When Kip Stockwell left last year's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, he left knowing he had unfinished business there. He raced with his hastily-assembled backup car and didn't get enough practice as he had engine problems that kept him off the track for most of the testing laps. This time around, he was prepared with his good car and had no major problems throughout the event. That made all the difference as he raced to a fifteenth place finish, on the lead lap, racing against the best NASCAR Grand National drivers in the country.
Following a pair of Friday afternoon practice session, on-track competition started Friday night with the running of a pair of qualifying races. Stockwell, running in the second race, finished 13th to secure the 26th starting position in the Saturday race. More importantly, Stockwell came out of the qualifying race relatively unscathed.
"We're just tight, we were tight from lap one," he said. "I had to wait for the car to get through the center of the turn and they were driving by me on the outside. The last ten laps we were getting even tighter in the center and looser off, so then I was trying to work it in both directions. We have some work to do tomorrow to see what we can do to straighten it out. We might change the springs around a little tomorrow, putting a stiffer spring in the left front, and maybe make a couple of shock changes."
The first hundred laps were run without incident for the Braintree, Vermont driver. He stayed on the lead lap, assessing the car and going over what changes to make during the scheduled lap 100 break for pit stops. At that stop, the Stockwell Racing crew made those chassis adjustments while changing tires on the No. 6 Sabil & Sons/Randolph National Bank Chevrolet, and adding fuel for the final fifty-lap run to the finish.
Restarting eighteenth, Stockwell raced into the top fifteen and, despite a late-race tangle that left his rear bumper cover partially torn off, finished fifteenth, earning $9,000 for his weekend's work.
"We had a pretty good car, and we were racing with the best in the country," he said. "The car finally turned tonight like I wanted to. I could drift it right in there and I could close up on anybody at the end, but it seemed like I was going so fast through the center that when it did rotate, it rotated too easily, like it was lacking forward bite. I'm frustrated because I think we had a really good car for one of our regular races, but tonight I raced my butt off the whole time and I felt like I didn't get anywhere. I'd pass one car and then I'd struggle and he'd pass me back."
Stockwell had high praise for the West Series racers he was running with.
"I ran side-by-side with the 18 [Eric Hardin] and what a driver he is, we never touched and we ran 40-50 laps side-by-side. The 9 car [Mike Duncan] is the same way. I ran behind him, in front of him, beside him, and we never touched. That really makes it a lot of fun to race. I'm really happy with the night."
Stockwell finishes the season as his best yet in Busch East competition. He finished eleventh in points while notching four top-ten finishes. Plans are already underway for preparing for the 2007 season.
"Everything's great, I can't wait till next year," he said. "Let's start tomorrow."
For more information, and to inquire about sponsorship opportunities with the Stockwell Racing Team, visit http://www.kipstockwell. com.