Spirit of Mazda: Chris Haldeman

Spec Miata racer and prep shop owner isn’t just fast, he also works hard to keep everyone happy

Chris Haldeman’s racing chops aren’t in question – he scored the pole in the largest Spec Miata field in history at the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis and finished fourth in the race. But being fast isn’t enough to say one has the Spirit of Mazda. Being fast and selfless? That’s the sort of thing that earns someone recognition.

“He’ll stay up until midnight working on everybody’s car to make sure everyone is ready for the race the next day,” explains Deriann Taylor, whose Spec Miata Haldeman’s X-Factor Racing preps. “He’ll put everyone else before himself so that what they need to get done, gets done.”

Yes, Haldeman is in the business of making racers happy. But it goes beyond that – Haldeman is always happy to lend a hand whether someone’s paying him or not.

“Pretty much any time you ask him a question – by text, telephone or even a PM on Facebook, he’s always willing to answer any questions and help,” says Derrick Ambrose, an SCCA Touring 4 racer and owner of CorkSport Mazda Performance. “It doesn’t matter if it’s not related to a specific part or something you bought from him, he’s just willing to help. Another example of that was at Indy during the test days…he was behind me or a couple of cars back and he noticed something dripping from under my Mazda3, so he sent one of his guys over to tell me I was leaking stuff. It turns out it was just my air conditioning; but it was one of those, ‘Go check on him and make sure he’s alright.’”

Ambrose has been getting engines from him since 2014, and notes that he was willing to try something different and build him a B-Spec engine when a lot of engine builders shied away from it. And a lot of people that have had X-Factor build engines sing Haldeman’s praises. That speaks to his technical prowess.

“One thing about him that’s super impressive is you can tell him a noise the car is making, just a tiny noise, and he’ll know exactly what is wrong with the car,” says Taylor. “Any type of noise – ‘My car was doing this, in this corner, in this gear’ – and he’ll know exactly what it is. Everyone will just be baffled. And that’s exactly what is wrong with the car every time. He’s a Miata genius.”

Taylor also speaks to his coaching skills and unique style: “He definitely gives you a lot of tough love, which I think a racer needs. A lot of people will be super nice about it and tell you, ‘Maybe you should try this…’ Not him. ‘You need to do this, you need to do it here, you need to do it now and you need to do it just like I said.’ He tells you what you need to hear,” she laughs.

In other words, he seeks to get from others what he delivers himself: Flawless Execution, one of the basic tenets of The Spirit of Mazda. For that and his Tomoiku – learning and teaching each other for mutual growth and success – Chris Haldeman is the Spirit of Mazda winner for October.