Dsc 0033
Compact racer Chris Jennings in action. (David Sink photo)

Crowd Pleaser: Compact Champion Chris Jennings

The Jennings name is well known in central Indiana short-track circles. Visitors to Mount Lawn Speedway, Winchester Speedway or Anderson Speedway on any given summer night are sure to spot a member of the Jennings clan.

Joe Jennings is the patriarch of the family that calls Richmond, Ind., home, and he was the first to climb behind the wheel of a race car. His brother, Mark, soon followed and each of their children have since raced a modified, limited late model or compact at one time or another.

Joe Jennings’ son Chris was the first second-generation member of the family to hit the track. He started racing two decades ago and continues to develop as a driver, gaining experience and knowledge with each passing year.

Chris Jennings made his debut at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in the compact division during 2003. Since then, he has tried his hand at modifieds and limited late models. Since 2012, Jennings has focused on the Vores Comact Touring Series and last season he claimed his third series championship.

Jennings John Lund
Chris Jennings (John Lund photo)

When the word compact is mentioned, thoughts of an entry-level racing machine creep into one’s mind. But that is far from reality. The Vores Compact Touring Series is one of the country’s most professional racing series. It is extremely competitive with more than 30 cars participating on any given night. The quality of the cars is also top notch.

These are no entry-level compacts, but rather professional, well-tuned and well-financed racing machines. The tracks the series visits are equally as impressive. The schedule includes Eldora Speedway, Winchester Speedway, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.

The series has even raced at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. This year, it will head to The Milwaukee Mile for the first time. This isn’t your average compact series that competes exclusively on bullrings.

To win the Vores Compact Touring Series title a driver must be versatile, willing to run the small asphalt bullrings as well as tracks as big as a mile in length.

At 35 years old, Chris Jennings is as versatile as they come.

“What keeps me from moving up is the cost,” explained Jennings. “I’ve moved up a few times but had some engine trouble or something. It’s costly to build a nice small-block Chevy engine. I’ve ran thunder cars, modifieds and we tried a late model. We keep moving back to the four-cylinder cars. I guess it’s where we’re meant to be.”

Jennings has made the best of his time in the pro compacts. He won the series title in 2013, 2016 and last year. In addition, he’s scored multiple victories at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Winchester, M-40, Kalamazoo, Anderson, Shady Bowl, Indianapolis Speedrome, Salem and Five Flags Speedway.

“These pro compacts are no joke. They aren’t grocery-getters and go bust the windows out and go racing. They are far from that,” Jennings noted. “Most guys take it down to the shell and just put all aftermarket suspension almost. The engines are built like you would any other kind of race car. I would say the guys that race in the Vores series are guys who have raced modifieds, street stocks, late models or whatever. The cost kept them out of those classes and they moved back down to the four-cylinder cars. I wouldn’t even call it moving down. I’d call it moving sideways.”

Jennings’ most recent championship season was a roller-coaster ride to say the least.

“We won the first three races,” he said. “We didn’t win any more but we were right there, top five, about every week. The championship was close. We had some trouble late in the year. It came down to the last race. It seems like the Vores title always comes down to the last race. Nobody’s ever had it sewed up before the last race.

“I’m proud of the races and championships so far. I enjoy running with the Vores series. It’s a lot of fun,” Jennings added. “I don’t think I’m as sharp as I used to be and don’t see how some of these guys are still doing it when they get older. I could beat anybody when I was younger. I gotta work harder now. I’m still having fun but there’s way fewer years ahead of me.

“My kids are getting older. I’ll see if they get into it. I might want to run with them and make a comeback if I ever retire.”



Birthday: Sept. 2, 1987

Hometown: Richmond, Ind.

Series: Vores Compact Touring Series

Sponsors: D&J Sales and Fire Bottle


This story appeared in the May 10, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.

Insider Banner Ad