By Aaron Waldron
During the Cactus Classic finals on Sunday night, Bonus Lap subscriber Joe Adragna pointed out the unlikelihood of an on-screen interview with newly-crowned Stock Buggy champion Chris Wheeler.
He was right - I hadn’t thought about interviewing Wheeler due to sheer logistics: with Silver State just days away, I did not attend the Cactus Classic but instead monitored the chat room and shared results and photos to social media from my home base in California. I offered Joe the opportunity to submit a guest post for the website, and - unlike the vast majority of those whom I’ve presented a similar opportunity - he crushed it.
Chris Wheeler interview - 2016 Cactus Classic
By Joe Adragna
In the USA a lot of tracks have booming 17.5 classes, and it certainly was reflected at this year’s Cactus Classic. Overall entries counted near the 260 mark, while entries for the 17.5-turn spec classes topped 130. After hearing about several prototype parts being tested by team drivers in both modified and spec classes, I found just the person to talk about the track, the cars, and his big win in stock buggy: TLR’s Chris Wheeler.
Photo: Team Tekin, via Facebook
Joe Adragna: Chris, I know you’re a long-time racer. What made you want to start contending in the stock buggy class?
Chris Wheeler: I started running stock to be able to run a second competitive class for club racing, and for the local series races at SRS. Arizona stock racing is no joke.
JA: What about the stock class makes it so competitive in Arizona?
CW: On a given club night anyone can win. It’s super close racing, where a TQ will be decided by tenths of a second or less. The top five are rarely separated by more than 2 seconds.
JA: Congratulations on your win! Have you won the Cactus Classic before?
CW: No, this was my first Cactus win.
JA: How big is it to win for TLR, in a class that has arguably dominated by another brand?
CW: I think it’s big. Team Losi is definitely back on pace in the 2WD buggy category, and the 3.0 is proving that a lot this year.
JA: We saw some stock class cars with prototype and one-off built parts this year. What have you done to your TLR 22 3.0?
CW: My car is pretty standard, it does have some bolt on hop-ups such as titanium screws, turnbuckles and shock mounts, as well as the MIP puck system. Everything on my car can be purchased at a local hobby shop and installed by any racer.
JA: There was a lot of talk about track consistency at Cactus this year and last. For someone who has never raced there, how would you describe the surface?
CW: The SRS surface is like no other surface I’ve driven on. When it’s right, it’s hooked up with tons of traction. But if it’s too wet then it becomes greasy, and when it’s too dry and it will have less traction. But when its right, it makes for some of the closest racing I’ve seen.
JA: What are your travel plans for racing this year?
CW: As of right now I plan on attending 702 Raceway at the end of April for their Offroad Carpet Challenge and possibly the ROAR 1/10-Scale Off-Road Nationals in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ll also go to the 1/8-Scale Worlds in Las Vegas if I manage to get in, as I am currently an alternate.
JA: Chris, it was great speaking with you, who would you like to thank for your win?
CW: I’d like to thank my sponsors who support me in my racing: Team Losi Racing, Pro-Line, Tekin, Spektrum, Horizon Hobby, WWHD, AVID, Stick-it 1 Racing, Stiky Liks Paint, Lunsford, Leadfinger racing, Zc concepts, Maxline RC, Big D’s RC, Sava Engineering and I’d also like to thank my amazing girlfriend Alex for supporting my racing as well.