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From Gridiron Glory to the Fast Lane: The Chris Walley Story

In an inspiring tale of talent, transition, and tenacity, Chris Walley has carved a unique path from the football fields of Norfolk State University to the high-octane world of NASCAR. A former Division 1 quarterback celebrated for his remarkable prowess, Walley was voted the MEAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year, the first in NSU history to achieve such an honor. With a record-breaking performance that led the MEAC in every major passing category, his transition from leading the field in touchdowns to officiating the racetrack is nothing short of extraordinary.

But the story doesn't end at the finish line. Beyond the roar of engines and the smell of burning rubber, Walley found a passion in iRacing, a digital racing platform where he not only honed his love for racing but also connected with influential figures in the sport. These connections have been instrumental in his establishment of a highly competitive and successful racing league, marrying his athletic discipline with his newfound racing acumen.

Join us as we sit down with Chris Walley, exploring his remarkable journey from a heralded quarterback at Norfolk State to a respected NASCAR official and an influential figure in the virtual racing community. Walley's story is a testament to the power of passion and the endless possibilities that come with daring to drive in a new direction.

Track Bar Media (TBM) - Can you share more about your early days and how your experience as a D1 college quarterback at Norfolk State influenced your approach to racing and competition in general?

Chris Walley (CW) - I believe that the drive for racing and competition has been ingrained in me since I was a young child. Of course to even have the opportunity to be a college athlete you have to have a love for competition, and to be an athlete that has success you better enjoy the process. My father was riding me around the neighborhood in his race car when I was 2 years old. Racing is something that I have always loved. So, taking all of the life lessons learned from football has helped mold me into how I approach the racing world. No matter what my role may be I want to try to be the best at it that I can be, and make sure those individuals that are in charge are pleased with my body of work.

TBM-What sparked your initial interest in racing and iRacing specifically?

CW-My love for racing is just in my blood. Growing up around racing with my father helped me gain the passion for the sport. I raced go-karts some as a child but didn't get into a car until years after my football playing career. NASCAR has been a love of mine since the early 90s. I started iRacing when I was in college back in 2010. I got away from it for a few years before jumping back in more regularly with the IROC Series.

TBM-How did your path transition from college football to becoming involved in NASCAR? Was there a pivotal moment that directed you towards racing?

CW-It was 10+ years past my college football days that I started to pursue NASCAR unfortunately. It really was one of those things where I didn't know what I didn't know. I have a friend and fellow Norfolk State football player that really helped me get a spark going in the NASCAR hunt. He is on a pit crew and has been doing it at the highest level for the past 8 years. Meeting him in the Fall of 2020 he felt that I could definitely do what he does as a pit crew member. So, I actually tried to go the pit crew route first. I went to Trackhouse back when they were still Chip Ganassi Racing and did a workout with the team. They invited me back up, but based on the stipulations and family relocating I had to make the decision to not pursue that route. Realistically I had missed my window of opportunity age wise as it would be very difficult to get started in those roles at the age of 32. So, from there I started thinking of how I could still be involved in the NASCAR world and travel to the races. That's when the official position started creeping into the conversations.

TBM-How significant was iRacing in bridging your transition from a sports athlete to a NASCAR official?

CW-iRacing helped mostly in my current full-time employment with R&R Racewear. After a few conversations a fellow league member hired me to work there as a Graphic Designer. The importance of that is that he also allowed me to work with NASCAR on the weekends I'm scheduled to work. Understanding that I would miss some days working with R&R to be able to pursue NASCAR and be a part of the NASCAR family. So, through the IROC Series league I was able to get into a work environment that allowed me to experience the NASCAR official position as well.

TBM-Transitioning from the field to the track, what was the biggest learning curve you faced in understanding the nuances of racing?

CW-Understanding that there is a process to everything you do and the attention to detail it takes to be successful is probably the biggest takeaway when it comes to comparing the field to the track. Football was something that came very natural to me and understanding schemes and what was needed to be successful. With racing, that's a world that I had not had the opportunity to really be as involved as I would have liked. So, really learning the cars themselves is the biggest learning curve. Even from dirt track racing that we do ourselves to the NASCAR world that I work in is a different world.

TBM-Can you describe a day in the life of a NASCAR official? What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

CW-One of the things that most people probably don't think about is the hours of work the officials put in during a race weekend. We are the first ones at the track and the last to leave each and every day. On inspection days we are at the track very early and making sure we are ready for the teams to start coming through. As a part time official I am often moved around from one station to the next each weekend based on what the need is. We typically spend anywhere from 4-6 hours at tech inspection. If it is a one day show, like the truck series events, you will do inspections, practice, qualifying and the race all in the same day. It can oftentimes be 12-15 hour days. One of the most rewarding parts is honestly just being a small part of the show. Knowing that you had a hand in helping the weekend go by and getting the race in.

TBM-What inspired you to start the IROC Series in the iRacing community?

CW-I honestly started the IROC Series to give myself a dedicated night to race. I had not raced in a few years leading up to the start of the league, but with Covid hitting and keeping everyone at home it gave me an opportunity to start the league. It then grew much bigger than expected. Now I spend 5x the amount of time just setting the league up and all the things people don't see behind the scenes vs getting to actually race. It has been rewarding though as I've gained a lot of friendships through the league.

TBM-The IROC Series is known for its high caliber of talent. How do you ensure the series maintains this level of competition? Also, for anyone looking for more information on the

series where can they find that?

CW-We've been very fortunate to have a loyal group that runs with us. Like any league we have comers and goers that join and eventually leave. Our core group though has been amazing. The competition is strong and has made everyone that has raced with us each season better. As far as maintaining that level of competition we are always inviting the best drivers we can find to join us, and we welcome the competition with open arms. I have not even won a race myself since Season 2 because of the competition and we are now in Season 8. I'm okay with that. Because this league running strong and making sure my members are happy to call IROC a home to race is more important to me than my individual results. Anyone interested in finding more about the league can search "IROC Series" on Facebook or go to our website at

TBM-How has the IROC series evolved over the years, and what do you attribute its success to?

CW-I started the league wanting to have the old school IROC themed paint schemes. Our first two seasons we had some of the traditional IROC paint schemes, but we were lucky in partnering with Brian Rieck to sponsor the league. We then continued with the IROCs bright colors and same schemes per car, but would not have the same oldschool themes. Season 1 we raced five different cars in that one season. Since then we have run only one car within a season, but changed it up from one season to the next. Allowing us not to get bored with the same old cars. I believe our members are what makes it a success though. Without the drivers you have no league. Our sponsors have been a huge help in making sure it's an attractive league and we can broadcast the races. I think the work I've put in and the attention to details on making sure the cars look good on the track is maybe something that helps the league look attractive to run. Our broadcast partners and media specialists like Track Bar Media helping with promotional videos has been a large part in our success as well. Its one of those, "If you build it they will come" kinda deals. We made the league look as good as possible and we are getting drivers interested. 

TBM-How has iRacing impacted the real world of racing, in your opinion?

CW-iRacing has been a huge help in real world racing in my opinion. Look at William Byron for example. Yes, he had some real racing on his resume, but he got the recognition through iRacing. It helps bridge the gap for many that can't afford to go real racing. I think iRacing has helped me have a better feel for the real car. In iRacing you typically are only going off of site and sound. There isn't much feel except through the steering wheel. So, when you get in the real car and actually can feel the car from the seat there is another level of sensation that helps you that much more. iRacing has helped introduce racing to many many people that may not get involved otherwise.

TBM-With the rapid advancement of technology in racing, how do you see the role of eSports, like iRacing, evolving in the coming years?

CW-iRacing has already become a lot bigger than I think most probably imagined. 2020 really helped iRacing reach a whole new level as NASCAR turned to the eSports world to get some content while away from the track. The spotlight put on iRacing just helped advance things so much more. Seeing how tracks can be created in iRacing and tested before any renovations are done has been a huge help. I know they did that with the reconfiguration of Atlanta. Just knowing how close the eSports world has come to the real world racing at this point is just remarkable. There's no doubt that iRacing will continue to close the gap in the next few years.

TBM-Knowing that the profile of a good mechanic or pit crew member is changing, did seeking a place in NASCAR's operational side give your competitive spirit a new outlet?

CW-Yes and no. It helped light a fire under me again because of the magnitude of NASCAR. Just being a part of the show in a small way gives a lot of gratification. On the official side of things the competitive spirit really brews against myself. Making sure I'm getting better more so than having the competitive spirit you would have against competition. I feel like knowing your information and being able to just be a shadow out there is important. It's like a referee in a sports game. If you are talking about the refs then it's probably not a good thing and they are being too involved in the game. So, I try to make sure I know everything needed and have a quiet presence within the garage and on pit road. Only really intervening when needed.

TBM-Where do you see iRacing going in the next 5-10 years, especially with its growing popularity and integration into the professional racing world?

CW-We currently see iRacing with professional leagues that are affiliated with NASCAR and other real life racing series. I think that will continue and probably be on a larger scale. I do think iRacing will continue to be more realistic over time. Drivers use the platform to get some extra laps in now. As the realism progresses, I can see drivers using the platform even more in order to prepare for real racing.

TBM-What advice would you offer someone looking to make a transition from another sport into the racing world, whether virtual or real?

CW-Continue to use the relentless effort that was used in sports and just channel it into racing. Whether you're a driver wanting to get better, looking to be a crew member on a team or even working in NASCAR. Pursue the wins all the same. You won't just succeed on the first try. No one ever does. You have to be willing to have the negatives and endure the losses before you can win. Keep that goal out in front of you and chase it. Because if you want it bad enough it'll happen for you. Not knowing when exactly it'll happen for you is what can be discouraging. Just keep pushing.

TBM-How do you view NASCAR’s evolution, especially with the increasing overlap between virtual racing and real-life tracks?

CW-NASCAR is in a good place right now. There are many individuals, mostly the older fans, that don't like the direction NASCAR is going in. Like everything else in the world, NASCAR has evolved from what it started as. The decision to have change in NASCAR has come with some criticism at times, but you have to be willing to adapt and explore new things sometimes. I believe NASCAR has done a fantastic job at making changes to help grow the sport. Everything isn't going to always work, and I think we've all seen those things over the years. If you never try to adjust to the times then you'll be left in the past.

TBM-Throughout your varied career, what stands out as your most cherished sports related memory?

CW-Winning a conference championship my senior year in college will always be at the top. That's what you play for. It takes the entire team to accomplish that achievement. Individually I still hold a few school records that I'm proud of. 

TBM-How do you think your story and transition have impacted fans of racing and aspiring drivers or officials?

CW-Hopefully in a positive way. I can say everything hasn't been done perfectly, and sometimes I made things harder on myself than they needed to be. However, just like my pursuit in sports, the pursuit to get into racing was with a never give up attitude. I think if I could give any advice to anyone trying to get into racing it would be to put yourself out there to be known, build relationships and keep on trying until someone tells you to stop. You have to show you want it. It took me almost 2 years of talking to people and really just bugging individuals at random times to finally get my opportunity.

TBM-What future developments or expansions can we expect from the IROC Series?

CW-If I can find the time to make it work I would definitely like to bring the Dirt Series back in full swing. One thing I really hoped to be able to do was have a "B Series" that would have new members join and allow them to be promoted into the "A Series (Challenge Series)". Allowing the top few drivers from the B Series to be promoted into the A Series and have the bottom few from A drop down to B. The hard part with that is keeping attendance. I essentially run all things IROC on my own, and just trying to keep up with everything is tough. I think we can definitely get to that point of an A & B series, but it'll definitely take a lot more work.

TBM-How do you engage with the racing and iRacing community, and why is that important to you?

CW-I definitely try to stay relevant in the racing world. From a real racing perspective, it's about the relationships that I spoke of earlier. No one races on their own and has success. Having good relationships with people can help you down the road at the track. As far as iRacing goes, I try to keep the league relevant to be seen and grow. At the end of the day I just want to have the best competition we can get. There is zero favoritism given to drivers. I compete in it, but I'm able to separate myself from driver to admin to make sure decisions are made to help the integrity of the league and its future. I love our members and our partners. I've put too much time and effort into the league to just let it stay stagnant and die. So, if you have a laundry list of top tier drivers.... we want them!

TBM-Looking back on your career, what do you hope your legacy in both the physical and virtual racing communities will be?

CW-I hope people look back and remember me as being fair and someone that cared about others before himself. In both the physical and virtual racing community I would just like to have a spot in each. I don't need the glory from anything or people talking about me. I had that in football and over time that fades away. Respect is the biggest achievement one can accomplish. I just want to know we had fun and we were successful. If you're having a good time in the league then that's what it's about. The hours put in are worth it. I've accomplished my goal in having a successful league. Because we know we don't get paid for these extra hours and it takes away from family time sometimes. We do it because we love it though and love our people.


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