At age 14, Carson Ferguson’s racing resume already consists of eight championships in karts, Bandoleros and Legends.
It’s a list of credentials that won’t allow the A-B Honor Roll student at Mint Hill Middle School to be intimidated by the older drivers he’s encountering in his inaugural season as a dirt late model driver.
Ferguson, who stays with his father, Tony, in the Coulwood area of northwest Charlotte when he is racing, finished 12th in his dirt late model debut earlier this month at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia.
He followed that performance with a ninth-place finish in the season opening Fast Unified Engine Late Models Series race at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. After one race in the FUEL Series, which features the Chevrolet CT 525 engine, Ferguson sits 10th in the standings.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Ferguson, who said he’s the youngest dirt late model racer in North Carolina. “You have to stand your ground. You can tell they try to let you know that you’re too young to be racing dirt late models. You have to let them know they can’t rough you up.”
Even though Ferguson believes his advantage rests with his quick learning ability and “a lot more adrenaline than the older guys,” he says it’s the body slamming of the cars that has acquired some adjustment.
“The Legend cars you don’t hit in the door a lot; you just hit front and back,” Ferguson said. “In a late model, it’s really different because it’s not open-wheel like the Legend cars. It’s like you pass in a one groove track and you’ll get doored (hit in the door) a little bit to get in that position.”
However, it shouldn’t take Ferguson long to learn the technique.
He started racing 50cc kit karts around age 4 and competed in dirt go-karts before moving to Bandoleros and later the Young Lions division in Legends. In go-kart competition, he won the Tri-State Championship. In Bandoleros, he captured the 2011 national title, the Red, White and Blue championship, the Winter Heat title at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2011 and 2012, and the championship at Concord Speedway, as well as the Top Gun Award.
At 12, he became the youngest winner of a Legends national race, capturing that event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Earlier this year, he earned the Winter Nationals title at Auburndale Speedway in Winter Haven, Fla., and the Winter Heat championship at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Through mid-April, Ferguson possessed the lead in the Legends Young Lions national standings with seven victories. However, because he’s splitting his time between the Legend cars and dirt late models, Ferguson expects to see his lead disappear.
“You have to have 25 wins to win the national championship,” says Ferguson, who plans to compete in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Unlike in previous years, though, Ferguson won’t be driving his own Legend car. It was sold because of asphalt racing’s rising costs. Instead, he will compete in the Legends Young Lions division for Ladyga Motorsports.
“My cousin Chris (Ferguson) races dirt super late model, so I’m getting a lot of stuff handed down from him,” Ferguson said about his switch to dirt racing. “We were still winning races (on asphalt), but we weren’t getting any money so we decided to go dirt. The other night I finished ninth and I still got $450.”
The teenager also likes dirt racing because “you have to manhandle a car a lot more. Sliding to get around the corners every lap; just the power it has.”
Ferguson’s dirt late model is housed at his cousin’s in Gastonia, while Ladyga Motorsports maintains its Legend car near Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I have always worked on my own cars,” Ferguson said. “When I’m at my dad’s (Tony Ferguson) I get to work on it (dirt late model) about every day that I’m with him. I like learning how everything is put together. I feel like the racers who are really good can feel what the car needs and they can make that adjustment instead of making the guy who works on the car do all the work. I feel like you need to learn how to work on your stuff to be the best of the best.”
The young Ferguson has his sights set on a racing career, but says if the driving doesn’t pan out, he would like to be a team owner. Currently, though, he’s grateful to his mother and stepfather for allowing him to race on the weekends and his stepmother for “letting us get out of the house and race.”
“I can’t do any of this without Jesus Christ,” he said. “Win or lose, I thank God after every race.”
Legendary drivers to appear at Mooresville Museum
From 1-3 p.m. May 18 several legendary drivers will gather at Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville to greet fans and sign autographs.
Those scheduled to attend include Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Ned Jarrett, Marvin Panch, Neil Castles, Rex White and Geoff Bodine.
Memory Lane Museum is located at 769 River Highway, Mooresville. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 6-12.
For information, call 704-662-3673 or visit www.MemoryLaneAutoMuseum.com