Following Robbie Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2018 season, Nik Williams has been tapped to drive the Dalton Direct Carpets entry at Kingsport Speedway in 2019.
Ferguson has been one of the main drivers that have carried the Dalton Direct Carpet name on his car at Kingsport over the years. Ferguson won a championship flying their 25th-anniversary paint scheme in 2002 and had them in contention for a title during the 2018 season before a disqualification set him back too many points to stay in the battle.
Following a win at Kingsport on June 22nd, Ferguson informed his car owner and longtime friend and sponsor Ken Daffron that he was going to hang up his helmet at the end of the season. Daffron said he was at a loss for words and never expected it.
“Robbie never gave me any indication that he was going to retire,” Daffron told RACE22.com. “Before the race, we won I didn’t have any idea he was going to retire. It really took me back and I didn’t know what to do.”
Following that moment, Daffron and his son Mike started thinking and talking about what to do for 2019. About that same time, Daffron noticed that young upstart Nik Williams was going on a hot streak. Williams won five races in a row and six total late in the season and that wasn’t lost on Daffron.
“After that, we started talking about what are we going to do,” continued Daffron. “Me and my son talked back and forth and we sponsored three guys to go to Martinsville. We really weren’t sure what we were going to do but we were watching as Nik and his team started to win every week.”
Williams says unlike many drivers he didn’t reach out to Ken but he was ready when Ken reached out to him.
“Me and Robbie (Ferguson) have been friends for a while,” Williams told RACE22.com. “He was kinda advocating for me, I think. Ken reached out to me and we talked and he said he wanted a championship and so do we. So we’ll see where that takes us.”
Daffron, who will be 73 years old next year has been an avid supporter of short track racing specifically at Kingsport Speedway in Kingsport, TN, where his business is located. Daffron says the goal is always to win the race and he wants to get another championship.
“I’m trying to do at least one more championship,” commented Daffron. “Nik is going to be ready, we’re going to be ready. We’re going to try and have it all together. We have a Ford and a Harrington and we’re going to figure out which one is going to be the best and be ready to go.”
Daffron thinks Williams is his best option to win a championship given the way he ran this season. Daffron said that he had a lot of drivers contact him and talk to him on pit road but ultimately decided on Williams.
“We had a lot of people call asking us and asking us on pit road. Several wanted to drive. It was quite a few. Everyone knows we try to go first class, we try to win every race and win the championship. That’s always the goal. Sometimes you get beat but that’s why we race.”
Williams is excited about the opportunity to drive for Daffron and thinks they’ll have everything ready to go for 2019.
“Ken and Mike are two of the nicest people in racing,” Williams stated. “They genuinely love short track racing and want to win. I want to win too. We’ll have two good cars to start the season and another one being built. I think we’ll be ready.”
Williams said that he’s expecting to run really well but knows the competition at Kingsport is really tight.
“Dave (Roope, his crew chief) had the car right this past year. Everyone thinks it was just the Harrington engine but everything was right and the car was near perfect. The competition is so good at Kingsport though. Robbie (last year), Kres (VanDyke), Zeke (Shell), Wayne (Hale) and all those guys who run up front every week are hard to beat. Everyone is so close and the track is so hard to pass on that the racing is just great.”
Williams said that they will not only compete for the Kingsport Speedway championship but he also has his sights set on running races at Motor Mile Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway and select CARS Tour races.
“We’re having another car built and we’re hoping to run Motor Mile, Hickory and CARS Tour races some once we get it ready. I don’t think we’ll make the first race at Motor Mile but we’re going to run there some too.”
The cars are being kept at Williams shop and Williams will continue to run the black number 32 car instead of the 7 car that Ferguson ran the last few years. Daffron said he hopes he made the right decision and believes he did but he won’t know until the green flag drops in March.
“When you come in that gate and you go in the pits, you never know what’s going to happen,” concluded Daffron. “You can practice good and qualify good and think you got it but until that green flag drops, you don’t know. Hopefully, we’ll have enough and we’ll be able to contend for the championship.”