Appleton, WI Native Emerges as Serious Championship Contender
Chad Rayford (#29 Kenda Tires PRO Light) turned a lot of heads with his strong performance at TORC: The Off-Road Championship Round 1 in Chicago. Rayford was seriously fast, and placed second in his 2017 debut. He has since shown that his performance was no fluke, and now sits in a close third in the championship points race.
Chad Rayford is relatively new to the TORC Series spotlight, but he knows his way around a race track. When Rayford was young, his dad and uncles raced sportsman series stock trucks, Classix cars, and light buggies.
“I wanted to learn trucks better so I started helping the Zilisch Brothers Racing team in Class 13, (the class more recently referred to as Super Truck),” Rayford recalls. “Our biggest competition was Dan Vanden Heuvel.”
Rayford started his own racing career at age 17, racing snowmobiles in cross-country style competition. In his second year he switched to snowcross and never looked back, winning 10 season championships, including three in the same season in different classes.
After a brief but successful ATV career, Rayford turned to PRO Light racing. Fellow PRO Light driver Chris Brandt and the Vanden Heuvel family helped Rayford get his start in short course. Rayford still runs under the Flying Dutchman banner of the Vanden Heuvels.
In limited past appearances with TORC, Rayford has had success and remembers beating championship front-runners on several occasions. But he has not yet had the chance to make a run at a championship himself – until now.
With the support of Kenda Tires, Rayford finally has the backing to compete in a full season of PRO Light action. Rayford went to great lengths to ensure he had the equipment to make a run.
“This off-season Mikey (Vanden Heuvel) and I cut the front half off of my truck and built a new one on. Basically we redesigned everything with Mikey’s new ideas and a few of mine. Out of the box it was flawless.”
After some preseason testing courtesy of Kenda Tires, Rayford attacked Chicago for Rounds 1 & 2 and posted the previously mentioned second place in his debut. Unfortunately, the new-truck gremlins struck in Round 2.
“[The rain] made for a very heavy rough track and we saw an increase in engine temperatures.” Rayford explained. “Increased water temps lead to an increase in water pressure. That made one of my freeze plugs fail and caused a DNF (did not finish).”
Rayford bounced back for Round 3 in Elk River with another second place finish, and now sits in third in the season points standings. The Kleiman brothers (Kyle and Cody) hold the top two spots in PRO Light, but Rayford will be looking to continue his hot streak this weekend at his home state track. A host of other tough competitors look to crack the top three as the TORC Series rolls into Crandon International Raceway, streaming live at torcseries.com.
Chad Rayford would like to thank Flying Dutchman Off-Road, National Concrete Cutting (Chris Brandt), Kenda Tires, Mike Higgs, AMSOIL, FK Rod Ends, Auto Transmission Design, Boatec, Badger Race Wraps, Simpson Race Products, Proformance Diesel Repair, Londerville Steel, Odyssey Batteries, Lincoln Electric, and KGK Photography.
Andrew Pfluger is a longtime race fan and writer for the TORC Series. To offer feedback or make suggestions for future content, please email email@example.com.