pro Cup Series where he owns seven career wins and eight career poles in only two years. However his racing experience is what gave him the knowledge to finish 10th last season in the closest NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points championship in history.
"When you compare a Craftsman Truck to a Busch Series car it is all very similar," Chaffin said. "Actually when you get right down to it, racing is just racing. The chassis are very similar, we put on the exact same tires and we have about the same amount of horsepower. So there are a lot of things you can use in both series. The trucks do handle differently, but the way you drive a track is really the same.
When we go to any race track, the groove is still the groove. I think it helped me last year that I had been to most of those tracks in a Busch car. If you look at my best finishes, they were Bristol, Dover, Charlotte and Darlington. Those were what most would think are the really hard tracks. I think I did better at them because I had experience on the track."
Experience on the track is not the only thing that Chaffin has to offer a team, he is known for building his own cars and trucks just to get his feet wet in the sport. Chaffin has won over 100 feature events in the Nashville area in a late model, but that isn't his best offer. When Chaffin got his big break into the Busch Series, he was the current championship leader for the Hooters Pro Cup Series. Hamilton recommended Chaffin to Joe Nemechek to fill in for the Nashville event. This event opened a few doors for Chaffin, and he was able to race in the Busch Series for the next several years, but it cost him the championship title.
This season Chaffin wants to change his luck around. "I want to win races and eventually a championship in the Truck Series. I want to go to truck races and have the competition say that is the guy to beat right there, Chad Chaffin."